I guess I am at that stage in my life where I start losing friends, and mentors. Just last month a dear friend died, and today I get word that another is gone. In this case, it wasnâ€™t just a friend and mentor â€“ this guy actually saved my life
It was 1981 and I was stationed in San Diego, CA. We were at a beach party on Coronado Island when I swam out to a friendâ€™s catamaran. It was nearly dusk, and it had been a long day on the beach.
I was tired, and I quickly fell asleep on the boat. It was a gorgeous relaxing evening on the bay.
Suddenly I found myself tossed into the water, struggling to breath, or even determine which way was â€œupâ€. About the time I gained control over my circumstances the hull of the catamaran came crashing down onto my head â€“ I didnâ€™t know it had flipped, and that it was falling back on top of me.
I donâ€™t remember anything from the next 15 minutes or so, but it has been recounted to me many times by others.
My apparently lifeless body was caught in an undertow, and being dragged further and further from shore (I DID have a loosely tied life jacket on). Since it was getting dark, my friends back on the shore were very concerned that I would be lost at sea at night.
So my boss at the time (by request of his widow I will not share his name) swam nearly a mile out into the bay and grabbed me â€“ and dragged me back to shore. I came too many minutes later, and all I remember from the first moments is throwing up salt water all over someoneâ€™s beach towel. I was 20. He was probably 40 â€“ and he was a big man. But he had a large heart, and he cared for the people that worked for him.
My next recollection was crossing the Coronado Bridge in an ambulance. I woke up just briefly â€“ long enough to realize that I was in trouble. I spent the better part of 24 hours on a ventilator â€“ I was pretty sick. 3 days later I left the hospital. I had a concussion and had inhaled/swallowed a LOT of sea water. Sea water has a way of messing with the electrolyte balance in the human body. It took time to get back to normal.
He was my boss, he saved my life, and he taught me a lot â€“ mostly he taught me how to make work fun, and to keep it fun. He could party, he could be friends with his employees, and he demanded the best of each of us while we were on the job.
He was a leader, a friend, a boss, and a buddy.
And he saved my life.
I learned that later in his life, after he had â€œretiredâ€ from the Navy, he helped others adopt children from China, and Russia, and Vietnam. He adopted three himself. He was always doing more, giving more, and caring more than almost anyone I have known. And he never stopped. Until he could no longer continue.
To his wife, and children â€“ I owe my own children to this man â€“ this giant of a man â€“ I owe the last 26 years of my life to this man. He had a personality that entered the room ten minutes before he did, and it will last long after this loss we have suffered.
He was my friend.