I found out on Wednesday night that my former boss passed away on Monday. As far as I know he wasn’t sick. He was going on a fly fishing trip in early October and had still been working and vacationing. He was in his late seventies though; that age when even if someone’s death is a shock, it isn’t necessarily a surprise.
I knew Larry for seventeen years. I met him when I took a few classes at the community college after I got my MBA and graduated in the middle of a recession. I interned for him, and he took me under his wing. He took me to meetings, gave me projects to build my skills in my career field, and exposed me to influential people in the community. He didn’t have to do any of it… He was a true mentor.
He helped me get my first career job, calling my soon-to-be-supervisor to give me a great reference. I got the job. Then when an opening came up where Larry worked and I had interned, he called me to let me know he wanted me to come back and work for him. We worked together for eight years until he retired in 2009.
Larry taught me a piece of career wisdom that I will never forget. You work someplace as long as it works for you. There is no faster way to make your life suck than to dislike your job. The people are just as important as the work, and those people aren’t likely to change, at least not fast enough for it to matter. You spend too much time there to be unhappy. The same is true for your personal relationships.
He showed me that you can be professional and still have a great sense of humor. He loved to lighten the mood in a tough situation, and didn’t take life, or himself, too seriously. I loved working for him.
Larry and I stayed friends over the years, through different jobs of mine and consulting work of his, to personal joys and trials. He moved to Nevada for a sunnier and more affordable retirement, but we stayed in touch through texts, phone calls and visits. He was frequently back in my area doing consulting work, which let us get together from time to time over a bottle of red wine.
I talked to him about getting together in Nevada in October while I was on my road trip, but he was out of town on the days that I was there. I didn’t know at the time that it would be the last time we talked.
True friends come along rarely in this world, and I will always be grateful that I had the experience of having a boss and mentor become a real friend. I know a lot of people felt that way about him.
Rest in peace, Larry. You are very, very missed.