Andy’s Letter: People

For those of you who are new to reading this article I write each month, I say WELCOME. I also need to tell you about the series that I have been involved in over this year. It started with November of last year. You know, The Month of Thanksgiving. I queried, “Why do we save our thankfulness for that one month that includes Thanksgiving Day?” I have heard about people who do a month of Thanksgiving in which they pick a different thing to be thankful for each day of the month of November. Yikes! That is thirty things in thirty days. Most start out strong and then start to waver in the second or third week. It is hard to do! So, I set for myself the goal of being thankful each month for something and to write about it here. A Year of Thanksgiving!

If you’ve followed along you know that I have varied things I am thankful for. Being thankful for a person or people in my life came up every few months. I guess that’s the lesson I learned, even though I think I already knew it. Sure, we’re all thankful for ice cream and prosperity, but those are material things. People are what we are most thankful for. And so here in this twelfth month at the end of the series I want to itemize what I am most thankful for and it is all people. Excuse me if there are a few repeats from earlier months.

In order of appearance in my life:

Johnny & Janet Czajkowski

My mother & Father for not only instilling in me the belief that I could be anything I wanted to be, but to aspire to be the best at whatever I chose. (at age four, I wanted to be the garbage man who compacted the trash. Hey, he got to push the button!)

Ernie & Eva Rickman

My maternal Grandparents

My Grandpa even under the toughest of exteriors was a passionate family man who worked hard to support his family and share life’s lessons. My Grandma, for the love and affection she had for her family, her church and her friends. As I young child, I would always ask him “what are you  doing Grandpa?” and his standard answer was always “Milking a duck” whether he was mowing the lawn, painting the house or making me breakfast because Gramma was sleeping in. I use the same line on my daughter today.

Jim Shaw, 7th & 8th Grade English Teacher

Malow Junior High, Utica, Michigan

Mr. Shaw challenged young students to think on their own, to write with clarity and engage in thought provoking conversation. For a 7th grader to talk about State of the Union speeches, euthanasia, or Bachman Turner & Overdrive, a young progressive teacher who impacted 1000’s of lives in a positive way. He always referred to me as AnDREW, with emphasis on the DREW. His line, that I still use when greeting people today, was, “Gentlemen! And I use the term loosely.”

Clem Young, Owner

Young’s Garden Mart, Warren Michigan

When I was fourteen, Mr. Young was my first employer. What an experience! I pulled weeds, I swept up, I helped customers, I planted seeds that turned into thousands of flats of petunias, marigolds, and begonias. I learned to drive a forklift, a front-end loader, a pickup truck. I assembled lawn mowers, snow blowers, and roto tillers. I helped when they erected a “Coal Frame” greenhouse. I learned how to make “clean” dirt, tuned up lawn mowers, and ran galvanized pipe from the boilers to the greenhouses. I will always remember telling Mr. Young that a customer in the lawn mower section needed help with purchasing a mower. Mr. Young said “Andy, you probably know more about those mowers than I do. Go sell him one” My reply was “But what if he asks me a question and I don’t know the answer?” “Andy, if you can’t dazzle him with your brilliance, you baffle him with your bullshit” I sold him the mower, and never looked back.

Don Warnock

Warnock Automotive, East Hanover, NJ

At 20, Don gave me my start in the automobile business. I started selling Dodge’s in 1982 when the prime rate was as high as 20% and Chrysler was flirting with bankruptcy. I received an advanced degree from Warnock University over the next 11 years. At each step of my journey Don gave me more responsibility.  It was an expensive education but in retrospect it was worth it. It laid the groundwork for our move to Ohio and the dream of owning a dealership. With Don, everything was “Super, Handsome. Send it in!”

Mary & Alex Czajkowski

Words are difficult to come by for my wife and daughter. Let me just say, they are always protective of me, always looking out for my best interest, and always willing to go into battle to defend me. They were there for me during my battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. At any time while undergoing treatment Mary would remind me of the line in The Shawshank Redemption that Red uses “You’ve got to get busy living, or get busy dying” I would have traded anything but them for the opportunity to live.

Dr. Mark Kaminski, Director

Lymphoma Program at University of Michigan

Diagnosed in 1994 with NHL, average life expectancy 7 years from time of diagnosis, I first met Dr. K. in 1997. He and his clinical partner, Dr. Rich Wahl, held the patent on a Radio Labeled Isotope conjugated to a mouse anti-body. The drug would become known as Bexxar and I received it during a clinical trial that year. During the depth of my disease, at any time I was depressed about my situation, seeing Dr. Kaminski and receiving therapy (mental as well as Chemo) always lifted my spirits. Always willing to answer any and all questions, a gentle man with a gentle soul, if you were to dream of the perfect doctor to be your partner in this fight, he is the guy you would want on your side. I owe my life to this man, and will be eternally grateful.

I am thankful for all of my associates, the team members of Statewide Ford Lincoln, Superior Collision, Easy Auto Credit, Quick Lane Tire & Auto, and Statewide Emergency Products. The Van Wert Hospital, the Van Wert Rotary, the Van Wert United Way, the Van Wert Business Development Center, the Van Wert County Foundation, and the NPAC.  To my friend and business partner Al Matarese, to our customers, to the rest of my family and friends, I could not have done this without your help in some manner. I am thankful for the role each and every one of you has played in my journey. I look forward to the rest of journey and relish each and every day.

So, there you have it! Twelve Months of Thanksgiving! This is the last one, so I might have run over my normal length. If you’ve been playing along, you know how rewarding it can be. It has made me realize what a lucky man I am. If you haven’t been playing along, give it a try. And next month is the real month of Thanksgiving just in the nick of time.

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