Saturday, February 21, 2009

friend and mentor

Today is one of those bittersweet days. I am going to attend a memorial service for my political mentor: Wendell Wyatt.

There was no particular reason why I should have known him. But life is based on the same coincidences that morph novels into page turners.

The year was 1964. I was a sophomore in high school, and was developing an interest in politics and law. My parents' lawyer just happened to be the campaign manager for a colleague who was running for Congress that year -- and the connection was made.

Wendell Wyatt was elected to Congress that year, and we became friends. Whenever I was in Washington, I could drop in and see him. When he was in the district, I would occasionally ride around with him and his district manager: Chuck Hoyt.

He advised me when I was trying to decide on a law school. He helped modify my interest in politics. And when my law partnership broke up, he was there with some excellent career guidance. I would not have been working in my current job without his good words.

Last year the professional circle came full cycle. My nephew's wife was hired as an associate with the silk stocking law firm where Wendell was a senior partner.

And he has now died -- two weeks after my birthday.

I will drive to the memorial service in Portland this afternoon. And another circle will close.

In 1966 I accompanied Wendell and Chuck to a dedication of a chapel at a local Catholic college. He had been instrumental in obtaining funds for the building. Today his memorial service will be held in that same building.

And that may be the most bittersweet memory of all.


Islagringo said...

It's always sad to lose a friend, no matter what the level of friendship. It drives home our own mortality and leaves another little hole in our hearts.

American Mommy in Mexico said...

My thoughts are with you.

I too have had mentors who truly changed the direction of my life.

You can drive yourself crazy thinking "What if I had not crossed their path?" and even worse "What if they had not taken me under their guidance?"

The coincidences if life point to something bigger perhaps?

The exchange of good will among humans is lovely.

glorv1 said...

Just wanted to say I'm sorry about your friend and mentor. Your memories of him will be with you always. Take care.

Steve Cotton said...

Islandgringo -- I will miss him.

AMM -- I was just thinking this morning how much of who I am is due to Wendell's influence.

Gloria -- Thanks. There are some great memories.

Cynthia Johnson and Mike Nickell said...

Steve - we're very sorry to hear about your loss. Hope your trip to Portland is somehow soothing.

Steve Cotton said...

Thanks, Cynthia and Mike. Some chapters in our lives close, and others open. As you know.

Jackie said...

Oh my goodness, Wendall Wyatt is name I have not hear in years. I am sorry to hear that you lost your mentor and a friend.

Todd said...


But, what the heck is a silk stocking law firm?????


Steve Cotton said...

Jackie -- Do you remember the field office on the river side of McLoughlin in downtown Milwaukie? I think it was next to a plumbing shop. If I remember correctly, the building is no longer there.

Todd -- "Silk stocking" refers to those big firms with high-powered attorneys and billing rates to match. If they were rock bands, they would be the Stones and the Beatles.

Jackie said...

Yep, I know exactly which building you mean Those buildings were torn down just a couple of years ago when once again the city thought that they were going get some funds to revitalize the waterfront.