I started working for Herman Christensen & Sons in 1979 as a jobsite secretary for a condo project they were building on Redwood Shores. My dad worked for them, and he hooked me up with this job. Once the project finished, I began to work in the main office in San Carlos. There is where I got to know my favorite boss.
For some reason, Herman liked me. I don’t know why. Each day, and Herman was at work EVERY day, I would poke my head in and say hi. He would lift his head from his papers and say hello. After awhile I noticed his office was…a little…disorganized. I don’t know where I got the nerve, but every once in awhile when I guess I was feeling a little cocky, I would speak to him in an overbearing mother kind of way, and tell him to clean his room. He would just chuckle, smile and nod. He was very patient with me.
One assignment, which I believe he secretly delighted in giving me, was organizing the blueprint archives in the attic. I spent weeks – felt like years though – up in the attic organizing those blasted plans (there were many copies of each job), even enduring the San Carlos 100°+ summer heat while nursing a case of severe poison oak. After that when I’d put on my “overbearing mother” voice, he’d sweetly threaten to send me back to the attic.
I only worked at HC&S for about
a year, but I kept in touch with Herman intermittently over the years. When I
moved back to the Peninsula six years ago, I made a point of stopping by to see
him. His hair had grayed, he had gotten older, but his smile was still warm and
his eyes were still a piercing blue. I was going through a hard time after a
divorce and felt very defeated and down, but Herman was so kind and
compassionate. I gave him a big hug which I am sure surprised him.
At one of my visits, I had some of my kids. We visited in the conference room where there is a full wall of large stone work. Same conference room as in 1979. My kids were getting a little restless and began climbing the wall – really...literally...they were climbing the walls. I hushed them and told them to sit down. Herman said it was OK. Either he was cringing under his sweet smile, or he was simply enjoying the show; I don’t know, but, I suspect it was the latter.
Donald Miller, a Christian writer, just yesterday posted this on his Facebook: “Stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance [quoting Kubler-Ross, I believe]. For the blessed, there is another: A paradoxical sense of gratitude.” When I heard of Herman’s passing, I was shocked and, of course, saddened; but eventually, my shock and grief gave way to a sweet gratitude. I am grateful to have known this dear man; grateful, especially, to have taken the time over the past few years to stop by and see him. I am so sorry he is no longer with us; but I am so happy that I knew him and that I can confidently say he was my favorite boss.
I want to extend my deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers to Mrs. Christensen, their kids, the family and his friends. The world is definitely less sweet without Herman’s ubiquitous smile and twinkling blue eyes. God keep and comfort you through this time.