I just got back from a conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. The keynote address was by a renowned sports psychologist who spoke about leaders in sports, business and parenting who exhibit “common sense leadership.” Dr. Jack (Llewellyn) had the audience laughing about examples of how certain coaches and business leaders have exhibited leadership that is less than sensible and helped define seven key tenets that great business leaders and coaches share:
1. Do the right thing when someone fails
2. Treat your people fairly
3. Don’t over manage
4. Give them clarity about what you expect
5. Reward them for doing the right thing
6. Stay positive with your team
7. Have fun
What was harder to define is that during his 45-minute funny, often irreverent monologue, I realized that he exhibited a leadership quality that was his particular gift: Humor. He had found a way to share life stories and leadership qualities that had more than 200 people laughing. We did not want his talk to end. Imagine having someone with that gift on your leadership team? That disarming ability to make any problem seem not so bad with laughter. Maybe you have that gift yourself. If you do, appreciate and use that asset. It can help your business become enormously successful.
April CEO Circle Topic: Running Your Business By Key Numbers
We are going to share business ideas and financial reporting templates to help you run your business more effectively and learn how to use these “scorecards” to catch little problems before they become big ones. It will help you save money, meet payroll more easily, manage cash more effectively and plan for major expenses.
All PowerLink Advisors in banking, wealth management (for business), accounting and any retired CEO’s who have run mulri million companies by the numbers are welcome. The schedule is below:
Executive CEO Circle Cranberry: April 8th4:30 pm
Cranberry: April 9th8:30 pm
Northside: April 9th4 pm
Indiana: April 10th, 3:30 pm
Penn State: April 16th, 3 pm
Washington/Peters Chamber: April 18th, 3:30 pm
I want to thank everyone for your notes, prayers, flowers, mass cards and thoughtful cards. On May 3rd, my husband of 40 years died quietly in his sleep of an aneurism. He was my best friend and we were together for almost 45 years, raised two sons and two daughters and other than one weekend per year (Myrtle Beach golf trip) were together almost every day. When I sat listening to the keynote speaker at that conference I mentioned in the first post, I realized with a great and painful strike that he was my common sense, funny, practical sounding board. There wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t make us laugh and he made every life problem seem smaller after he got through his common sense analysis.
These qualities also made him a great leader at work and with his kids (pictured with our son, Michael in 2005). I know that most of the companies and advisors connected to PowerLink are on paths to greatness and enormous success. It has been a privilege to work with all of you. I plan to continue my work with all of you and hope you can provide that same common sense leadership that I will now be missing at home.
For those of you who knew Bill, below is the eulogy his kids and I wrote for him:
November 7, 1947- March 3, 2019
Bill and Gary at “work” at Allegheny General
I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about the three traits that contribute to a long and lasting marriage (one of the great accomplishments of life). Two researchers studied more than 300 couples for 30 years by interviewing them together in the same room periodically. The way they talked to each other and what they said were documented by the researchers. They started analyzing the results in the very first year and started keeping statistical track of the outcomes of their lives.
They said that looking back on the research, they could start to predict the likeliness that a couple would stay together by how they treated each other in the first few interviews. There were three traits that stood out in the statistics: How they spoke to each other (loving and respectful), what they said to each other (ability to communicate even when it wasn’t easy) and…drum roll…a sense of humor. That’s it. 30 years of research came down to three important traits that you can’t see unless you look across a vast number of relationships and study the statistics. When I told him about the article, Bill said the first two things are obvious and the third is essential. If you can’t laugh. you are not really living.
A few days ago, after 44 years of being together and 40 years of marriage, Bill and I went to sleep and, in the morning, he did not wake up. He died peacefully and quietly and suddenly because there is no greater shock than saying good night to your partner and waking up in the morning to someone’s body with the spirit departed. Our doctor listened to my tearful explanation of the last few days of his life and determined it was one of two things—in the end, we think it was an abdominal aneurism. At the end, as a good friend said, it really doesn’t matter. He is gone from this earth. And what did he leave behind? What impact did he have?
He was born November 7, 1947 in a little town on the east side of Pittsburgh called Braddock, PA where a lot of immigrants from Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe settled. His dad worked at the Union Switch and Signal (as he did for a few years), and his mom was a housewife who did not drive and had a kind word for everyone and a quick wit that her son inherited. When she was in her 60’s, she and her sister walked around an outdoor garden in Myrtle Beach putting lit cigarettes in the mouths of all the statues and then sat on a park bench watching to see who would notice. We had only been married a few years and I waited to see what Bill would say. He thought it was the funniest thing he ever heard, and he bragged about his mom for years. That was my earliest memory that Bill regarded his family and friends as heroes if they managed to navigate life with humor and intelligence (not always at the same time), they earned “Bill points.” Bill also had an older brother, Joe (and Pat) and many nieces, nephews and cousins on both sides of the family.
Bill went to Woodside Elementary School (referred to his friends as the “Woodside Boys”) and then graduated from Churchill High School. Thanks to Facebook, he reconnected with a lot of his childhood friends. But what he told us were the stories of growing up, because his stories were part of how he observed the world and made the world seem exciting and filled with wonderful people. He went to Slippery Rock State University for 3 semesters. Long enough to realize that he wasn’t ready for college and that if he couldn’t make it at school, he would need to enlist in the military branch of his choice before he was drafted into the Army. He chose the US Navy and his career in the Navy drove a lot of who he was after that.
He served two years in Vietnam and his last assignment was on the S.S. Bronstein in communications and electronics (he said he was a “Tin Can Sailor” because he served on a Navy destroyer). After his discharge, he lived and worked in Hawaii, California, Nebraska and did some traveling in between. He came home in 1971 as a soldier from a war that was not well-supported in the US. Many men avoided the war and the draft by entering college. He concluded that the Navy and being a soldier taught him what it meant to serve with honor and to do what you are asked to do even if you didn’t always agree. That would be a driving principle of the rest of his life.
He enrolled at Duquesne University under the GI Bill. He was treated by his professors and fellow students as a war veteran. He was always the oldest student in the class (daytime, undergrad), and the funniest and the wisest. He was closer in age to his professors than to the other students. He also looked at poetry, religion, history and literature from his own unique view. I think his professors were grateful to have him in their classes. He graduated with academic honors and the friends he made in college became his lifelong friends. Once you were Bill’s friend and you demonstrated that you could hold an intelligent conversation on any subject and have a sense of humor and be generally curious and interested about whatever subject was being discussed, he became a loyal friend. He was one of the first people I met on campus (we worked in the Student Union together in the Rec Center). When he and I worked the same shift, he made me laugh so much that a 4-hour shift would speed by like it was 5 minutes. I was 18 and he was 26. We were both dating other people, but we saw each other almost every day for the next year and a half. We came back from summer break the following year not dating anyone else and started seeing each other in October of 1975. He graduated from Duquesne in December 1975. He was the first person in his family to graduate from college and he started his career in management for a national retail chain called Basco’s.
His BS degree was in education, but he faced his first real career disappointment while student teaching World History to 17-year old’s. He bristled over the text book version of the Vietnam War, the education of kids who didn’t want to learn and the certainty of a life of teaching that wasn’t what he thought it would be. So, he went in search of a management job.
He started in the electronics department because he loved camera’s and all kinds of electronics and stereo equipment and taught the employees how to interact with customers and learn about the equipment. Whatever Bill loved, he shared. I’m sure a lot of future photographers were inspired by Bill’s work there. I brought this “older man” to visit the Fayda family in 1975. My mom and Ed, Eileen and Larry were the first to fall in love with Bill and his humor and openness. Dad took a little longer. He asked us to wait till I had finished school.
We got married as soon as I graduated from college (June 1978) and began our lives together as a dual income, no kids’ household for more than 17 years. During that time, we golfed, skied (well, he tried to teach me), sailed, listened to great music, cared for our two dogs and bought a cottage at Pymatuning Lake in Jamestown, PA where we explored, vacationed and made new friends as well as staying in touch with all our friends from college…Rich and Maria, Ronnie, Bob and Jeannie, Gary and Mary, Mur and Roy, Jo and Dick, Keen and Karen, Don and Jan. He was staunchly loyal, so he had the same doctors for 35 years, the same friends, the same commitment to family events. We never missed a holiday with our families or friends.
In 1994 our lives began a new chapter when we traveled to Russia to bring home our baby girl, Katerina. At the age of 47, Bill became the greatest father just because he loved so generously and made every little problem seem not so bad. The first time we changed Katie’s diaper we were in a hotel room in Moscow, it was 2 o’clock in the morning, it took almost 45 minutes and we had diapers, wipes, dirty diapers, badly folded diapers and crookedly taped diapers littering the room. But what I remember is that we were laughing so hard. We looked like an episode of “I Love Lucy” without trying.
Bill ended up taking a month off to take care of Katie and of course, became the best care giver of our wonderful daughter. He did that again (traveled to Russia, brought home our babies, made even more friends who were also adopting…Carleen and Rob, Vicky and Joe, Nadine and Neil) with Will, Michael and Annie. He was funny and kind and managed to help raise his kids with a level of intelligence and wit and practicality that I don’t think I ever fully appreciated until I would compare notes with others. How did he do that? Not make anything seem quite as hard as it was? On our last trip to Russia, we were bringing home Annie and riding in a private sleeping car on a train between St. Petersburg and Moscow. There was a knock on our door. It was the young couple next door, their baby boy was wailing, and they didn’t know how to get him to stop. “Do you know how to use Ambesol?” the first-time dad asked Bill. Bill was a father of four by now. “What’s wrong?” “We think our son is teething and we want to give him something.” Bill’s answer was simple: “Just open the bottle, rub the liquid on your finger and rub both your temples very carefully. That will make the headache go away.” Then he quietly closed the compartment door and went back to sleep. We did giggle about that for about 20 years.
He developed his love of the world and people through his photography and because of good friends, was given the opportunity to intern at Allegheny General Hospital as a photographer. He was a cross between a medical photographer and a communications photographer. After four months, he was offered a full-time position and stayed there for more than 20 years. He could as easily document a tragic operation as he could take a “shake and grin” of a retiring employee and the CEO of the hospital. He earned a reputation at the hospital that if there was a particularly challenging assignment to photograph: a doctor’s procedures or a tough executive, they would ask Bill to handle it. Because he could bring his wit and his disarming intelligence to the situation and have everyone laughing. He was unafraid of walking into any operating room and felt that he could “soldier” his way through any tough situation (kids who were stabbed in the face by their parents, men who walked backwards into an airplane propeller, people in terrible car crashes were all the subjects of his medical photography). But he was also gifted at observing the beauty of a skilled doctor or the beauty of a sunset over the hospital helicopter. His lens to the world was another of his gifts. Thankfully, he documented much of it through his work.
He also developed a network of new friends that remain to this day…Kathleen and Dennis, Sue and Maryanne and Thom, Carol and Gary and so many others. They became the nucleus of his villa vacations to Tuscany and Myrtle Beach that were joined by over hundreds of friends and family over the last 30 years.
As his kids got older, he was there for every important event and most of the minor ones. He never missed a return home after driving the car or going on a date or taking a big test or coming home from a trip. He never missed a graduation or a sleepover or a concert or a game. He never said no to a private talk about something important. He was never too busy to talk or listen. He managed to help us all see a better, lighter more optimistic side to a problem. During our next 25 years together, he would engineer 25 amazing vacations to Italy, Switzerland, England and France or somewhere in the US. He led us on a Trip Across America in 2007 that we will never forget. He was always exploring and learning and sharing. He was tireless in his quest to learn. He taught us all that the world is neither good nor bad, and it is mostly beautiful.
In his last 15 years he had his share of health issues, but he navigated each one with thought and trusting his doctors at the hospital, especially Dr. Monah. He retired from Allegheny General but continued his many friendships and after a time of helping a friend with his business, ended up working at Lowe’s and having a kind of second retirement from there about three years ago. He knew the store in Monroeville so well that when any of us needed to find something, we still called him at home to ask what aisle the barbecue tongs were in? When I would walk in the store and see an employee he used to work with, they would light up when they saw me. “How is he?” they would ask. He treated his fellow workers and his job like a great soldier and with an enormous sense of humor (because life is just beautiful and funny! Or at least, he thought so).
He got to see his kids grow into mature, happy, healthy adults who are just starting their independent lives. He got to see his youngest daughter have his grandson, Vincent Michael. His favorite activity was to make scary faces at Vinnie until he laughed. As we started sifting through all his photographs and writing, we all realized we had our own views of Bill that we will always remember. Today as we were assembling his photo story for the viewing, someone sent us a picture of he and Gary dressed in fat suits for a Halloween party. They were pretending to be wrestlers from a Saturday Night Live skit. I can remember being embarrassed. What will people think? In the end, as I learned, he taught us all that laughing at yourself is the best place to start. Because he was just that kind of guy. And no party or event really started until Bill arrived.
As his wife and kids, we got to share in this amazing journey. Like most chapter endings in life, you can only see the last chapter most clearly after it is over. I still can’t believe this chapter is over. But I am thankful for all of you because I know you will help us keep his candle lit for many years to come.
Bill setting sail on “St. Lucy”
--Anita, Katie, Will, Michael, Annie (and Vincent Michael) Brattina March 5, 2019
Viewing: 2-4 pm and 7-9 pm, Wolfe’s Memorial Funeral Home, 3604 Greensburg Pike, Pittsburgh, PA 15221
Service: 9:30 am, St. Maurice Roman Catholic Church, 2001 Ardmore Boulevard, Pittsburgh, PA 15221
Cemetery: All Saints Braddock Catholic Cemetery, 1560 Brinton Road, Pittsburgh PA 15221
Lunch and Celebration of his Life: Bill and Anita’s house, 1143 McCully Drive, Pittsburgh PA 15235 after the burial
Bill’s favorite spot to watch the day end…Jamestown, PA cottage