Thomas E LaChapelle Reports of my death are not exaggerated. Despite my determined and valiant efforts to stick around a little longer (I hate good-byes), I died last Wednesday, April 14th, four months shy of my 75th birthday. I hadn’t expected to go so quickly but it is what it is and I’m now a memory. Speaking of which, mine is long and although you have indulged my long-winded and detailed jokes and stories over our many years of laughter, tears, friendship, and love together, I’ll keep this short. Many of you know the details, Mom and Dad -- Jane and Ken -- welcomed me to the world on August 14th way back in 1946. I was the result of a welcome home kiss after my Dad returned from World War II, in case I hadn’t shared that before. My parents were great people and were abundant in their love and support throughout my boyhood, teen, and young adult years, sending me to LaSalle Institute and then Siena, where I earned my business degree in 1968. Over the next few decades I worked in sales for a variety of companies -- Moore Office Forms, Scott Lawn Care, Sargent Pets, Executone, Matthew Bender, and Lexus Nexus. I also started a couple of businesses, including TLC Painting way back in the 1970s and Tommarc’s of Troy. You all know the latter as Kitchen Kickin’ -- which I decided to start after so many of you asked for more spice blends after I started mixing small batches as Christmas presents more than 20 years ago. The biggest things come from small gestures, which is why I feel so gratified for all of your support and encouragement through the years. It was a ride! Some of you may remember in my younger days I volunteered as a statistician for Troy Pop Warner and organised a few Super Bowl fundraising events to raise money for Sacred Heart Parish. I also supported Clothe-A-Child through some pretty epic annual pig roasts. And, although every year when I thought I couldn’t possibly do another, your energy and generosity propelled me to the next one. More recently, as we’ve all struggled with our faith in government and our elected officials -- globally, nationally, and locally -- I decided it was time to play a role and make our Albia community better and safer for our families. Through the Eastside Neighborhood Association I did my part to “Make the Eastside Great Again.” And, while I didn’t get around to merchandising hats or t-shirts, I hope you remember there is no place like home and we have to take care of each other. I will miss the lovely girls and great good at Carol’s Place, seeing how NCIS ends on CBS, the arrival of new John Grisham novels, October baseball with my beloved New York Yankees, and, of course, autumn Sundays with the New York Giants. I’m not sure how I’ll manage without my daily diet of political news (it would have been nice to see how things turn out for Andrew Cuomo but I wish him luck -- he’s gonna need it). And, I wish I could be around to see the end of COVID, which has made all our lives difficult in expected and unexpected ways. Which brings me to my point. While the details of my life are a matter of record across class photos, yearbooks, tax returns, and the occasional promotional poster, it’s all of you who are central to my memory. Family and friends. Community and colleagues. Customers and donors. And, yes, even the crazy drivers who were greeted by the blare of my fog horn at the corner of Spring Avenue and Gregory Court (you know who you are). You have been my superpower. When I think about the ups and downs of my life (a real rollercoaster of a joy ride, I know you know), I see you all at my side and loving me for who I am: a guy couldn’t have asked for more. Char, my wonderful wife, deserves a cruise around the world a hundred times for her patience, commitment, and strength. The past year has been challenging but you showed the world your fierce and determined spirit. Thank you for being my partner and advocate during the darkest moments. I’m excited for you to reclaim the things you love doing after so much sacrifice for my sake. Of course, my kids -- Alex, Chris, Marc, and Colette. None of us will pretend life is a Hallmark Card but each of you is my greatest pride. I wish I could be there to see the great things you will continue to do in the world but know that even without my detailed schematics and advice (yes, I know, often times unsolicited) you will continue to win. I believe my pre-dawn phone calls on your birthdays have guaranteed I will be your first thought on those mornings when you mark the start of each new trip around the sun. I am the gift that will keep on giving. My grandkids -- good grief, as an only child growing up, I never thought I’d have so many kids in my life. You’ve all kept me young at heart, even mischievous. When you ever open a gift and aren’t sure where it came from or what you’re supposed to do with it, I hope you’ll remember me and our celebrations together. I love you Danielle, JB, Jacob, Emma, Jaden, Brady, and Isabel. Of course, when Char and I tied the knot, I was lucky enough to see my family grow even larger. Ed, Dawn, Tracey, and Michael, thank you for everything you’ve done to support your mom and me through the years. You hold a special place in my heart. I leave confident and comforted that you will continue to love and support your Mom. Be good to one another. And, to Matt, Annelise, Nicholas, Raegan, Eric, Emily, and Kevin -- the greatest gift has been seeing your grandmother burst with joy and love whenever she is with or talks about every one of you. I hope you will always inspire that in the lives around you. And, of course, to so many friends through the years. Whether you were part of the gang from high school and college or among those who brought equal measures of laughter, wisdom, and reassurance over the past five decades, I owe so much for who you helped me to be: a better man, every day. Thank you, especially Jack, Marcia, Lane, Tom, Paul, Peter, Molly, and Steve. You are loved. And, finally, to so many of my Facebook friends. I never imagined I’d have such a supportive and thoughtful network of people around the world with whom to share, enjoy, and challenge. Whatever connected us -- you may have once been a customer, an old colleague, or someone who believed in 45 as much as I do -- I’m grateful for our time together across the miles. Thank you for being part of my journey. I’ll see you on the other side. Promise.