I had every intention of writing a post with performance review tips today, but I received a sad email this morning. I hope you forgive a personal moment, as I mourn the passing of a friend – Peter O’Connor.
Peter was not a friend in the traditional sense. I first met Peter when my wife and I were looking for a relaxing place to celebrate our anniversary in Maine. He and his wife Paulette operated a Bed & Breakfast with the charming name “Woodland Gardens,” and we fell in love with the B&B as seen on their website (at the time, it was a relatively new thing for a small local business to promote itself online). When we checked in and met Peter and Paulette and their dog Misty, we knew we had found something special. Over the years that followed, we returned at least once a year, sometimes more. It was our home away from home for many years.
Peter was more than just an innkeeper. He was almost like family. As Paulette slaved away in the kitchen Peter would occupy the guests, refilling their coffee cups, bringing out each course, and managing conversations between multiple couples who had never met, would never meet again, and whose only common trait was the place they decided to stay while away for a weekend in Maine. He was unapologetic in his politics, he had strong opinions about local businesses, he held nothing back when it came to giving a review of any restaurant. During the days he kept the place in good repair, during the nights he handled the books, but it was during the mornings that he truly seemed to be hitting his calling.
Peter came into this life late. He spent the majority of his years working a corporate job, as did his wife Paulette. They gave up all the security of the working life for the uncertainty of opening a small local business, bucking the trend of big inns walking distance from the beach and instead embracing the quiet life that was hiding just a few miles inland. They were successful, turning a profit in a field which can be very punishing to newcomers. They ran the B&B until family circumstances forced them to retire early.
How many of us would do the same? Abandon the corporate grind for a job which required talents you weren’t even sure you had? Start a second life that keyed into your passions instead of your carefully laid-out plan?
Peter died at the age of 65, after fighting cancer for half a year. If he had waited until retirement to embrace his dream, he never would have found it.
You can read the obituary and see all the family he left behind, but that doesn’t tell the story of all the men and women who shared his life, who had breakfast with him and laughed at his jokes and shook hands with him and stood in his wife’s garden posing for a picture to put in the guestbook.
So please forgive my lapse from talking about corporate life, and take a moment to admire the strength of a man who embraced a dream and lived a much more rewarding life for it. Maine won’t be the same without you, Peter.