A TRIBUTE TO TOM (Daily Prompt)

Most of the daily prompts we cover on Moteventure can we answered with just a few sentences. Today’s prompt however is one where I feel I should elaborate in greater detail, as it’s hard to just throw someone’s name out there without providing the impact they actually had on your life and why they were important to you. Tom Walker is just such a person.


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daily prompt


Tom was a boss who was hard to read and even harder to please. If he needed someone, he would yell their name from his office. If it was your name called, you’d sheepishly look around the room at your colleagues and slowly get up with a “it’s been nice working with you” comment before making your way down the hallway.

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I recall once during a board meeting where he needed an Excel graph reconstructed as the original no longer existed to be altered. I attempted to replicate it perhaps 4 or 5 times, with Tom actually holding his original with my created version up to the light in the room, smiling slyly at his fellow board members, and then handing the sheet back to me, saying “nope, no match, try again.” The fifth time I came in, I stated “this IS the best I can do.” He finally relented and agreed, in front of the rest of the board members of course who were smiling as well. I was furious.

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We had a summer annual meeting/golf outing for the company, it’s insurance carriers, board of directors, and customers. Although my position involved accounting and employee benefits, I was somehow drafted into being the van/taxi driver for the event, shuttling people to Tom’s home in a nearby town or taking the spouses to events within the city depending upon what was scheduled. With less than stellar eyesight at the time, I’m very glad I got everyone safely to their destinations, particularly when night would fall. I returned to this role once a year for close to a decade. In hindsight, I tell myself that Tom wanted me to be able to interact with the “movers and shakers” within the business, learning through osmosis and their conversations more about our business. Yes, that’s what it was. I’ll keep telling myself that.

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Quite often, due to the volume of work and the small number of employees on staff, I’d end up working on Saturday mornings, catching up on the week’s work without phone calls to distract me from the task. Oftentimes, it would just be Tom and I in the office on those days. A question might arise mid-morning that I need Tom’s input on, and in those instances, I would amble my way up to the front of the building and knock on his open door.

His office was huge, decorated with degrees, family pictures, industry accolades, and knick-knacks that I assume were personally important to him. He sat behind a huge oak desk (think of Dumbledore’s in the Harry Potter films – it’s not quite that elaborate, but close), with two retro-modern gray chairs placed on the other side of the desk. One thing missing from the office? A typewriter or computer (which explains a lot about that Excel spreadsheet).

Upon hearing “come in”, I entered and had a seat across from him. We’d start to talk about the issue/question at hand, and oftentimes the conversation would turn more philosophical. Having lost my father in my teens, these conversations with Tom took on new meaning. He was more of a father figure in those moments, imparting me with confidence and wisdom that during the work week he didn’t take the time to do.

Our connection evolved over time as I began taking exams to become a Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS, which is the equivalent of a CPA for employee benefits). These 10 exams were difficult, and I sat for each one every other month. With each exam I’d pass, I’d return to the office just before lunch and Tom (who was also a CEBS) would break out in a big smile, tell me congratulations and give me a high-five in the hallway.

There were days when I’d get frustrated as I’d get mixed messages from Tom on the items I was working on. He’d at times be so hardheaded and frustrating about the most minute of details, and then other times, he’d brush something off like it was no big deal (although both situations seemed similar to me).

During one of those conversations after I’d done something I felt was a huge failure in my mind, Tom put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye and said, “If I didn’t see potential in you, you wouldn’t be here.”

That simple comment has resonated with me for multiple decades when I stumble performing a task or project and get down on myself. Intellectually, I know I’m very capable of whatever challenge is put before me, but Tom’s kindness, wisdom and simple honesty with me that day has made a difference and strong impact on my career and my outlook on life.

Tom passed away a number of years ago, and I had moved on from that position to a much larger company. Fortunately, my former colleagues had invited me to stop by the office and ride with them to the funeral service. Although I hadn’t worked with them for more than 10 years, they welcomed me back with open arms and it felt like I had just been gone over the weekend.

Walking into the service, Tom’s wife welcomed me with a hug, whispering how much Tom appreciated the time we’d worked together. I was moved and thanked her for that small gesture about a man who if you didn’t know him well, you’d think was way gruffer than he actually was.

So, thank you Tom Walker for being both hard yet kind with me during our work time together. You were one of a kind.

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I’d like to think Tom would have appreciated this top-of-the-line Mac!


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