Free spirit of NoDa dies in plane crash

Bryan Quan, the shaggy-haired fixture of Charlotte's arts community, didn't care much for rules.

It's what endeared him to people and drove them crazy at the same time.

“He was like a cat with 20 lives,” his mother, Itzy Stolarczyk said. “You never knew what Bryan was going to get into.”

Over the weekend, while soaring above Riverside, Ca., the 34-year-old NoDa artist crashed his ultralight plane, which he planned to fly back to Charlotte. It was the latest of many quirky ventures by Quan, NoDa's “fix-it” man, who rode a circus bicycle and collected others' junk.

On Sunday night, about 50 of his friends gathered around a bonfire, strumming guitars and telling their favorite stories about him.

“He was one of NoDa's most beloved,” said Nichole Frank, a manager at Cabo Fish Taco.

Quan was born in Virginia and grew up in Cabarrus County. He attended Concord High and excelled in sports: soccer, wrestling, golf. But young Quan – one of four brothers – came with a unique set of challenges, his mother said. And when he stopped listening to his parents, they sent him to Oak Ridge Military Academy near Greensboro.

After graduating, the sailor, hang glider and motorcycle rider worked on Alaskan fishing boats. He eventually returned to North Carolina, where he migrated to the arts.

He lived with no fear, his brother Nate Quan said.

“He knew the odds. He always said, ‘If it was my time, it was my time,'” he said.

Quan studied acting at different local colleges, even landing parts as an extra in “The Patriot” with Mel Gibson, his family said. But his true love was dancing, which he did anywhere he could find space and a willing partner.

“He's danced with every woman in this neighborhood,” said David “Wheetie” French, his longtime roommate. “ I've even danced with him.”

Quan drew with charcoal, played guitar and loved finding junk. He'd ride down the road and spot a crooked wicker couch “that just needed a little tape on one leg,” said French. He'd bring it home and either fix it or turn it into something useful for the yard.

“He was a man of many talents and had such good energy,” Frank said. “It's crazy to think that as we know him … he doesn't exist any more.”