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RIP: The Best Boss I Ever Had

Kathy Anderson called me Monday evening with bad news. Her husband, Mike, died that morning. He'd been diagnosed with brain cancer about 6 weeks earlier.

So now I'm ending the week as it started, by sharing the news. I waited, because I wasn't ready (and no one likely to read this had any immediate need to know) and also because I wanted to be able to link to his obituary, which was published Thursday and went online today.

I don't remember exactly when Mike became my boss at National Computer Systems. He came into the company sometime in the early-to-mid-1980s, starting (IIRC) as Director of Training and Development. He was a one-person department, physically located in a cube over near the CEO, Prez, and VP offices. He wasn't in my chain of command then, but I remember two things about him. First, when he started, he asked the company to buy an IBM Portable Personal Computer and plotter instead of hiring or assigning a secretary for him. That was probably late in the fall of 1984 or early winter. When I left NCS five years later, I waited a couple of months until the computer was fully depreciated before giving NCS $75 for it. At that point, I'd had possession of it for a couple of years; Mike and I had long since moved onto desktop computers at work. I used that IBM luggable dual-floppy machine with MacLink Plus to transfer PC files to my Mac IICX for the first couple years of PROmote Communications. I lugged the IBM to Massachusetts with me, but when we tried to power it up during an old tech workshop at Boskone a couple years ago, we couldn't get it going. I'm sure the MacLink Plus cable is still around here, too.

Anyway, Mike was certainly the first Director or any other kind of manager at NCS to opt for a computer over a secretary. I remember him showing me everything that plotter could do...and just how temperamental it was.

Okay, what's the other thing I remember about Mike from before we started working together? Grief sucks. I think it was that plotter. And him. Just him. He made enough of a strong, positive impression that I had no concerns whatsoever when he became my boss. I was delighted for the chance to work for him when a bit of reorganization led to that.

Whenever it was, Mike moved into an office in the HR department,and picked up a Diane Kindle* to help him organize training programs and me, handling employee communications. Later, Anne Sturdivant, joined us. She was another high-powered training person, and became the Director of Corporate Training and Development after Mike left the company. Good people all.

I haven't said anything about what made Mike the Best Boss I Ever Had, and other commitments and work deadlines mean I won't be blogging about it at length tonight. I said the following in the online guestbook:

Mike was and will forever remain the Best Boss I ever had when he headed of Training & Development at NCS. Always real, always grounded, and always there, supporting his employees and spreading his love of lifelong learning in ways that helped us develop it, too. I forget how many times he asked if this desktop publishing thing might not be a worthwhile investment for the company before I finally looked beyond the box containing the work I was doing and envisioned the work I could do with such a set-up. Those were the very early days and thanks to Mike, I had the skill and experience to start my own design business when the job at NCS ended a year or so after he went to Fiskars.

On further reflection, I think it was actually just about 6 months later or so.

We stayed in touch in the early 1990s. He used to drop by Minicon with one or both of his sons, though our paths rarely crossed there. One Monday as we were clearing out of the Minneapolis in '73 suite, someone handed me a copy of Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management. "Where'd this come from?" I asked. "Whose is it?" I'd wanted a copy to complement The Home-Lovers Encyclopedia that I'd picked up at a thrift store after seeing Walter and Madeleine's copy during my first UK trip in November 1989.

"It appears to be yours," came the response. Sure enough, there was a message on the inscription page:

"Geri - Years ago you asked me to look for one of these. Better late than never - Mike Anderson 1996"

Mike was then the one who put the work into reconnecting in 2001 and again in 2007. I visited him and Kathy in Marathon, WI, after leaving the In the Heart of the Beast MayDay Festival in 2010. It was so very good catching up with both them, seeing Mike's woodworking shop and meeting their cows...and one of the bulls...from inside the pasture. They were Murray Grey's, IIRC. Fairly docile, and premium meat, but a bull is a bull, and Mike kept his eye on him while instructing me to speak calmly and avoid abrupt movements.

Mike and Kathy told me about their international travels, and about how they'd hosted international students for decades. No surprise, upon reflection, but hearing how they tracked some of those students down later was great fun, and oh, so very them.

We made plans for Mike and Kathy to stay at Toad Woods when they could time a Massachusetts trip to coincide with Brimfield. Their son Bill was in medical school in Boston, a grandchild was just born, we knew it would happen.

If I were inclined to, I could make a case for the horror that was 2011 derailing my ability to keep up with the reconnection. Bill and his wife Carly moved to Illinois. Mike sent chatty Christmas letters, detailing what he and Kathy were up to. It's been a few years since I've managed to send more than one or two cards. We all know the drill; the regrets drill deepest when the missed opportunities turn out to have been the last opportunities.

Much as I'm hard-wired for being there, I won't be in Wausau come Monday afternoon for the visitation and gathering, nor at Tuesday morning's burial. If not for Kathy's call, I wouldn't know he was gone. Hearing from her was a blessing, much as it was news neither one of us ever wanted to share. No, I won't be in Wausau, but as soon as I get a little more work done, I am going to drop Anne Sturdivant a line.

* I may well be misremembering Diane's last name; the standard operating Kindle in my life these 24 years later is my Kindle Fire. But if it wasn't Kindle, it was something very near it.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 20th, 2013 05:14 am (UTC)
A sweet memorial. Thank you for taking the time to write it.
Jul. 20th, 2013 05:42 am (UTC)
I'm so sorry for your loss. He sounds like an amazing guy. Glad he had such a good influence on your life.
Jul. 20th, 2013 11:48 am (UTC)
Sounds like he was a fantastic person. Cherish the memories. {{Hugs}}
Jul. 20th, 2013 02:28 pm (UTC)
Print this and share it with his family? I imagine they would be pleased to read your tribute.

Jul. 20th, 2013 04:24 pm (UTC)
Good point about printing it out. I planned to send Kathy the link(s) to this and anything else I write about Mike, but I've just realized I have Mike's email and not hers. And we've had problems in the past of Mike not getting email messages, so even if she has access to his account, hard copy is the way to go.
Jul. 20th, 2013 05:35 pm (UTC)
What a shame, I'm so sorry. But a fine tribute.

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


Geri 2014
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