i have just arrived in Austin to be with my grandson, two daughters, and Jason (sorry, Jason: in that order).
It was a non-life threatening but very long and sometimes harrowing 1300 miles and 32 hours of minor misadventures and a few discomforts, all of which i enjoyed…after i arrived.
Traveling alone gives one plenty of time to think. i put my iPod (4700 “songs”), on shuffle, clicked ahead through most of the classical stuff because it’s hard to hear in a Mazda 3 doing eighty, and sang along when i wished…and i thought a lot.
There was one overriding thought throughout the trip produced by a voice mail Sunday afternoon. It was from Judith Pendergast. I knew it was not good news.
Judith is David Pendergast’s wife. David and i were partners in a two-team foursome who worked on reorganizing the (then) 18,000 work force for the Department of Energy’s Richland Operation Office, which was responsible for the management of DOE’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation, 640 square miles dedicated to creating nuclear bombs during WWII and the ensuing aftermath.
When Judith and i finally connected, what i suspected was verified. Only the timing was a surprised.
David died last July of pancreatic cancer, a disease he had temporarily conquered several years before. Because Judy could not penetrate Internet and computer security and government regulations on divulging personal information, it took her ten months to connect with me.
I was shocked. After David retired from organization development, he and Judith moved to Naples where they bought, renovated and resold homes for a while. We kept random and infrequent communication. i had actually thought about seeing if he would be interested in working, or at least providing for a book i was contemplating writing.
But i didn’t. Now, he is gone.
The timing of the sad news would not have made much of a difference had it been earlier. he is still gone.
David was one of the most intelligent, caring, and honest people i have ever known. This is slightly amazing in that he worked for the most part in improving organizations of Nuclear Power companies, and DOE, damn near an oxymoron from my experience, but he did it.
We made a good team. After about seven months of commuting from San Diego and Naples, we both volunteered to move to Eastern Washington’s tri-city area because we realized how much our weekly commuting was costing the government and ultimately, the taxpayers. Until Judith arrived, David and i spent our free time together exploring the southeast corner of Washington, a delightful experience.
We also had the same ideas about effective management of the operation at Richland.
David, because of the respect he had earned from nuclear organization, was the leader, and he never missed a beat. There are several stories here that must wait. But after Ian Urquart, Frank Gatos, David and i, evolved into the team, David and i became a one team and Frank and Ian were the other. alternating our time in Richland. And David and i connected (another story).
i will write more of David later, but in this late Austin afternoon while my family are doing their thing, i am sitting in a much-younger-than-me bar, disguised as an eatery, listening to a strange mix of music, which suits my proclivities in the music world, but too loud: something i don’t understand since all of the young middle-agers here can hear better than me.
But on my crazy ride and sitting here, i keep coming back to something that actually involves two of the folks i’ve met in my rather diverse pursuit of living.
When i was getting input for that book i was contemplating, one of the first people i contacted was Peter Thomas. Pete is an incredible man who has accomplished things physically, professionally, and as a good human being as exists. I asked him my question i planned to ask a bunch of my leader heroes what was the one thing most important to being an effective leader.
My question was, “What’s the most important thing for a leader to do to be most effective.
Without hesitation, Peter replied, “Do the right thing.”
Peter’s response has become my mantra in everything i do.
While talking to Judith, she reflected on David’s assessment of me.
“Jim had integrity. You could trust him,” he told Judith.
Then he said, “Jim always did the right thing.”
For him to assess me with the most important aspect of a relationship with anyone, not to mention satisfaction with your own being, is on of my most welcomed aspirations.
So did David.
i don’t like to toot my own horn, but this one is special because David was a special man.
So i am sitting in the Workhorse bar, writing this while listening to music way too young for me and writing this post. But you see, i ordered their best bourbon because they didn’t have George Dickel (David always enjoyed my claim of Mr. Dickel’s bourbon excellence) or Jack Daniels.
i had one more than i should have. But i don’t care. David would laugh at that. And that, makes it okay with me.