The hardest part of losing someone is when we become acutely aware of how important they are to us and how deep our feelings are for them. This has been said by so many people in so many different ways that you’d figure by now we’d have a better handle on how to process this type of loss. Certainly, time heals the wounds of loss, but the scars stay visible for a long time.
This has been a very challenging year for us at Shepley. On January 31st, we lost long-term Hyannis yard stalwart Dan Vincent to a tragic traffic accident and on April 11th we very suddenly and unexpectedly lost Kathleen Tarr, wife of long-time Shepley millwork man, Mike Tarr. On April 24th, 13-year Hyannis veteran lumber dispatcher Ken Rossicone passed away, also very unexpectedly.
Ken sat in a hot seat at Shepley, assigning order picks, dispatching lumber loads for Hyannis, and handling the transfers for Wellfleet and Nantucket, as well as scheduling credit pick-ups. This can easily be an underappreciated position in which you’re noticed more for the few things that don’t go right than the many things that do. Ken operated as the conductor of our Shepley operational orchestra, synchronizing the interplay between the moving parts, adjusting the tempo, the pitch, and the volume. He learned how wonderful the moments of operational perfect harmony can be. He learned to savor the times when all the parts meshed and when the process flowed easily. More than 50% of our orders are delivered the day they are called in, so there is always an underlying sense of urgency, but Ken always knew that panic isn’t a solution.
I used to kid him that he didn’t take me seriously. I would tell him to use me as an extra, if he had a delivery that was going to be late, to just give me a call and I’d take it, to get it there on time. I told him he would be doing us both a favor: the extra help would keep us on schedule and I’d get a chance to do some “management by driving around”.
As easy and sensible as this sounded to me, I just didn’t get the call. I finally confronted him and asked him what I needed to do to have him accept my help. I began to realize that even though I think he knew I was sincere in my offer, he was proud of what he did and didn’t want to look like he was letting me down by asking for my help. We were able to come to an understanding and he started throwing me the occasional bone, with a delivery here or a pick-up there. I’d kidded him about it, telling him not to deprive me of the chance to couple some driving practice with a bit of field observation. It was nice of him to humor me even if it hurt his pride a bit!
Dispatch involves a combination of sensitivity and thick skin. Everyone’s request is, in their eyes, the priority that humbles all others in the queue. Ken made it happen for everyone. Also, it’s easy for load builders and drivers to feel they’re getting picked on and that someone else is getting the peaches, while they’re getting the pits. Ken had thick enough skin without having impenetrable armor. He played fair and didn’t play favorites. Again, he just made things happen.
Ken leaves a big hole in a lot of hearts inside and outside of Shepley. We had no idea we were going to lose Ken or Dan or Kathleen. They were just gone, with no explanation, just the shock of sudden loss.
I know that it’s up to us to find the other side of loss, once we get through the grieving process. I started to see that at the same time we lost these three, we were also having the largest crop of new babies arriving ever in the 39 years of Shepley. I’m a lover of infants and we are absolutely surrounded by our very own Baby Boom with a census of new arrivals that is approaching 10.
Ken, Dan, and Kathleen, how we wish you were here to enjoy it! Until we meet again! We miss you. We will carry on.