Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Well Done John Kurti, Well Done

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Bill Russell and John Kurti at a Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce AfterHours Event

Once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky, the Lord will place someone in your life who makes a lasting impression. Someone who quietly goes about their life’s work with little fanfare, yet leaves you in awe of the impact he or she makes on the lives in a community. John Kurti was such a man.

I met John in the late 1990’s when he owned a Mail Box, Etc store here at the lake. Somewhat like Sam in the old TV series “Cheers”,  John would greet his customers with a smile. He wasn’t a man who simply mailed parcels – he knew you by name and you left assured your special package was in good hands.

John opened and sold several of the franchise stores and in doing so garnered a keen insight of how to market and manage a small business. Later, he served as a SCORE Counselor, the Small Business Group, who gives critical advice to both startup and existing small businesses. John often met his clients at the Lake Norman Chamber where I had the opportunity to watch him in action. He didn’t just impart lessons in entrepreneurship. He left his clients with the assurance that someone was in their corner. John cared and it showed.

John Kurti served three terms on the Lake Norman Chamber Board; longer than any other person in our 30 year history. He was also a founding board member of Visit Lake Norman and served that organization for 16 years before health issues plagued his final months.

John was not just a mentor, board member, and friend. He was often my roommate on chamber trips to Raleigh for Governor’s conferences and to Washington for legislative briefings. John was also one of three other chamber business leaders who accompanied me to Washington DC on a day none of us will ever forget –  September 11, 2001.  We heard news from then Senator Lieberman that a plane had struck the World Trade Center.  Moments later, while exiting one of the Capital buildings, we watched in disbelief and confusion as black smoke billowed from the Pentagon and the nation’s capital was filled with panic and fear.

The four of us drove the ten long hours back home in silence, wondering how life in America had changed. John, himself a past Israeli Air Force officer, was no stranger to the face of terror. He reassured each one of us that life would go on, and our country would emerge stronger – and it did.

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2002 Chamber  Board Chair Chris Angelino and Karen, 1999 Board Chair Scott Hinkle and Business Growth Chair John Kurti

John had dealt with health issues for many months prior to the day he made his triumphant return to the weekly North Meck Rotary Club meeting. As his presence was recognized, members applauded. His face filled with pride as he waved an arm high in the air signaling his deep appreciation and his return to our club. There were hugs, laughter, and love as the Rotary friends he cherished all shared how much he had been missed. John had previously served as our club president, and his passion for truth, fairness, and service above self, knew no bounds.

Perhaps that was God’s gift to both John and his friends that day.  One last chance to say how much we loved each other. One more hug before we said goodbye. Later, John passed peacefully away – just moments after our Rotary Club meeting ended. Just after the last toast and the last rap of the gavel. Now we all know, it signaled not only an end to the meeting, but a close to a chapter.

All of us would like to think our lives matter.  That we changed hearts, righted wrongs, brought peace to those who struggle, and strength to those who fear. That we used the talents God gave us to make this community and our world just a little bit better. John Kurti did that and more.

I know one thing for certain. He left this world knowing how much he meant to all of us at Rotary. I also have little doubt that he was greeted by his father in heaven, who took John by the hand, with the words we should all long to hear…..”Well done my faithful servant… well done!”

Bill Russell

January 26, 2017 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Personal, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Things not always seen

Don Bombay (Left) with Dave Kight

Don Bombay (Left) with Dave Kight

Every day a new story is written in Lake Norman.  A page is turned and a new chapter begins.  Such is always the case in a growing region like ours.  Last month, the last word was written on a man who had a profound impact on our community.  Don Bombay volunteered as a SCORE representative here at the chamber.    After a very successful career as a business and financial consultant, he retired and volunteered his time with the SCORE organization. 

SCORE  is a nonprofit association dedicated to entrepreneurial education and the formation, growth and success of small businesses nationwide.   SCORE’s retired and working volunteers are experienced entrepreneurs and corporate managers/executives. These volunteers provide free business counseling and advice as a public service to all types of businesses, in all stages of development.

It is through SCORE that I first met Don several years ago.  Don met with many of our start up businesses and offered them counseling and advice on business plans, marketing plans, and financing.  Over the last few years, illness took a toll on Don.  Yet, no matter how bad he felt, he never allowed the illness to keep him from his goal of business assistance.  Last month Don lost his long battle to cancer.  Ironically, at the same time a memorial service was being held at the Davidson College Presbyterian Church Chapel, a groundbreaking was taking place for the Davidson Day School.sunshine

A chapter was written and a new chapter began.  Young students with a new school to perhaps be trained as our emerging entrepreneurs and business leaders of the future.  It was very fitting that the minister read a passage from II Corinthians Chapter 4:     While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Don Bombay’s work, like the contributions of many counselors and volunteers often go unheralded.  But they never go unnoticed.  Sometimes the things we never see mean more to our community than the things we do see.  Those things are eternal.

August 11, 2009 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , | Leave a comment