Karen Key – Larger than Life


I’m at the age where family, friends and acquaintances are passing away at greater frequency. It’s a part of life and comes as no surprise. That knowledge  doesn’t make the grief of such events any less painful. Recently the world lost one of its great people – Karen Key. My soul is deeply sad at Karen’s passing.

There are a few people I’ve known in my life that I describe as “larger than life”.  I’d seen that descriptive phrase for years in books I read and didn’t truly grasp the meaning of  it.  My friend, Peter Holthe who was the impetus, actually the creator for FOCM – the website, events, etc was “larger than life”. It was after his passing that I truly appreciated the phrase. At Peter’s memorial service, his college room-mate Byron Pitts was in attendance. In Byron’s autobiography “Step out on Nothing” there is a portion wherein he describes how much Peter helped him in college.

Karen is also a member of this elite group of rare individuals who touch your life and impact it forever. Her consistent kindness, respect for others,  sincere and contagious enthusiasm, love of America coupled with her joy at having fun, smiling and laughing are what I think of and how I will remember Karen.

We met while working at Burroughs Wellcome Co., a unique pharmaceutical company founded in the UK in 1880. It was purchased in 1995 by Glaxo, which subsequently merged with SmithKlineBeecham to become GlaxoSmithKline. I think I met Karen in 1985 while we were both in Sales Representative Trainer Training class. My territory was in southern California and hers was the Raleigh-Durham, NC area.

We both came into the home office/headquarters around the same time. Senior management could tell early on that she was special – one of those people who excel at whatever they are assigned.

We weren’t in touch much in our post-coworker era but our friendship was one of those where that wasn’t necessary. In the most recent 10 years we were back in touch and saw each other more. I had a memorable stay with she and Donna and other BW alumni at their Hyco Lake house. She helped me get my dog Micah into the kayak so I could paddle him around.

Hyco Lake: Karen, Micah and me

The late stage lung cancer diagnosis was a huge shock and she handled it well and fought it with all that her optimism, her doctors and medications could provide.  https://www.clementsfuneralservice.com/obituaries/Karen-Letisha-Key?obId=24530539

Heaven has added another angel. Rest in peace my friend.



Wedding Toast from Father of the Bride

So 9 years ago when my first-born daughter became engaged, my signifcant other/spousal equivalent said, “you’ll have to give a toast at the reception, practice it now, just speak from your heart”.  I panicked, I pictured myself in front of everyone at the reception and couldn’t come up with anything.  Public speaking is listed as one of the top things people fear. I’ve done a lot of public presentations but I’ve prepared for them, scripted them, practiced them.  So when put on the spot, I froze.

So I had several months to prepare and wrote a toast and re-wrote and re-wrote it with a focus on not too long, focused, concise and from the heart.  In the years since then when friends, strangers and new acquaintances tell me their daughter is getting married, I remind them they’ll have to give a toast.  I tell  them I have one which I can share with them as a template they can adjust. It will at least get them started.  The below has been shared with almost 10 people.  What prompted me to write this blog is I found an email I sent to a man I met in an airport bar and he said his daughter was getting married.  The man’s future son-in-law was a graduate of Texas A&M. The template is below:

First, we’ll have a quick toast and then I have a few things to say. Everyone please raise your glasses: To (state your daughter’s name) and Person (your daughter’s fiancee’s name), on behalf of everyone here, may you have a lifetime of happiness.  Cheers.

And now I’d like to say a few things:  Parents and brothers and sisters of person marrying my sweet precious angel, we’re glad to add you to our extended family and look forward to getting to know you better in the years ahead.  Person, without a doubt you are my favorite in-law, (say this if he/she is your only child-in-law: pause for laughter), you’re also my first sin-law and I couldn’t be happier, you’re an Aggie engineer, who could ask for anything more. (Maybe drop in an Aggie joke here: http://planetaggie.www.50megs.com/images/jokeimg.html) I do like the fact that you’re (choose one or more than one: a college graduate, have a job, have wealthy parents).  _______ (Daughter’s name or nickname), you are a beautiful bride, I remember when I first saw you __ years ago, it was a feeling of instant and complete adoration and love.  Oh and maybe a little fear that I might be buying you a car at age 16 and that maybe I’d spend money to send you on a European vacation every year you were in college and that somehow we’d end up with any pets that you “bought”.  I was certain that I’d be paying for a wedding someday.  I’ve been so proud of you every step of your life.

To you both, I have a few words of advice:
Don’t keep score
Don’t expect marriage to be 50:50 every day, because there will be days when one of you can only give 25% to the relationship, that’s when the other has to give 75%.

Use your words
If you don’t tell each other how you feel and what you’re thinking, they will not know.

Lastly “a little teasing goes a long way” – be sensitive to each other’s feelings when joking around because – “a little teasing goes a long way”.

Please join me in one more toast:  To Precious and her Person – here’s to the beginning of the happiest days of your lives together. Cheers!

Yikes, as I finish this I realize I have to do another toast to do – in August my last-born daughter is getting married and I have less than 3 months to come up with a completely new toast!

FOCM Chapter 2012 Summer Chapter Meetings

Once upon a time in a faraway place a long, long time ago, my brother and I volunteered to drive my eldest daughter’s car from Raleigh, NC to AZ. She and her husband would be moving to Tucson and rather than paying to ship it, we thought it would be a fun trip for Jon and I. We took the opportunity to visit friends along the way. Our second night stop was in Houston, TX and a visit with FOCM member and friend from high school, Kristen Meaders. Here are her notes from the Houston FOCM chapter meeting that night:

An impromptu FOCM meeting was held in Houston in July 2012. For security reasons, it was touted as the Annual Genu Varum Society Conference (AGVSC) to avoid the paparazzi, INS, and undesirable party crashers.  Large amounts of Mexican food were consumed due to Our Leader’s unwillingness to stray from a mandatory Mexican food theme. No arrests were made but Jon is now on a de-tox program.  Stock prices for Patron dropped precipitously since Chris’s discovery that he has “the sugar.”  Mimi was crowned Ms Genu Varum Houston 2012. Something happened to the photographic evidence such that I cannot include it.

Chris, Kris, Jon

The following evening we were in Tucson, AZ and had dinner with FOCM member and friend from college, Art Coppola. Art’s notes were in reply to those of Kristen’s.

That must have been a ‘home-cooked’ Mexican meal judging from the surroundings.  Here is a shot of the twins at the subsequent FOCM meeting held in Tucson and as you can see, it was held in a dark back room location at a participating Chicken and Waffle house where our leader had his with Jalapeños to continue his insistence on getting back to his roots. For this there was proof of the event:

Summer of 2012 Jon (l) and Chris (r)