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A Celebration of Life

LIFE and Newsweek celebrate five agents and their clients.

By Lucretia DiSanto Jones

Perhaps the most inspiring and heartwarming event of the 2004 NAIFA–Annual Convention and Career Conference held in Las Vegas this September was the annual realLIFEstories Client Service Award banquet. The event has become, over the past few years, an evening that many convention attendees wouldn’t dare miss.

Five insurance advisors and their clients were honored at the banquet. Here are their stories.

Surviving a nightmare
Steve B. McClelland, CLU, ChFC, of AXA-Advisors LLC in Atlanta, is a member of NAIFA Atlanta. His heart-wrenching story involved a fraternity brother from his college days, Brad Cunard, about whom Steve says, “he is a friend first, a client second.”

The event has become, over the past few years, an evening that many convention attendees wouldn’t dare miss.

In July 2003, Brad, his wife Lisa and their boys were stuck in traffic in Atlanta when a thunderstorm hit. The storm turned violent, and a tree fell on their car, instantly killing Lisa, only 38 years old, and the boys, 3-year-old Max and 5-month-old Owen.

Not many individuals would be able to cope with such a tragedy. Fortunately, with Steve’s help, Brad and Lisa had put a financial plan in place well before the accident. As a result, Lisa’s life insurance has given Brad desperately needed time to grieve. It also helped keep the presses running in their printing business, of which Lisa was a key employee.

Building a legacy
Gregory L. Clark, LUTCF, is a New York Life agent in Birmingham, Ala., and a member of the Birmingham AIFA. Greg’s realLIFEstory began when he read in the newspaper that Del Bloomer’s company, Delinda Technological Services, had just won two big accounts. Greg sent Del a congratulatory note that sparked a meeting between the two. At the meeting, Greg addressed Del’s personal and business needs, and eventually Del bought insurance coverage to protect both his growing business and his family.

Over Thanksgiving weekend 2002, Del had a massive heart attack and died suddenly. His life insurance benefits eased the financial burden for his wife Linda. She invested some of the proceeds in 529 plans for their children, increased her own insurance coverage, paid off some debt and then continued to work in their business—exactly what Del would have wanted.

The value of persistence
Craig A. Miller, CLU, ChFC, CSA, a State Farm agent in Sacramento and a member of NAIFA Sacramento, knew that money was tight for his client Mike Rowe and his family. Instead of allowing Rowe to cancel his life insurance, Craig convinced him to use the policy's accumulated cash values to keep the coverage in force, and he lowered Mike’s premium to a largely symbolic amount of $1 a month.

Two years later, Craig learned that Mike had terminal brain cancer. A week before losing his battle with cancer at age 47, Mike sent Craig a letter thanking him for his persistence. "The day you came over to talk about life insurance I was predetermined not to buy any. The events of that evening will forever change the lives of my family," he wrote.

Staying afloat
Thomas R. Gearhart, CLU, an agent with Northwestern Mutual and a member of Salamonie AIFA (Ind.), sold Dale Geistler his first life insurance policy when Dale’s daughters were very young. Later, when Dale started his own business, he took Tom’s advice and increased his life coverage and bought disability income insurance.

In the late ’90s, just after remarrying, Dale was diagnosed with leukemia. When he became too ill to work, Dale relied on his disability insurance to keep the family afloat. While pursuing an aggressive form of chemotheraphy, Dale contracted a fatal blood disease and died at age 55.

Dale’s DI benefits provided for his family when he was ill, and proceeds from his life insurance have helped his wife Diana pay off debts, cover living expenses and make long-term financial plans.

The will to survive
Michael Reid, CLU, ChFC, a New York Life agent and a member of Peoria (Ill.) AIFA, met with Margaret Sweborg, a self-sufficient widower, to help her purchase long-term care insurance. Like most people, Margaret bought the insurance hoping she’d never need it.

Thirteen years later, however, Margaret, at age 79, tripped in her home and broke her hip. That’s when Derinda Main, Margaret’s granddaughter, took over her care. She found that Margaret had written her annual premium check for her New York Life LTCI policy, but hadn’t mailed it. Derinda contacted Michael, who was able to get Margaret’s LTCI coverage reinstated. Until her death in early September, Margaret lived in a nursing home in Farmington, Ill., where she had round-the-clock care.

This story was made possible by the cooperation of LIFE. For more information on LIFE’s realLIFEstories program or to obtain a realLIFEstories application, visit or call 202-464-5000.


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