Some people might receive it as good news that their boss died. Not me, I cried and I cried with his family, who I work with and I cried all the way home in my car. It is not that we were super close, though we talked via phone or e-mail almost daily over the last 3 years coordinating purchasing and sales and developing strategy for the multi-million dollar seafood importing company he started out of the back of a truck some 20+ years ago. My tears had nothing to do with my security or future, our company will be fine. It is not because he was a people person or spiritual guru or charismatic icon who I will be lost without, though I don't know anyone with more friends. It is because Phil loved life and he loved life more than anyone I have ever met. He loved life and pushed to the edges the way all of us know we are supposed to, but few of us ever do.
He was a Kiwi, ( New Zealander for the rest of you) who sucked the marrow out of the bones of life. He grew his family and business as he migrated from New Zealand to Hawaii to Los Angeles and then back to his beloved New Zealand where he lived a simple, peaceful life in semi-retirement over the last few years, most of his days spent fishing. Phil was always looking for the next celebration, sporting event, party, rugby match, boat race, auto race etc., not so much for the adrenaline release, but to be with friends and family and celebrate life. He was relaxed and calm as a company owner, so much so that to many it appeared he was complacent or didn't care, when in fact his company was an allegory or example of his life, expressing his confidence and loyalty to those he surrounded himself with. We would take 2 hour lunches on Friday afternoon when there was work to be done, but Phil was never in a hurry, the task was never as important as the person to him and I grew to respect that about him. In hindsight, I suspect that his hands off approach actually brought out the best and the most in those who worked for him. At least it did in me. Any of us who have had to work at a corporate grind, and punch a time clock would realize what a blessing it was for me to work for a man, a company, that believes in you and your potential and gives you the freedom to pursue it unto the ends of the earth. On my suggestion we traveled together to countries in Asia to develop new product lines and suppliers. He trusted me to go to Central and South America to do the same. On those occasions when I made bad decisions and lost thousands of dollars and felt horrible, Phil would encourage me and express the utmost confidence in my decision making and his loyalty to me created my loyalty to him and the company. He was taken advantage of by those who had selfish ambition more than once, both personally and professionally, but he never hardened his heart or changed his core values of loyalty and generosity and that will always be a memorial to me.
Phil certainly died way too young at age 58, but I am thankful for the way he was allowed to go. It is prophetic of his life and an inspiration to me that the last thing he did before he died was reeling in a big fish.