To Henk

Henk Berends, the chairman of Premier, is retiring this month. Here’s something I wrote for a memory book that we are presenting to him on Wednesday.

(I can post it here two days in advance fearlessly, since he is something of a technophobe, and “blog” would likely sound as alien to him as “blickfarx.”)

Without further ado, my tribute …

Note: I updated this (January 25), since I made some changes in the actual speech.

To Henk on the occasion of your retirement,

When a person retires, many things are said. Some of them are true and some of them are not. But this … well, you can judge for yourself.

Mr. Berends, it has been a pleasure working for you and working with you over the last 10 years. Many people are pleasant to work with. But not all give something that lasts – a gift of enduring value and worth. The gift I have received from you has been counsel.

Advice, one-on-one, about what to do – and what not to do. Delivered personally and powerfully, sometimes painfully, but always with care and compassion.

Some say that advice is easy to give but hard to take. I am not sure that this is true. Good advice, at any rate, is not so easy to give – because good advice is not only the result of wisdom, but also and particularly and especially, personal knowledge of the one to whom you are delivering the advice.

Really knowing people is difficult. Knowing their circumstances takes time. And if I dare say the words, it takes a species of love, because only people who care, care to spend the time that must be spent to acquire this knowledge. I thank you for that. I thank God for that. And I ask that you do not let retirement interfere with this particular exercise of your very keen faculties.

And now, since I know you love quotes, I have a few that may (or may not) be appropriate to the situation:

On retirement:

I hope that you will not get too exhausted, because, as Abe Lemons has observed, “the trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.” That could be a challenge – I advise you to be careful. Perhaps an occasional visit to Premier would be in order. You could view it as a holiday.

I must also say, Mr. Berends, that I worry for Mrs. Berends, since as the well-known philosopher Chi Chi Rodriguez has observed, “when a man retires, his wife gets twice the husband – but only half the income.” It is my earnest hope and desire that Joanne will consider this to be a good bargain. Otherwise, we may be seeing more of you here in Premier than we currently expect.

There’s no question, however, but that your retirement is coming at a good time. As you undoubtedly know, the best time to start thinking about your retirement is before the boss does. While in your case that would be difficult – since you are the boss – NOW is always the best time to put family first, and to attend to those things that matter most. Though your work might (and should) matter just a wee bit less, if we would occasionally see you here at Premier, we would not mind even a bit.

I know that your retirement will be a busy retirement, as you have many commitments in your church and family life, but I hope that you will remember what the worthy J. Lubbock has said, namely that “rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” And if that does not keep you busy enough, perhaps you will occasionally drop by to see us here, as we continue the work that you started at Premier.


Now that I have sufficiently blunted my nose by poking it where it does not belong, and rewarded good advice with bad, I’ll close.

Thank you, Henk, and God bless you and your family all your days, and may your days be long. We will see you, occasionally, will we not, in the halls and offices and cubicles of Premier?

John Koetsier
January 23, 2006

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