The reality is most people do not feel completely appreciated. It’s too easy to get busy and forget to tell those around us they are important. This thought hit home over the last few months as three of my good friends passed away. After friends and family pass away it’s easy to ask the daunting question, “did I show enough appreciation while they were here?”
A good friend and mentor was Bob Converse, who passed away on April 28th, 2016, after a battle with mesothelioma. Maybe you knew Bob Converse? If not, he can be remembered as affecting many lives by protecting the health and safety of our community.
Odds are you have been in buildings or homes that have plumbing, heating, and cooling systems that were installed under the direction of Bob Converse. No project was too small or large. Some examples are the construction of the Nebraska State Office Building, the Lincoln Electric Service center, major additions to Bryan Hospital, and the list goes on.
Bob Converse was an extremely talented plumber and pipefitter that cared about quality craftsmanship that was beyond the ability of many. Hundreds of craftsmen worked for Bob through the years. They recognized his talents and held him at high esteem. Craftsmen knew under his leadership that plumbing, heating, and cooling systems would be installed properly. The safety of our community was never in question.
I first worked for Bob Converse as an apprentice plumber. He noticed my interest in the trades and dedication to quality. Bob could have been too busy then, but he took me under his wings at a time I truly needed a mentor. He evidently felt I was worth the investment of his time. Bob taught me important basics so I could become a plumbing foreman and a manager. I was honored then and have been forever grateful since.
We could have gone different directions in 1979 when a “fork in the road” developed. High-interest rates in the late ‘70s fueled the recession and there were very few construction projects in our community. Bob Converse asked if I would help him manage a large hospital project in Ottumwa, Iowa. If I stayed in Lincoln, the odds of becoming unemployed were high because there were no construction projects. Since my mentor was reaching out, Deb and I moved to Ottumwa for 27 months.
Ottumwa provided the opportunity to work even more closely with Bob Converse. My role in the training felt like Grasshopper in the Kung Fu movie and Bob was the master. Bob taught me many valuable skills. An example is understanding every single detail of blueprint reading in order to stay ahead of the other trades during construction. Those kept projects running smoothly and helped the bottom line.
During that construction project, Bob droves back and forth between Ottumwa and Lincoln every weekend to see his family. That’s an 8-hour round trip, but Bob never complained once. Bonnie, his wife, Steve and Gary, his sons, were an important part of Bob’s life. There was never a doubt about Bob’s feelings for his family as he showed appreciation for them through his actions.
After retirement, Bob Converse donated his trade talents at St. Mark’s by volunteering. He solved many of their temperature and plumbing needs. This was another important quality in Bob as he showed his appreciation to God’s home and others.
A trait good mentors have is a natural ability to provide profound statements and show appreciation. Bob Converse did that for me with one simple compliment, “somehow your success (at John Henry's Plumbing, Heating, and Air) makes me feel like I was a part of it. I am very proud of you.” I will never forget those kind words!
The reality is Bob was an important part of the success of John Henry's Plumbing, Heating, and Air because he shared his expertise. His legacy lives on through the John Henry's Plumbing, Heating, and Air team that he helped indirectly. It also lives on through all the lives he touched directly.
Bob and I showed appreciation for each other throughout our friendship, but is it ever really enough when your mentor and good friend is gone?
Another profound theory Bob shared with me was, “we are all penciled in, and we need to make the most out of every day.” Bob fully understood life can be short.
Do you have someone that you thought of while reading this? If they are still alive, there is no time better than now to call them and show your appreciation. It’s good to remember others because “we are all penciled in!”