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Memories of my mentor
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One of the bad things about getting older is having what is commonly called a senior moment.

It seems to me that lately I have been having more and more of those moments.

Another strange occurrence that I have noticed, as one grows older, is that occasionally you get flashbacks of past happenings. Some of those are good and some aren't.

Maybe that's God's way of preparing us for the viewing of the great book of life, which we are told awaits us when we are ready to hang up our spurs on this Earth.

Last week, I had one of those flashbacks, and it took me back 47 years.

I was 14 years old, a newspaper carrier for the Evening Capital in Annapolis, Md.

I have to admit now I wasn't a particularly good carrier. My route was about 13 miles altogether, and I served about 100 papers six days a week.

My major problem was that I never collected from my customers for my services. As a result, my parents began getting calls about my overdue newspaper bill.

So one day, after it had gotten to the point where my parents were truly alarmed (I'm sure they thought their son might be the first family member to end up in some correctional facility, a surefire shame upon the family), they invited the circulation manager to the house for a visit to work out some kind of deal to save me.

The circulation manager, although appearing very gruff, in fact turned out to be one of my finest mentors.

His name was Jack Cullen. He had been in the newspaper business all of his life, and there wasn't anything he didn't know about distribution. As I found out later, he also had a heart that was bigger than Mount Rushmore.

Anyhow, Jack promised the family that, in fact, I wouldn't be going off to juvenile hall and that he would have me work off the bill.

So every day for the next few weeks, I reported to the offices of the Evening Capital, and I swept floors and inserted papers and walked the publisher's dog and washed the publisher's wife's car, and every day served my paper route with the help of Jack's employees.

We soon collected and paid the bill. We actually collected enough for me to even have a profit.

The best thing that ever happened to me, though, was that Jack took a liking to me. Those few weeks turned into seven years of working for him, and the rest of my life in the newspaper business.

I was afraid of Jack, but in a respectful way.

Every day I worked for him, he taught me the value of loyalty and of honesty.

He believed in people, and he always gave them a chance and then another chance.

He always got the best out of everybody who worked for him.

I pulled so many mischievous pranks while I worked for him, but he always forgave me and gave me another chance.

When I was first married, I had no money for a honeymoon. He gave me his credit card and told me to do anything I wanted with it.

He was actually disappointed because I was too embarrassed to put much on it.

I had often wondered how he always caught me on my schemes to avoid work or to get out of town with my friends and go to the beach instead, until I later found out that he had almost daily conversations with my grandmother, with whom I lived.

Between the two of them, they conspired to keep me straight, and most of the time, they did.

I worked with Jack until I was 21, at which time I had decided finally to go to college.

I really didn't want to leave, so I did everything I could to make him mad and fire me, as he had 20 other times.

This time he fell into my trap. I had pushed him to the point that he fired me for the 21st time, and that is how I left the Evening Capital and Jack Cullen with my righteousness in tact.

I swore I would not work in newspapers again. Obviously, I didn't swear well enough.

I never, to this day, stop thinking of Jack Cullen.

I read that he died a few years back, and I called his son and told him how much his dad had meant to me. He said he was glad I called.

When I hung up, I cried like a baby.

Thanks, Jack Cullen. When I'm down and frustrated, I still think of you and I smile, I also think of another mentor in my life his name is JD Swartz another true character builder. I will tell you about him another time.

Until next time

T. Pat Cavanaugh is the general manager of The Covington News. He can be reached at pcavanaugh@covnews.