The Passing of Mentors and Guides

Perspective provided by the long view...

Perspective provided by the long view...

I lost a couple of my favorite people this week – people who served as mentors and guides on this journey of life.

If you’re really fortunate – as I have been – your life has been filled with a progressive series of mentors and guides. Those who have been there and done that – and are more than willing to share the lessons learned with students, or junior colleagues, or friends along the way.

It started with an exceptional group of teachers in the Mansfield public schools through a college experience with faculty who cared about the curiosity of each of us.

Today – those teachers and professors are gone. And now, I’m saying goodbye to professional mentors who provided important perspective to my work life in Minneapolis.

Dennis McGrath was one of those. I am one of the few PR people in the Twin Cities who never worked for him or actually with him, but I often sought his counsel nonetheless.

I knew him as a well-connected and wise soul whose humor was always overlaid with kindness – and hilariously offered with a touch of snark. He believed deeply in possibility and potential, even when the humans around him demonstrated otherwise.

There was the time when I was working at the University that we were struggling to help a community based health clinic with its governance issues.

“What we need is someone who knows our community and its leaders well, who has run a business and understands spreadsheets, who cares about people and their health, and fundamentally, is a good soul,” stated my boss, adding that he doubted such a person existed.

Instantly, I knew that he was describing Dennis, and I volunteered to make the ask. I set up a lunch, carefully explained the issues and the need, and by the time I asked, Dennis was nodding knowingly.

“Yes,” he said. “I think I can help.”

 And he did – serving through many nights of meetings, offering carefully framed advice and counsel that helped that clinic survive through a particularly difficult era.

The last time I saw him, it was over lunch once again. Although struggling with recovery from a very tough surgery for cancer, his eyes sparkled from his deep interest in what was going on with issues and organizations he followed.

I will miss his presence.

And the mother of a college roommate left this week, too. Jinx Arneson lived up to her name – full of spark and funny as could be. She was the first adult who shared the secret that in our minds, we never really grow up beyond our 20s. She stated this fact while we college students were setting up our dorm room sophomore year.

“In my mind, I’m still the age you are today,” she said, smiling at our horrified expressions. “You’ll see. The face you see in the mirror becomes a surprise at some point because mentally we’re all 21.”

She was right. It is, and we are.

One of my favorite Jinxisms was a story she repeated with glee, whenever asked. She had a college friend who apparently was quite the drama queen. She would sigh loudly, turn to Jinx and say, “Ah, Jinx. You’re so lucky. You’ll never know the burden of beauty.”

And Jinx would laugh and say, “Can you believe that? And she was a good friend of mine, too.”

Jinx truly was beautiful.