Let me tell you about my good friend Marty Petersen. He was one of the most intriguing people I have ever met, and had the pleasure to work with. Marty was always all in whatever task he undertook. When I met him, he was handling the purchasing for us at Automated Systems, the PCB shop we both worked at just outside of Milwaukee. He was actually, the best negotiator I ever met. I mean, he was such a good negotiator that he would actually strike fear in the hearts of the people who had to negotiate with him. He almost always got the deal he wanted, and he did it with a smile on his face.

One time when he was shopping for a new car, he asked our company president Bob Fleming, for an introduction to Bob’s  friend Russ Darrow, the owner of the largest Toyota dealership in town. Bob had bought so many Toyota’s from Russ Darrow, that he and his family had actually appeared in their commercials. Unfortunately for Bob, Marty did such a good job at negotiating for his Toyota, that after he left with his new “under priced” car, Russ Darrow himself called Bob with a plea to never let Marty come back to his dealership again because, as Russ told Bob, Marty had taken them to the cleaners.

A few years later I asked Marty to join my sales team and gave him the Southwest territory. This was one of the best decisions I ever made. He quickly become the most successful sales person on our team as well as just about the most successful sales person I have had the privilege to manage. That man could sell, as well as he could buy!

I loved travelling with him because he knew all the angles. He kept a log of every flight he had ever taken, what the airline was, what the equipment was, and what the best seat on the plane was. He tracked frequent flyer points like they were gold nuggets. And, there was no one better than him when one of our flights was cancelled. The very idea that a flight was canceled, was to Marty, like meat was to a lion. He loved it. All I had to do was sit back and watch him do his thing. He would stand there at the ticket counter, just laying on his charm and using his Columbo persistence, he would inevitably come back and with a big smile on his face, and show me two tickets to a better flight with better seats, on a better airline, than we’d had in the first place

No matter what situation we faced together Marty could always calm me down. When something went wrong with my computer, he would always stop me from throwing it against the wall and tell me to just and relax while he looked at it. And of course, he would take his time and calmly get to the problem and fix it. Which was great, but then, and this is the part I hated, he would make me sit there and listen to his step by step explanation of what had happened, and what I should do to make sure it didn’t happen again. Man, that drove me crazy. So crazy, that I would sit there mumbling things like, ‘I don’t care” and the very “intelligent” and impatient “Yeah, yeah, yeah”  while he would say “are you listening to me? This is important stuff. You need to know this.

Since Marty retired a few years ago he’d been working with me at D.B. Management, handling all the newsletters for my company and our customers. And once again he was the perfect foil to my extreme impatience. He always made sure that the text that I gave him for the newsletters was correct, appropriate, and on time and he kept me on track to make sure that all newsletters got out when they were supposed to get out. While I was always impetuous and impatient, Marty was careful, and meticulous and somehow it always worked.

In his later years I  was thrilled that Marty and his wife Diane joined Crossroads Presbyterian Church, the Church my family belonged to when we lived in Wisconsin. They joined after we had moved to Maine, so I was always a little sad that we didn’t get to worship together. But he never failed to keep me abreast of all the goings on at Crossroads where he and Diane had become hard working and dedicated members of their Church community.

Well, Marty passed away suddenly this week. I found out when his wife called me on his phone early Wednesday morning and seeing the “Marty” on the  caller ID, I smiled and thought, “What newsletter did I screw up this time?” But when I heard Diane’s sad voice on the phone…my heart stopped, and I knew what she was going to tell me… and I was right, he was gone.

Marty was a good man, a true friend to many, the kind of man who would literally stop everything he was doing if you were in trouble. Your problem was his problem,  because that’s what to him, friendship was all about. The owner of one of the last companies Marty worked for when told of Marty’s passing said this. “He was one of the best individuals to have ever worked for my company”. And I might add Marty was one of the best individuals I knew period. So long Marty.

As we all get older let’s remember how fragile life can be, here one day and gone the next, and cherish the time we have together. It’s only common sense.

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