My stepfather, Richard (aka “Pops”), passed away last month and I was blessed to have been able to honor him at his homegoing service. He and I weren’t particularly close over the past 25 years and I don’t believe we’ve had more than 10-15 conversations over that span of time. This is neither the time nor the venue to go into the history of that sequence of events, but suffice to say that we had very different approaches to life and when given the option of conflict or peace in my life, I will always choose the latter.
Richard was a good guy that lived a full life. Ever the extrovert, he loved a good party and loved being the center of those parties. He was a storyteller, a coin and sports card collector, and the knower of volumes of (mostly useless) trivia. He had a story for every situation and every group of people he interacted with and he LOVED 50s and 60s Doo-Wop music. He knew the names and histories of every group, he knew all of the songs, and he would tell you that he hung out on the street corners, under the street lights, singing doo-wop with the guys in his neighborhood well into his teens and early-20s.
My mother met Richard when I was 9 years old and as an interracial couple in Virginia in the 70s, they stood out from the crowd. In those early years, he would spend a lot of his downtime listening to Sam Cook, the Temptations, the Drifters, the Penguins, Frankie Lymon, etc… Almost every weekend, he’d pull out his records, and sing until his voice gave out. He called himself “Blue-Eyed Soul Brother #1” and I couldn’t help but develop an early love for the music.
As I mentioned earlier, our paths diverted a while back. Richard had flaws as we all do, but coming together with my step-brother to celebrate Richard’s life afforded me ample time to reflect on how he steered me towards becoming a better man.
In my adult years, I’ve worked hard to improve upon Richard’s missteps. Every day, I strive to be a better father and a better man than the day before. I’ve taken the same approach to the Y and with every supervisor I’ve had in my nearly 30-year career, as many of the best lessons I’ve absorbed over the years have come from some of my least regarded leaders.
I believe every experience we have in our lives serves a purpose. These experiences shape us. They make us better (or worse). They introduce new people into our lives, and they influence how we “show up” at work and home.
Rest In Peace, Pops. Thank you for setting me on my path. It’s up to me now to set the new standard for my daughter and for all those who I am blessed to interact with each day.
Until next time...
Kevin Bolding, President & CEO
YMCA of Central Florida
The Y. For a better us.®