I lost a dear friend this past week after his long battle with the evil C-word. He was my best friend’s father, but he may as well have been my friend. That’s the kind of man he was; a friend to almost everybody he came across.
Our dearly departed friend was known by all as Pops — in fact, he had a nice arrangement of flowers, spelling out his nickname at his wake and funeral. But to me, he’ll always be remembered as Big Pete. You see, my best friend and his father were both named Peter, a fitting name for two strong individuals and the name that Jesus would give to his disciple, Simon, for it meant “rock”, on whom Jesus would build his church.
Pete’s family lived down the street from my family for most of our youth. Every time I called their house to speak to my friend, the answer on the other end of the line would invariably be, “Big Pete or Little Pete?” — you’d think I would have learned to just ask for Little Pete right off the bat, but I guess I was too young and naive to figure that out. I would refer to the elder as Big Pete, and in time, some point after I grew from a boy into a man, he would always address me as “Mr. Glab.” It was a level of respect from a man 30 years my senior that was unneeded and unwarranted, but extremely gratifying nonetheless.
As the years went by, and as Little Pete and I grew closer and hung out on a regular basis, I grew to know and love the kind of man that Big Pete was and what he stood for. I got to witness firsthand what kind of husband and father he was, how great a friend he would become, and that he truly was a gift from God.
I think what stood out most to me about Big Pete was the kind of impact he had on the lives of others. That fact alone speaks volumes about the quality of life lived. To me, I believe the measure of success in a man is not what he accomplishes for himself but what he does for the success of others. And as I sat back and surveyed the sea of mourners paying their last respects, I saw a crowd of people positively affected, encouraged, and even somewhat transformed by Big Pete.
How does one accomplish so much in his time on earth? I propose that he did it through three simple factors: attitude, hard work, and love. Throughout all the years that I had the privilege of knowing Big Pete, I don’t recall a single time when he wasn’t happy. The man oozed with positive thoughts and feelings and if he wasn’t having a good day, he sure did a good job of masking it to others. That kind of positive personality rubbed off on other people and they couldn’t help flocking to him.
I recall several moments in time when Big Pete would captivate the room, but one sticks out more than others. I play on a softball team with Little Pete and a handful of our friends — a team that Big Pete generously sponsored with his personal HVAC business. The mood on the field can get quite intense given the competitive fire many on our team have. But one night Big Pete strolled down the sidewalk toward the softball field to come watch us play, and as soon as he got to the bleachers just behind the dugout, it was like the President had just walked into his own private suite. The guys on the team ignored what was happening on the field and turned around to shake his hand. He had a smile on his face and exchanged pleasantries with almost every player in the dugout. It didn’t matter what the score was — we were probably down 13 runs at the time — because the level of respect we each had for the man was far superior to the competitive fire in our bellies.
Aside from his attitude, his level of hard work shined through next. The man was always on the go, ready in an instant to fix something that was broken. At his wake, one of the speakers made a nice reference to Big Pete as a “first responder,” comparing his ability to get where he was needed in such quick time to police, firefighters and ambulances. Big Pete had a strong work ethic and he recognized the need to serve and support his family and friends, of course, but also churches, schools, and local businesses.
Finally, love was the third ingredient that made Big Pete such a success in his life. Whatever he did, it came from the heart. He had his priorities straight and I admire the man for it. First and foremost, he had strong faith and a love for God, which not only steered his life in the right direction but also gave him strength in his final days. Secondly, he loved his wife of 40 years more than anything or anyone on earth. I cannot stress enough how important the spousal relationship is. Two lives working together as one, let no man separate. I’ve been married for about three months now and I pray that I live up to my duties as a loving husband and provider for that length of time. Third, Big Pete loved his two sons, their wives and little daughters with all his heart. His sons have grown into great men in part because of the lessons he and his wife passed on to them. And although his time with his granddaughters was brief, he loved them dearly and they’ll learn what kind of man he was as they grow older and hear stories. Big Pete’s love obviously spread to his extended family, his church family, and the legions of friends he developed over the years.
Although my heart is heavy, I’m extremely grateful to have known Big Pete. His wake and funeral were sad, but they truly were a celebration of his life as well. He was inspirational and had a profound impact on all the lives he touched.
You don’t even have to have known Big Pete to learn a lesson from him. I encourage you to heed the following advice. If you want to live well and be a success in life, follow Big Pete’s example: always keep the right attitude, work as hard as you possibly can, love with all your heart, and make sure your priorities are in the right order.
Here’s to you, Big Pete! Thank you for all you’ve given to the world. Gone for now, certainly missed, but never forgotten.