By Keith Fitzsimmons
KASFAA Cub Reporter
Ever had one of “those” days? Flat tire on the way to work. Coffee in your lap. Muddy dog paw on your pants. Whatever it is, each one seems devastating at the time. But after a quick recovery, or a change of clothes, we are pretty much back on track. Some may take a little longer, but for the most part that old saw, “This too shall pass”, usually prevails.
On Thursday morning, usually did not.
Lisa (Arnold) and I arrived a few minutes early for the annual K-State Fiscal Office Training Workshop. This 10+ year annual event has been a wonderful supplement to the Fiscal Officer track at our KASFAA Annual Conference (btw April in Topeka in 2020).
As Lisa and I approached the beautiful new campus building for the meeting, several of the attendees were waiting outside. A little strange as there is always food at these events, so most folks gather around the goodies.
As we got to the door, Jim Badders from KSU told us that he had some news. Then the bombshell that Bruce Lopez our host and conference sponsor from Credit World Services had died in his hotel room.
As shock, sadness, disbelief, anger, confusion… swirled around my little pea brain, I was, for one of the few times in my life, speechless.
The next few seconds seemed like an hour, but then it hit us, what were we going to do with 30 people from all over Kansas? Since the room was already booked, we decided to gather in the room and share prayers, stories, hugs, tears and anything else on folks minds.
We shared story, after story as to how Bruce did this or reached out with that. One person said, “He met me once and then it always seemed like he had known me for years”. There were many other personal testimonies about their connection to Bruce. May Schumacher from FHSU shared her time with Bruce in high school. Two others had worked with him prior to his start at Credit World. These memories were as fresh as the Manhattan air.
After about two hours of the sharing time, it was easy to see that the group was beginning to come back to focus, so we easily transitioned from how Bruce helped us all in the collections part of job to the first presenter on state set-off.
It was a blessing to me to be a part of the group grieving process and see how each person began to embrace the thought that Bruce never wanted any of the fuss to be about him, he wanted to be the one to fuss over us.
So we went to the task at hand, had lunch, and then wrapped up with a final time to share about things in our office that went on for another two hours.
While we failed at covering all of the scheduled half dozen topics at the workshop, we bonded in a way that none of us will ever forget. One of the attendees that did not know Bruce as she had been on the job for only a few months, told me that she felt just a close to him as any of us long-termers.
Turned out to be a pretty good workshop; for one of those days.