Ever have one of those days? Well today is one of those days for me. I have to write. Sometimes it just comes over me. This morning it forced me out of bed and to the computer.
A very dear friend of mine recently passed away. I hope I can still call him a very dear friend, we had not seen each other or talked in quite a while. But he changed my life and I think of him often.
I was working in microbiology, testing nuclear medicines for purity. My hobby was working at Theatre III, a non profit, amateur theater group. One group of my best friends were Sam & Peg Sutcliffe, Nelson Ziegler, Barbara Lauritzen and Joel & Betsy Searcy. We did not act but produced, directed, set built, etc. What fun we had. Joel and I were the least talented in the group. Our motto was “Measure one, cut twice (or more)”. This story is about Joel.
Dr. Joel B. Searcy, PhD MIT, was one of the kindest and most generous men I have ever met. He and Betsy had a real sense of fun and joy. Joel was an entrepreneur but more appropriately an idea man. I am not sure completion was ever on his mind when he started something. Many of you know I call myself an idea person, cause I am not really good at finishing either. Well one day, Joel called and said “I just bought a cinema. Want to manage it?” My career with Joel had started.
I managed a theater in Maynard MA. I drove to Boston to pick up movies, put them together, became a licensed projectionist (along with my now ex-husband), made popcorn, did the books, hired someone to clean. And we became a success. Joel thought this was fun so he bought a few more movie theaters. I moved up the chain to general manager. I had three cinemas (a total of 7 screens) to take care of. We would have midnight showings for our friends. Ran a few X-rated movies. Had those awful children matinees on snow days.
Now, the office for all this was in the basement of the Searcy home.In the office was Joel and me. Every day we come upstairs to a great lunch prepared by Betsy. Every day the kids came home from school and ran downstairs to tell Joel about their day. I have seen very few people ever love their family the way he did. I don’t recall a harsh word ever said, he led through example and stories. From what I know, Jennifer, Lauren and Samantha all grew up to be wonderful people.
It was from him that I learned “If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, do something else” The cinema life got caught up in laws, bylaws, distributor issues and just was not as fun. Joel sold the cinemas and got into computers. I moved right along with him. By that time I had become a great right hand person. Just pick up what he threw my way and do it. I learned multitasking. That caused my short term boredom or enhanced it, I don’t know which. But turns out I love doing 20 things at once. We became a dealer for Digital Equipment Corporation, at the time the only rival to IBM. Joel decided to design and build computer systems for electrical contractors. Again, who knows why, it just seemed like a smart thing to do. This was in the days just proceeding personal computers and apps. He gave me the small systems and he took the bigger ones. I had no idea what I was doing. The system was built so I just had to sell it and support it. In order to support it I had to know how it worked. So I picked up a book and started learning to code. Remember this was back in the day so I learned Basic and Fortran. Next life lesson, you can do whatever you want, just decide to do it.
After a few years, he sold the computer business to another entrepreneur. At that point, he decided I needed to move onto bigger things for more money and more experience. We had a salesperson from Digital that Joel convinced to hire me. She shepherded my application through the process and I was hired as a Software Support Specialist for Digital Equipment Corp. I enjoyed my life there, moved up the ranks, ending my time there as a Principal Marketing Consultant for the Chemical Industry. I did all that with Joel’s lessons.
I am not sure where I would have ended up without him but I know it would not have been nearly as much fun or as special a time. But as usual, my job took up my time, his new company took up his time (He was designing, building and selling systems for the police), etc. We moved apart.When we saw each other there was a lot of reminiscing. (Ask me about Mai Tai lunches sometime). Eventually, Joel and Betsy moved to Truro. They had always loved it there on Corn Hill. So did I – a beautiful place to lay back and think about stuff.
I found Joel and Betsy a few years ago. Still in Truro but in a different house. Story was Matt Damon had bought their previous home. Betsy had had a bought with Pancreatic Cancer and as a result of the treatment required a wheel chair. Joel had build a storage facility, he said all he had to do was send bills and go to the post office to collect checks. They seemed to be enjoying retirement.
Last week, I got a phone call from Jennifer telling me Joel had passed away. By this time they were in a Groton MA assisted living facility. Betsy is having short term memory issues and Joel had developed full blown Alzheimer disease. He was not himself nor would he have liked who he became. Jennifer said it was for the best.
It might be but my image will always be of him sitting behind his desk in the basement of 15 Balsam Rd, saying “Cookie, come over here. I just got an idea”