The Things You Remember



The things you remember…

When I first came up to New York to take over Kaiser Aluminum’s eastern public relations effort, I came in range of Ed Block.

I had just turned thirty, coming up out of Ravenswood, population six thousand, West-by-God Virginia, where Kaiser Aluminum had its biggest plant, coming up out of the wilds of rural West Virginia to the Capital of the World where all the God-like creatures roamed.  And there was Ed Block. Ed Block of AT&T.  The AT&T. The biggest, most influential telecommunications company in the country, maybe in the world.

I didn’t get to meet him right away. I first saw him at a Public Relations Society of America event at the Waldorf where he was being honored for one of the things he was always being honored for.  I remember sitting in the audience that night and being awed. I watched him, listened to him, and knew with absolute certainty that here was a master of the craft, a man who knew what to do and knew how to do it, no matter the challenge. And he was unpretentious, and graceful, and dignified, and disarmingly charming. I remember leaving that event thinking that’s what I want to be. I want to be Ed Block like.

There wasn’t that much difference in our ages, but he was a couple of classes  ahead of mine in our field — like a senior if you were a freshman. He was the star of the senior class who lowly freshmen were to walk respectfully in the presence of. I did. Willingly and with admiration. Ed Block was the standard you aspired to.

Later I got to know him well, worked closely with him on some things we both felt were important. I never lost that thought, though.

Ed died a few weeks ago.

I was so very, very lucky to have had the gift of his friendship and pleasure of his company.

Ed’s passing reminded me of the debt we all owe to the men in the class ahead of ours whose friendship and coaching played such a key role in helping us get from where we were to where we got. I think I said thank you. Lord, I hope I did. Only Shep is still around to hear it. If I didn’t, with regret and apologies, I do so now. And if I did, I gladly do so again.

For my part, and for the record – to Bob Sandberg of Kaiser Aluminum and Bill Shepard of Alcoa, to Larry Foster of Johnson & Johnson and John Verstrate of 3-M, and to the first in that line, Harry Towles of Kentucky’s Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources, thank you, gentlemen.  I am truly beholden.