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    When Life Suddenly Happens...

    Most of you may already know that I lost my life partner and wife of 37 years, Cheryl, just a few weeks ago. As you would expect, it was a life changing moment for me and my family.

    Jeff-KelMy nickname for Cheryl was Kel. Her maiden name was Kalahar and her father’s nickname was Kelly. So that’s where Kel came from, and it has stuck through all these years. In fact, I don’t think I ever called her anything but Kel.

    We were married for 37 years, but I guess I could say our relationship goes all the way back to 1958. Our mothers had our baby showers together when they were co-workers at Camp Ripley in Little Falls, Minnesota. We grew up as neighbors in Little Falls and started dating in high school. We married at 19 and hauled everything we had in a pickup truck and small trailer to Grand Forks when I joined the military. In 1984, when I started my career at Marco, we moved to St. Cloud. Here we raised our two kids, Sara and Ryan, and have made it our home ever since.

    On Monday, August 10, the day started like most any other day. I left home the same way I usually do, giving her a hug and a kiss good-bye. Kel died that afternoon and in the days that followed, I felt the strongest sense of sadness I had ever experienced. The support of my family, friends, colleagues and community has helped get me through this most difficult time of my life.

    ‘I needed the support’
    I relied on my family and friends in those initial days that still seem surreal. I sincerely appreciated the many people who came to pay their respects to Kel and support me and my family, and I was especially touched by how genuine and heartfelt they all were.

    We received so many cards from people from all aspects of our lives – and I enjoyed reading every one of them. It was great to hear people share their memories of Kel. The general theme was her kindness, her smile and her humbleness – the attributes I loved about her, too.

    I am thankful for all the cards, texts, emails and beautiful flowers that brightened St. Paul’s Church. I also appreciate those who gave to Anna Marie’s Shelter in honor of Kel and the Marco family and friends who are joining together to establish a tribute for her love of kids at the new St. Cloud Area YMCA Community & Aquatics Center. 

    ‘I needed our culture’
    For the first time, I personally needed the Marco culture I talk so much about in my blog. It helps me every day as I get back to my “normal” routine at work.

    As CEO, I know people expect certain things of me. At first I thought it was important to be emotionally stronger than I really needed to be. But I found that it was natural to show my emotions, even to people who probably never expected to see me cry. And I’m OK with that.

    ‘I’m learning’
    I have learned a lot since that Monday that changed my life. I’ve found that I want to be better at supporting others who lose someone special in their lives. I now understand how someone feels when they lose someone they love out of sequence. It is different than when my mom passed away at almost 80 years of age.

    Kel packed a lot of life into her last six months. We took our entire family on a trip to Disney World to celebrate my grandson’s fifth birthday, enjoyed a Marco sales quota trip to Cabo San Lucas, welcomed another grandson, took a cruise through the British Isles and she enjoyed a girls’ family reunion the weekend before she left us.

    Kel and I lived a fun and full life together - I just wish it could have been longer. Knowing what I know today, I’d sign up to do it all over again. That’s a testament to the life she lived and the life we had together.

    We never know what tomorrow will bring, so live your life so you don’t have any regrets. Genuinely be a good person, reconcile with those that you should and cherish the people you love.

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    Topics: Leadership