Lessons from a friend…
by John O’Brien, CPMR
As I initially set out to write this article, I was flooded time and again with a flurry of emotions. What could I say about Chuck Tanzola that would capture his essence? How could I put into words a way to honor him as a husband, father, grandfather, neighbor, community leader, business associate and more than anything, friend? I reached out to some of the folks Chuck and I both served with on the ERA Board and Executive Committee. We talked about Chuck. We reminisced about meetings, trips, phone conversations and meals. We laughed, we cried and we tried to help each other begin the healing. I even went back two years and reviewed Chuck’s musings in his articles for The Representor. Amazingly enough, the more I read and the more I talked to people, a pattern started to develop (I know Chuck always appreciated a good analysis). What became clear to me is what we all learned from Chuck and how we can use those teachings to continue his legacy.
First and foremost, Chuck was a family man. I remember the first time I got to meet his lovely wife, Pam, at the ERA Executive Committee meeting in Charleston, S.C. She instantly bonded with the group and I recall the look of love and respect on Chuck’s face the entire time. I recall fondly the stories he told and how he glowed with pride as a father as they were preparing for his son’s wedding. And of course, how excited he was at the arrival of his first granddaughter.
Here are some more reflections about Chuck from members of the ERA Executive Committee:
“What can I say about Chuck? A lot!” said Walter Tobin, ERA CEO. “He was a kind and gentle man; a man of faith who loved his wife, Pam, and his family. He was so looking forward to being a grandfather. Chuck was smart and was proud to be a Cornell grad. He read everything. He had a gentle and non-aggressive manner, but wasn’t afraid to gently challenge you, in a spirit of cooperation and with the goal to do the right thing. He had a firm hand on the rudder of ERA and EDS ships. He was funny; with a subtle wit and a twinkle in his eye. He was one of a kind. He will be missed but never forgotten.”
“I remember a bus ride to dinner at an ERA National meeting where we talked about our kids and finding themselves,” said Ellen Coan, ERA SVP of Education. “Mine were in high school at the time. We talked about them entering the rep world and the nuances that would bring. Fast forward, and Chuck and I joined the grandparents club and our children have found themselves, some in the rep world and others helping the world in other ways. We continued to share their progress as well as our professional progress through many ERA national conferences and principal meetings.”
“Chuck planted a special rose variety called Charlie’s rose,” said Ellen. “It had arrived while we were at an ERA XCOM meeting in Boston and he was excited to get home to this special task. I bought my own ‘Charlie’s Rose’ and have it on my kitchen counter to remind me of the gracious man we lost this year.”
No matter the discussion topic, no matter the passion with which others around him spoke, Chuck had an innate ability to look at any situation and provide a perspective many of us had not considered.
“Whenever we had something to discuss, whether it was a rule change or a new policy, he always had the most interesting perspective which made me sit back and rethink the entire situation,” said Ken Bellero, ERA SVP of Manufacturing. “Chuck’s insights and contributions were invaluable. He was the guy to make you sit back and say…‘Hmm.’”
“He was always very generous and thoughtful with all of us,” said Ken. “I still have the gordian knot puzzle he gave us on my desk so I can remember him every day (but will not touch it for fear of never putting it back together!) Most of all I enjoyed his offbeat and witty humor.
“Chuck was the sounding board I used when I needed perspective,” said Cameron English, CPMR, ERA SVP of Industry. “I remember one time I called to ask him about an article I was working on for The Representor on supply chain volatility. Looking for insight on how and why things were so upside down, Chuck weighed in with a different angle on how we found ourselves in the position we were in.”
Cam reiterated Chuck’s ability to gain perspective, saying, “He could bring the objectivity back into a highly charged conversation. Reasoned and insightful, I can still hear his voice inside my head. Chuck was the benchmark for reason and thoughtfulness.”
“Chuck was even-handed and thoughtful in his approach,” said Gary Zullo, ERA SVP of Distribution. “We relied on his steady hand versus emotional responsiveness in turbulent times. He exuded confidence and positivity.”
In my opinion, the reason for Chuck’s amazing perspective was simple — he was a great listener. I know because he had an uncanny habit of repeating back to you what you had just said, to make sure he got it right and also give your thoughts validation. Many who got to spend time with Chuck mentioned the great conversations they had with him.
“I will cherish the rounds of golf that we played, especially the incredible conversation that we had while sharing a cart at the last Sager open,” said John Hutson, ERA SVP of Membership. “As a listener with excellent perspective, many folks talked about how he has and continues to influence them. It was an absolute blessing to have had the opportunity to have been associated with such a special person.”
Looking back on a life well lived, I think about the things Chuck taught me, without having realized at the time that he was teaching me. First and foremost, love your family. Make the time. Embrace every opportunity you get to share time with them and be committed. Secondly, try to gain some perspective. Whether it’s your personal life or your business life, a fresh perspective provides an opportunity to grow. Looking at things from a different point of view opens the doors to whole new experiences and successes.