Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The Admiral

 I remember seeing him the first time.  He was not very big in stature but there was something about his presence that caught your attention.  He just seemed....confident.

We averaged around 100 men and women every week in our meetings.  While most were enlisted, we had our officers.  But, he was our first Admiral.  Admiral John C. Shepard.  And, he just wanted to be one of the guys.  

I don't know how many times he had been there but after one of the meetings was over, he approached and introduced himself to me.  I do realize that his title held quite a bit to me but there was something about him that words cannot describe that held my attention even more.  

After he had introduced himself, he stuck out his hand to shake.  "You are doing a good job here.", he said, "Keep it up.".  My head dropped a bit as I tried to grasp the minute.  A steel grip brought me to the present.  I looked into eyes that grabbed and captured you.  "Did you hear what I said?", he asked.  "Yes sir.", I answered.  He smiled, turned and left the meeting.  

I have met many dignitaries.  Politicians, musicians, athletes, and the such, but this was an admiral.  He had commanded many men who commanded many more.  

He was not there that many times before we lost him.  His service was set for the Catholic church.  In his short time with us, he was greatly admired (no pun intended) and many showed up.

I made sure that my dress was ship shape that day.  I got my hair cut, made sure my ribbons were straight, and my shoes were shined.  It reminded me of getting ready for inspection back when I was in.

As a Navy man myself, I was asked to be one of his pallbearers.  Another first in my life and a great honor of it's own.  And, if I do say so, we looked pretty good for a bunch of old sailors as we attempted to keep in step, rolling his casket up the isle.  

After the service, we formed again and wheeled him outside.  When we got to the hearse, we lifted him up and rolled him in the back.  

At that moment, I felt a steel grip on my right hand and heard the words, "You are doing a good job here.  Keep it up.".  

Tears streamed down my cheeks as I watched his last ship depart.  

This all happened ten years back but it seems just like yesterday and its memory seems to be burned in my conscience.  One that I will cherish the rest of my life and become one of my life's many stories.  

The admiral's obituary

Monday, May 9, 2022


 There are probably quite a few people in your life that make a mark.  Some more than others.  Jack Mangin was one of them.  

I first met him back when the diner first started.  I had been working for Jake for a few years but running the restaurant had only been a part of what I did.  I had spent much of my time working on the software to run the accounting part of Jake's business.  

The restaurant was small and really did not need much supervision.  I actually spent much of my time there purchasing and staying on top of the numbers.  In actuality, I spent more of my time working the software.  

So, when Jake built the new diner, he asked me to help him find a manager for it.  But, I enjoyed being in the diner and talking with the local customers and steady drivers that passed through.  I told him that I would like to manage the diner and would help him hire someone to manage the software that I had created.  

I soon found out just how little that I knew of actually running a restaurant.  It became quite overwhelming and I struggled to stay on top of it all.  

I am unsure when I first met Jack but his reputation proceeded him as he had built the Pilot Butte Drive in which was fast becoming the best burger restaurant in town.  Jack and I became fast friends and he offered to help me with things.  If I struggled with something, I would just call Jack.  His usual response was, "Buy me breakfast and we will talk.".  He became my mentor.  

All through the 90s, we stayed in touch.  I learned so much from that good man.  From how to run a restaurant, how to treat people, and how to be honest in all that we do. 

So, when it came time to decide whether or not I could actually take over the diner, Jack was one of the key people that I called up to make the ultimate decision.  I remember well sitting in my back room, crunching the numbers and discussing the feasibility of it all.  We realized that I actually could make a go of it borrowing off of my house but I also knew that if I did that and failed, that I would lose everything that I had worked for. 

 I had a man who I had been working with for the monetary side.  I had been offered a 6 month lease on the present building and the money guy had told me not to take it as if you fail after only 6 months, you would lose more than you put into it.  As Jack and my buddy, Frank Patka, worked on the numbers, I got a call from the money man.  He told me to take the lease.  I asked why and he said, "Because I told you to.".  I told him that it was my neck on the line and asked him what had changed to change his mind.  He got angry with me and said, "Look here, I have worked with you for a few weeks and have not gotten a dime from you.".  I got a bit angry then and hung up on him.  

I turned to Jack and Frank and said, "Well, I guess I best just give up.".  Jack grabbed me by the shirt and looked straight into my eyes and said, "Lyle, if you don't do this, you will regret it the rest of your life!".  It was the push that I needed.  Without it, I would not be where I am today.  

My life became very busy after that day but from time to time, I would call up my old mentor to just...talk.  

When news came out that I was moving to my new location, he called and talked of the move.  He even dropped by and looked at the building giving me thoughts and ideas.  

After I moved and when things settled down, we talked of the craziness of it all.  Moving just down the road from him had actually brought more people to this side of the town and had helped both of our operations.  

Jack talked of his retirement but he said that he enjoyed going in and cleaning tables and such.  

Then, one day, he called and told me that he was selling and retiring.  I actually saw little of him after that.  I ran into him one day at Whispering Winds where he and Dee had moved to. 

When I started backing away from the diner myself and turning it over to my son, Casey, I had plans to stop in and see my old friend and mentor.  In fact, one of my customers gave me his cell phone number and I placed it in my pocket with the intention of relighting an old friendship.  

Then, Covid hit, and my intentions of backing away were turned around.  Like so many others, my life changed.  I spent much of my time looking at ways to keep the diner from collapse.  

Every once in a while, I would run across the phone number and think that once this all settles down, I need to give Jack a call.  

That call never happened.  I heard that Jack had passed but saw nothing in the papers.  I finally talked with another friend who lives at the home who acknowledged that Jack was gone.  

I have looked for the obit and found it today.


To be honest, I was saddened by the fact that it said so little of the man that I knew.  It stated quite simply that he had passed and the list of his family members that were left behind.  Nothing of the life that he had lived.  Just a quiet goodbye.  

His service is coming up in June.  I intend on being there to say goodbye to a friend....a mentor....and a great man.