If you will indulge me, I am going to use this space this week to tell you about a great man that we lost yesterday. He certainly had a successful career but it was about more than the way he did his job.
My grandfather designed HVAC systems for manufacturing facilities. He would tour a shampoo factory or an M&M factory (my favourite) and identify the issues with air flow, heating and cooling and then design systems to fix the problems. He was proud of his role and he was generous with his time. He spent lots of hours with the “new fellows” helping them learn the business. He kept in touch with former colleagues well into retirement.
But this was only what he did during the day. In addition to raising three daughters, he acted in community plays, was a lay minister at his church, arranged to have exchange students stay in their house and developed very fine woodworking skills
As if that was not enough, he also worked with a man who had been in an accident and was a paraplegic. My grandfather went to his house in the evenings twice a week to help with his therapy, both physical and emotional. He did this for years.
When he retired, he was naturally just as busy as before. He took on a whole new set of roles. He became a trustee at his local library and he and my grandmother helped serve lunches at a daycare centre. They also volunteered at their hospital. He and a friend took their mechanical knowledge and learned how to fix gurneys and wheelchairs.
It turns out they saved the hospital thousands and thousands of dollars. Not just because they could fix the rolling stock but because they figured out how to get on the web, find the part numbers and then call the manufacturer and get the parts sent out for free. Who can refuse an 80 year old man?
And he tutored people too. He met a man in his fifties who, after a life of illiteracy, wanted to learn to read. My grandfather met him several times a week to help him with letters and sounds. They would go to the grocery store together to practice reading labels. My grandfather was 90 and he was stilling helping people open new doors.
I am sure he did a lot more than this – these are just the things that he shared with me. He has set a very high bar for me and the rest of my generation. If we are going to truly follow in his footsteps, we had better get a move on. There are a lot of people who need help and we have the best possible example as our guide.