Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fallen friends

My company is very small, around 65 employees. Two of them passed away last week.

First was Lonnie, who was a pretty good friend of mine. Lonnie was a profitability consultant for banks, and had been doing the job for 25 years. The first 5 years he did it for a consulting firm, then he went out on his own for 20 years and created a whole new set of analyses to help banks run more efficiently. He was incredible at his work, did projects for more than 200 banks, and created close friendships with every one of his clients.

I met Lonnie 18 months ago when he was doing a project for a bank in California. I happened to be at the same bank, tagging along with a Sales Executive and our CEO as we were on a whirlwind sales trip where we gave four presentations to four banks (in three different states) in 36 hours.

Bank #3 of our tour was the bank Lonnie was consulting at, and we had dinner with him that night and visited for a while since we were all staying at the same hotel. I liked him right away. As time went on it became clear that Lonnie was getting ready to retire (he was 65 years old), but his sons had their own careers and weren't looking to take over the business. Lonnie wanted to make sure his clients were taken care of, and he also wanted an exit strategy that paid him some more money into retirement. Our company stepped in and bought his business, fulfilling both of his needs.

Lonnie had continued working with us, hiring more people and passing on his decades of experience to them. He was almost ready to begin stepping away and taking a break when his heart failed him. That's the saddest thing to me.

I got to accompany Lonnie on a client visit and spend a few days watching him and learning from him. We also had some spare time to just talk, and that's when he showed me pictures of his home, his family, and his Winnebago that he was looking forward to using a lot more often. He wanted to take a big road trip with Jeri, his wife of more than 35 years. I don't think he ever got to do it.

Lonnie died on Tuesday. His funeral was Friday afternoon, but as we got to work on Friday morning we learned that Susan had just passed away. Susan was our company's personal trainer. We have a small gym in our office, and the company gives us two hours a week to use it during the workday. Most of us take advantage of that, and most of us also looked to Susan to help us optimize our exercise programs.

Susan was in her early 50s and had always been the model of health, as expected of someone with her profession. She was in amazing shape and was diligent in her nutrition and rest. As far as I know she never smoked, but last year she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She fought hard but in the end none of the treatments were effective.

Obviously something like this will really hit our company hard. What's strange is that it hasn't seemed to personally hit me yet, and I don't know why. I was fairly close to both of these people.

I assume that Susan's funeral will be tomorrow or Tuesday, and that will make my fourth funeral in 10 months. First was Julian, age 16. Then Kim, age 31. Now Lonnie and Susan.

May all of their friends and family find peace.


~aj~ said...

Michael, I'm so sorry that you've lost 2 good friends. What a difficult week for those you work with. I just can't imagine.

You will be in our prayers. ((HUGS))

hard.rox said...

Sorry for your loss, Michael. Thinking of you and the families of those that have left us.

MamaRose said...

Sorry I'm reading this 'late' & SO SORRY for the losses of your work friends!!!!!
Because of both their circumstances, it's sad & both being relatively YOUNG, STILL!!!!!
That's one reason we call Death a 'THIEF'--a lot of the time, we're not even thinking about the possibility of it 'coming for US'!!
I wouldn't worry about 'it'/them NOT 'hitting' you, YET--it will, in 'due season' & you will grieve for both of them.
Your folks at your Company MAY NEED some 'extra' help/counseling. Does Lowell do that? on sight??
Just wondering.
We're ALWAYS 'HERE' for you whenever you'd like to talk about that or ANYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just give us a call. WE LOVE YOU ALL DEARLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Mom

Hal Johnson said...

I'm sorry about your loss of two good people in your circle, Michael. I'm finding, as I get older, that the passing of a coworker jolts me, even if I'm not particularly close to him or her.