Archive for November, 2016

A place for eternity

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

The one who holds my heart is up North today, helping her family lay the ashes of her favorite male cousin to rest. I had only met him a few times and found his reserved sense of humor, his liberal political values, and his background with Mad magazine and model cars interesting. Jim devoted his career to acts that bring people together it seems, I never really knew what exactly he did, but his company was known as good negotiators, and from my experience, I think he’d be a good and fair negotiator.

Bringing people together with a third party like Jim usually only happens with the two parties can’t see eye to eye, or won’t see eye to eye. It takes a special person, one with a broad and quick intellect, one with a depth of understanding about what makes all humans human, and one with an appreciation for things larger than ones-self. That’s how I think of Jim.

When he’d visit his family here out west, he’d be recommending wine, giving us the inside scoop on Washington, and remembering his days growing up in the midwest. And he was always ready to help. I remember when my favorite youngest daughter was graduating and looking for work in the International development policy field, Jim came up with some names of people that received my daughter professionally, spoke with her at length, and offered some avenues for finding work. I’ll always remember Jim as one of the good guys.

In his last days, he made some decisions about what to do with his ashes, some to Hawaii, some to a Colorado mountaintop, some to a river he’d kayak away stress in, and he asked that some come home to his family place in the midwest. I believe its a good thing to do, have a place where your name is written in stone, where we can come and talk to you from time to time, to remember, to reflect, to absorb a bit of wisdom from the earth below.

We miss you Jim, every day. We’ll come by to visit. Thanks for coming home, it helps us all to know you’re near.

Be good to each other, more than ever before we need that now.

Do good work.

Retiring Partners

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

I received a note asking me to write a few words about a friend, and former business partner’s career for his upcoming retirement. My earliest memory of Harold, might have been at the old MTL office on 32nd St. South. I was brand new to the firm, had completed my first year teaching, and had been given my weekly “to-do” list from Fred. I was to clean up redlines for Harold on Mondays I think it was, work on a model of downtown Fargo for David on Tuesdays, go in the field with Seth on Wednesday’s, clean up the catalog library for Bob on Thursdays, and work on a project of my own on Fridays. A busy schedule, but they promised my worklife would make it easier to pass the licensing exam so I signed on.

I think it was at the first coffee break, people were discussing getting tickets to the baseball game in Minneapolis, and as walked down the stairs, Harold caught me and said “You know, they won’t be able to serve beer at the Twins game” I looked at him, puzzled, as a life long Cub fan, I was accustomed to beer, hot dogs, and baseball always going together. So I said to Harold “Why?” He said “because the Twins lost the opener” and walked away. I had to think about that for a bit, as Harold said it with a straight face, as he always does. I finally got it.

Dry humor was kind of an indicator of what I learned was an endless supply of calm that Harold projected outwardly. He was always the professional, even on the office’s softball team, when I was having a hard time making good throws from my position at third to first base (meaning over Steves head), Harold walked over and calmly said, “we really need your glove in short center field” relieving me of the long throw, but doing it in a way that wasn’t demeaning. That’s Harold. He’d always find a way to accomplish a greater good without stepping on anyone in the process.

I modeled a fair amount of my behavior (the good parts) on Harold, when I find a way to turn a problem person into a team asset, and my lovely wife notices, I tell her its the North Dakota way, always be as nice as you can, there’s a positive in most every negative. I think I learned that from Harold. Something maybe the country could use…maybe in retirement Harold needs to run for Governor or higher office!

As an architect, Harold was a consummate professional. Clients came first, good work in the office made for good work in the field, which made for good outcomes for the client. He asked the same from the people who worked on his projects. But again, quietly, persistently. Harold wasn’t the kind to storm out of his office and throw a spec book across the drafting room. No. Harold would redline the correction that needed to be made to the drawings, and if a person improvised and changed the design, he’d redline it again, and again, and it would ultimately get done right. His buildings stand across the upper midwest today, In Fargo, Whapeton, Moorhead, and many small towns where today, older people live in decent places thanks to his projects. He is a good architect.

But Harold didn’t buy into the eccentricities that many architects seem to clothe themselves in. No perfectly round eyeglass lenses for him, no all black sportscar (unless we count the Fairmount) He was a regular guy when I knew him, easy to talk to, a good listener, and you knew he valued your conversation.

I’ve missed all of you up there in the North, the solid grounding you all share in doing the right thing is what made my years in Fargo so important to my life. Harold, Judy, Steve, Joanna, Mark and Remar, Kerry and Sue, Chuck and Judy, Dave and Diane, you were my community and I think of each of you often. I’m glad you’re gathering to celebrate Harold’s retirement, I’m glad Steve has found his church, and that this holiday season you’ll all be surrounded with family and grandchildren.

I’m thankful to have been a part of it for a few important years in my life.

Take care of each other, be good to each other. Do good work.