Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lost another friend/mentor this week

I first met Tom in the winter of 1972; I had heard about him the preceding year.

During the end of 1971 I was young and frustrated with the corporate world. I had a degree in agriculture and was working for a food company that was very much driven by agricultural commodities; some they grew themselves and some they purchased. After four years in "personnel" we were living in New Jersey after stints in South Carolina and Chicago. I was looking for change.

I took the initiative to meet with the VP of Agriculture (Bud Winter) to see if maybe there would be a spot for me in his organization. Unbeknown to me Campbell was building a mushroom farm in the sticks of West Michigan. The farm manager had been selected, a gentleman by the name of Tom Fairchild. The rest is history. Tom and I met, he blessed my candidacy to be on the new farm's staff and we became instant friends.

Tom died this week. He was well into his nineties. After all, when we met, he was over 55 and I was just 30. He was old enough to be my dad. And he became more like a father and not just chronologically either. He helped us decide to buy our house in Fennville having already looked at it before he and Dorothy decided to build. I got good advice from him...and the house stood us in good stead for 25 years.

Even after I left Campbell two years later, we remained friends. He supported my change in jobs when I opted to become a teacher, something that I was passionate about at the time. He knew that and made it comfortable for me to leave the company.

Tom stayed with Campbell beyond normal retirement age. He was an experienced mushroom grower and helped guide the company's efforts, which at the time were extensive, from the headquarters in Pennsylvania. They moved back to Michigan to retire on a lake (his dream) near Sturgis.

Ironically (or not), Tom and Dorothy's youngest son, Ed who is a carpenter, continued to be interconnected to us. In the middle seventies Ed and his partner built the addition on our Fennville house. Our kids, Jeff and Amy, "baby sat" for Ed's kids when they were young. Then, if that was not interactive enough, Ed married a very close associate of mine at Hart & Cooley. Then, in the middle nineties, Ed and his partner (now his oldest son Mike) finished the lower level of our house in Holland. All the time, we either visited or at the very least, kept in touch with Tom and Dorothy through Ed and Leanne.

These last few years were tough for the elder Fairchilds. And we have not seen them for a while...beyond our moving to Oregon...but they have always been in our thoughts. Good, solid people...role models...mentors...dear friends.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family as they mourn their loss and we especially think of Dorothy as she now lives in a care facility. Blessings to all: Tom, Jim, Carol, Barb and Ed.

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