My life is one big routine, from the time I wake up in the morning until I turn out the light and fall asleep. One of my routines is to read the local newspaper every morning while eating breakfast at home. There are several sections I am always sure to read: the political cartoon, the stock market page to check the stocks I own or am thinking about as a possible investment, the comics, any topic on health and nutrition, and the obituaries.
The obituaries tell me a lot. Most of the people dying are older than I am, but definitely not all of them. As we age, we learn to appreciate good health and the amazing existence of life itself. Unfortunately, the obituaries will occasionally remind me of clients who have passed on.
Last week, to my surprise, I saw that Mary, the wife of a client, had died. This got me thinking back to when I first met Mary and her husband, Bill, as well as some of the experiences we had together.
This request started me on yet another routine: ordering the company’s Audubon bird calendars each year to fulfill Mary’s wishes.
A skeptical client
Bill was probably in his 50s when we first met. He was assigned to me as an orphan policyowner whose original agent died the year before I moved to Dayton, Ohio. Bill and his partner, Frank, owned a small business, and I distinctly remember that Bill did not have warm feelings about life insurance. He and Frank bought the minimum amount of coverage they felt would allow them to get along if one of them died.
Bill also had a small policy on Mary’s life, but nothing covering his three children. In a way, he reminded me of a turtle. He was, as I discovered over the years, a quiet and caring person inside, but he had a hard shell, which I found difficult to penetrate. Bill felt that life insurance companies controlled huge amounts of money, maybe because people did not understand that life insurance was, in his view, clearly a lousy investment.
As the years moved along, Bill and his partner did purchase more life insurance from me, which kept our business relationship active and friendly.
Building a friendship
I met Mary through a phone call one January informing me that her former agent had always given her four Audubon wall calendars each December, one for her and Bill, and one for each of their three children. This request started me on yet another routine: ordering the company’s Audubon bird calendars each year to fulfill Mary’s wishes. When I think of Mary, I will always think of those calendars.
However, Mary will also be remembered warmly as the woman in charge of the family’s personal life insurance policies, which were heavily borrowed against. Mary had her first office visit about 25 years ago to sit down with my assistant and try to determine what the minimum payment would be to keep the policies from lapsing.
Mary arrived dressed in a baggy pair of sweat pants and a comfortable sweatshirt. She was an intelligent woman and was doing better financially than she appeared, and she laughed while telling us her children teased her for dressing so casually. They affectionately called her “the bag lady.”
A happy retirement
Over the years, my assistant spent hours with Mary in our office when their policies hit the point of lapsing due to loans and interest on the loans. Eventually, I convinced Mary that these policies were good property to own and she and Bill should be paying more than the minimum.
Eventually Bill and Frank sold their business and retired. Bill took up aviation and found retirement to be a wonderful time in his life. Mary, who was not only Bill’s wife but also his best friend, relished their time together. Frank remained close, but Mary was always No. 1.
At the funeral home I learned Mary had had a severe stroke, and she died three weeks later. As a financial representative, I have been privileged to meet many wonderful and interesting people, each one with a unique story and personality. Mary’s association with me, because of her character and wisdom, will always be a vivid and positive memory. Mary was 77.
Alexander J. Scholp, CLU, is a member of Dayton AIFA (Ohio). Address comments to him at 2090 State Route 725, Spring Valley, OH 45307.