Well, the day I have been dreading for many months is finally here. On this last day of 2014, I say goodbye to my very dear friend and colleague, Linda Coyle, as she goes off to a happy and healthy retirement.
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Linda's one of a dwindling breed. Here at NFPA, there are a number of women in administrative (formerly known as secretarial) positions who are, as we say, "of a certain age." Linda has happily been part of this group that lunches together daily, calls themselves "The Golden Girls" with big smiles, gets together for extracurricular events sometimes, and quietly and efficiently keep the wheels turning behind the scenes at NFPA. As her lunch bunch has, one by one, sailed off into the retirement sunset, I knew it was inevitable that Linda would join them at some point. As much as they like to be known as a group, however, I have known Linda for 15 years and I recognize her individual talent and contributions, regardless of title, status, age or anything you could use to put her in a category.
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Even before I came to NFPA, I knew Linda through my work as a partner on the Firewise Planning Workshops that began in 1999. Besides her deep and thorough knowledge of NFPA's procurement, accounting and other procedures that keep things ticking, Linda became the voice and the go-to for Firewise, with people from all over the country getting in touch with her during the workshop series and later when we initiated our semi-annual Backyards and Beyond wildfire safety education conference.
I cannot count how many times people have told me, in person, the phone or email, how much they appreciated Linda's customer service and her willingness to go the extra mile to assist them in any matter for which they needed help.
Linda and I had the great good fortune to travel together A LOT for the workshops from 2002-2004, and what fun it was!
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From touring Volcano National Park on Hawaii's Big Island to finding out how the cattle in the Black Hills survived the night (no, they don't have nice New England red barns in South Dakota) to checking out the hot tub at a New Mexico resort, we have lots of great memories and stories that we still laugh about today. We worked hard, we had fun, and we laughed pretty much every day over the past dozen years.
In our day-to-day work in the office, Linda has been a bit like my "Radar" from the old M.A.S.H. TV show. She could anticipate what I was thinking and what needed to be done well before it hit my conciousness. With all due respect, she has also served the role of "office mom" in a very caring way, especially making sure that staff (OK, mostly me) did not have a hair out of place or any wardrobe malfunctions.
Linda started doing something years ago that used to bother me. When I was in the role of answering all kinds of questions about Firewise, she'd forward me a call from an inquirer, then stand listening in my doorway while I responded. Having her hovering there made me nervous - but then she told me she wanted to hear how I answered so she could learn better how to answer a future similar inquiry. How could I ask for more from a colleague in terms of motivation to learn and excel?
Linda, my golden girl, my Radar, my protective mom-at-work, my friend. I'll miss your presence terribly, as will all your friends at NFPA and the many, many folks around the country with whom you've developed such great relationships during your time here. I wish you all the best!
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