By remembering our mentors, we honor them

Omigosh! Has it been as much as 20 years since I read Mitch Albom’s inspiring book, "Tuesdays With Morrie?" The story of "an old man, a young man and life’s greatest lesson" is ageless.

That’s a good thing for me, because I have lost track of time and my mentors. Just like Albom, an accomplished journalist who lost track of his treasured mentor over time, yet recaptured the deep, personal relationship with his college professor just in time.

I was reminded of this book recently. Seasons Hospice has announced two special performances this weekend of a play created from the phenomenal bestseller. If you remember and liked the message of the book as much as I did, you should plan to attend either performance at the Rochester Civic Theatre:

• Fri., Feb. 24, 7 p.m. performance with wine and dessert, $50. Performance only, $25; $15 for students and seniors.

• Sat., Feb. 25, 2 p.m., $25/$15.


Order tickets by phone, 507-282-8481, or here’s the website link to order tickets:

The clarity of hindsight

In the early '90s, I was plugging away, making my way through life’s journey in a much more accelerated and hopelessly distracted pace than today in Minnesota. Back when Sheryl and I lived a frantic but pleasant life in Sandwich, Illinois. Back when Allison and Seth were in junior high, and they caused their parents to run relentlessly from one school and sports function to another. Back when I was overly focused on my newspaper career and less connected to the things in life that mean more to me now. Things like close and extended family, generous friends, church and charity, volunteerism and community engagement.

Perhaps when a person like me is being well-mentored, he does not realize the greatness of the gift at the time. I was favored with generous mentors, and they have been largely unacknowledged by me. Now is the time to fix that oversight, albeit too late for a couple of my finest, long-ago mentors.

In a written manner much less inspirational than in Mitch Albom’s book, at least, I can name a few really grand people who come to mind and why:

• Miss Esther McNutt, aged and wise librarian of United Township High School. During my high school years, I was a member of the Library Club and, as a member, also worked study halls behind the library desk. Miss McNutt was evangelical in her admiration of books and reading but also a strict disciplinarian. I once got into BIG trouble by producing a stink bomb in the library, and learned a life lesson from that incident, let me tell you.     

• Mr. Tiller, my first employer, manager of Federated Department Store, when East Moline, Ill., had thriving downtown retail commerce. I gave up my paper route to work as stock boy, window washer, and Saturday clerk in Mr. Tiller’s store. He taught me "the business" when small-town retailing was much more important to a community, before malls and big-box stores gave inevitable shopping options to consumers. Following Mr. Tiller through the lingerie department one day, he showed me with a sly wink that the best way to clean eye glasses was to wipe them on a pair of women’s silky panties. I think he did it just to get a "Harrumph!" from the sales ladies. For the record, I didn’t take up the habit. Those sales ladies scared me.

• Albert Dolata, the first publisher who generously put me under his wing in Elmira, N.Y., and then pushed me from the nest into the potential of becoming a publisher someday. Al was competitive and imperious. He was a person you didn’t want to cross, someone who did not suffer fools kindly.  Yet Al was fun to hang with when he was in a sociable mood, and he tolerated me because he liked Sheryl, and we both knew how to play bridge with Al and his girlfriend, Judy. In knowing Al, I learned to be very perceptive to impending mood changes. I recall the horror when another employee slammed an office door on Al’s little finger. While Al was loudly and profanely cussin’ a blue streak, I headed for the hills for the remainder of that day. It was an extreme honor to stand with Al and Judy when they married.


Second chances

Maybe your mentor was grandparent, a teacher or colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, helped you see the world around you as a more profound place, gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it.

Maybe like Mitch Albom, maybe like me, you lost track of mentors as you made your way.  Wouldn’t you like to see that person again?

Mitch Albom reveals in his book — and now in a play — that he had a second chance. And just in time, as his mentor was dying.  Knowing that Morrie was dying, Mitch visited Morrie every Tuesday, rekindling their relationship, and turning the experience into one final lesson in how to live.

There is something magical about live theater. I suspect that "Tuesdays With Morrie" is a "don’t miss," so I am attending the performance Saturday afternoon. Perhaps, during intermission, you’ll find me, and we can remember our mentors together.

What To Read Next
Get Local