For the past 28 plus years, it has been my pleasure and honor to represent the Steel City Corp. as either a Territory Manager or National Sales Manager.
Through those roles, I have met countless number of people.
Some of the people I met were during sales calls, conferences, training session and the like. Because of the extensive size of my territory and increasing responsibilities, my introductions weren’t limited to “business” relationships.
I met car mechanics, hotel clerks and staff, restaurant staff, manufacturers, neighboring business owners and so on and so forth.
I met hundreds, if not thousands of great people.
And, much to my great fortune, I met Frank.
When I first met Frank Bertrand he was, I believe, the “country manager” or something like that for the Register-Guard in Eugene, Oregon. Frank had oversight responsibilities for all motor routes. But you could tell that Frank was, more than likely, a “go to guy” in the department.
Frank was probably a lot of people’s go-to guy, not only at work, but in the community.
When we scheduled our initial meeting, he offered that we should meet at the local International House of Pancakes.
Frank was sincerely interested in, not only Jim Smith the Steel City guy, but Jim Smith; just a guy. We shared stories of family. We shared stories of the newspaper industry. We shared stories of our common interests. And, we discovered we had numerous common interests.
For instance, we both love track and field and, of course, Frank lived in the “capital” of USA Track and Field. We both had studied and read about Steve Prefontaine and other elite track athletes.
Each year, Frank would send me Register-Guard news clippings of the annual Steve Prefontaine Classic and offer his analysis. For the record, his analysis was spot-on.
In the “heavy travel” days, I would get to visit the Pacific Northwest about every six months. More importantly, it was a chance to visit Frank.
Selfishly, I enjoyed the visits with Frank because he made me feel good about myself. I can only hope I brought some level of enjoyment and enlightenment to the visits for Frank.
Frank Bertrand passed away a few years ago as a result of Parkinson’s disease.
While struggling with the disease Frank, again, was a go-to guy for others in the Eugene area suffering the same fate.
Frank organized activities for his ailing peers and, undoubtedly, did what he often did for me; made them feel good about themselves.
Along the journey, I, and my family, got to meet Jeannine, Frank’s wife. An elegant and caring person, she became an integral part of my visits as well. Again, it was my selfishness that wanted Jeannine to be a part of the visits as I learned something of incredible importance each time I spoke with her.
I vividly recall the moment Jeannine called to inform me of his passing. I was in Vermont driving back from a New England Association of Circulation Executives conference and I pulled my car off to the side of the road and wept.
Luckily for me, Jeannine and I remain in contact via phone and email. Like Frank, she is genuinely interested in the Smith family. She is an incredible writer and has been kind enough to share her efforts with me.
As I think about Frank and Jeannine on a regular basis, I try to remind myself to abide by a simple rule:
Let’s be Frank.