A couple of weeks ago, Hal’s wife called me with the news. My friend Hal had died.
He was 84 years old. He worked throughout his life as a CPA. He worked almost every day and retired at age 80. Until the end, he was reading books, magazines, and the WSJ. He didn’t have an “off” switch.
We met about 1985. Our CPA firms had joined a national marketing consortium. He was in St. Louis, and I was in Kansas City. During 1980’s, the CPA profession embraced advertising and marketing. St. Louis and Kansas City were exclusive territories.
Hal and I became instant friends. Hal’s demeanor embodied “professionalism.” He was stoic, methodical and focused. Over the years, I came to respect his comprehensive knowledge of taxation, auditing standards, accounting pronouncements, and practice management – the daily language of CPAs.
We visited from time-to-time and talked about our families, politics and business issues. Over time we became good friends.
As a professional, he simply went about his work. He was a devoted family man. After he and his first wife divorced, he managed to provide for his daughters’ education and raise his teenage son. It wasn’t easy, but he did it. Quietly and privately.
I came to respect Hal as a servant leader. His second wife Gerry, also an accomplished professional, told side-bar stories of his contributions of time and money to Catholic charities and attendance at daily Mass, and morning workouts. He quietly served his congregation as an usher at Sunday services. No fan-fare. No grandstanding.
Hal had no outside activities – no golf, no fishing or hunting, no cards with the guys.
In fact, Gerry would often tell my wife that Hal and I were two peas in a pod. Our business lives and our families were our lives.
A few years ago, I was talking with our Rabbi about “acquaintances” and “friends.” Personally, I have always had many acquaintances and knew a lot of people; but had very few friends.
The Talmud teaches that we meet many people during our lives; however, those we genuinely call our friends are few. If a man lives his whole life and has but one friend, he should think of himself as fortunate.
Hal was my friend. He was a professional. He was a gentleman.
Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value.