One great loss, many enduring lessons

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Recently, Central City Concern grieves the loss of a very special friend, Hal Saltzman. From the beginning, Hal was part of the family. When we weren’t discussing Central City Concern’s Veterans programs, we discussed local and national politics, sports and, of course, family. Hal is survived by Ruth, his wonderful wife and best friend of 57 years, and four children, Debbi, Cindy, Stephen and David. Although Hal was a successful businessperson, professional pitcher, Marine captain who served twice (once in World War II and the Korean War) and dedicated civic leader, family was his first priority.

His many values, and order of those values, were always reflected in our conversations. The last time Hal and I spoke on the phone, he asked me the same five questions he always asked:

What’s new at Central City Concern?

How are you?

How is the running?

How is your boyfriend?

Do you have “plans” (insinuating marriage, of course)?

He always began with business, and ended with family. All of it was important to Hal.
Hal was an extraordinary person with deep character who positively impacted lives. At Hal’s memorial service, various loved ones spoke about Hal’s compassion, strength and upstanding moral character, all of which affected his family members and friends. One man said Hal was his mentor for over a decade, and it was from Hal who he received the soundest advice. Hal Saltzman created, and hosted, Central City Concern’s Veterans’ Celebration Picnic held in June these past few years.  On average, 100 Veterans representing over 300 years of military experience, attended the picnic. The Veterans enjoyed a picnic lunch and music from the 60s and 70s performed by The Shwing Daddies. It was an opportunity for everyone involved to stop and appreciate the individuals who have done so much to protect our country and freedom, some at a high expense. Hal reminded us of what was truly important, and he lead by example.

Success is defined in many ways. Hal was an incredibly successful person, and not because he always “won.” Like everyone, Hal suffered his own hardships. However, he handled the ups and downs of life with a grace that few can claim. He embodied an optimistic yet realistic spirit, compassion for others and drive to be the best form of himself, whatever the task or goal. The following Ralph Waldo Emerson quote reminds me of Hal. It reads:

“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded!”

If the terms in Emerson’s quote are the barometer, Hal was an outstanding success. He will be gravely missed by Central City Concern. He was a teammate, leader, strategist, volunteer, donor, advisor and friend.

The world is indeed better because of you, Hal. Thank you for your many enduring gifts.