Let me tell you about my good friend Marty Petersen. He was one of the most intriguing people I have ever met and had the pleasure to work with. Marty was always all in, whatever task he undertook. When I met him, he was handling the purchasing for us at Automated Systems, the PCB shop we both worked at just outside of Milwaukee. He was the best negotiator I ever met. He was such a good negotiator that he would strike fear in the hearts of the people who had to negotiate with him. He almost always got the deal he wanted, and he did it with a smile on his face.
Once when he was shopping for a new car, he asked Bob Fleming, our company president, for an introduction to Bob’s friend Russ Darrow, the owner of the largest Toyota dealership in town. Bob had bought so many Toyotas from Russ Darrow that he and his family had even appeared in their commercials. Unfortunately for Bob, Marty did such a good job at negotiating for his Toyota, that after he left with his new “underpriced” car, Russ Darrow himself called Bob with a plea never to let Marty come back to his dealership again because, as Russ told Bob, Marty had taken them to the cleaners.
A few years later, I asked Marty to join my sales team and gave him the Southwest territory. This was one of the best decisions I ever made. He quickly became the most successful salesperson on our team as well as just about the most successful salesperson I have had the privilege of managing. That man could sell as well as he could buy!
I loved traveling with him because he knew all the angles. He kept a log of every flight he had ever taken, what the airline was, what the equipment was, and what the best seat on the plane was. He tracked frequent flyer points like they were gold nuggets. And there was no one better than him when one of our flights was canceled. The very idea that a flight was canceled to Marty was like meat to a lion. He loved it. All I had to do was sit back and watch him do his thing. He would stand there at the ticket counter, laying on his charm and using his Columbo persistence, and would inevitably come back with a big smile on his face, showing me two tickets to a better flight with better seats on a better airline than what we’d had in the first place.
No matter what situation we faced together, Marty could always calm me down. When something went wrong with my computer, he would always stop me from throwing it against the wall and tell me to just relax while he looked at it. He would take his time, calmly get to the problem, and fix it, which was great. But the part I hated was when he would make me sit there and listen to his step-by-step explanation of what had happened, and what I should do to make sure it didn’t happen again. Man, that drove me crazy—so crazy that I would sit there mumbling things like, “I don’t care,” and the very impatient, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” while he would ask, “Are you listening to me? This is important stuff. You need to know this.”
Since Marty retired a few years ago, he’d been working with me at D.B. Management, handling all of the newsletters for my company and our customers. Again, he was the perfect foil to my extreme impatience. He always made sure that the text that I gave him for the newsletters was correct, appropriate, and on time, and he kept me on track to make sure that all of the newsletters were sent when they were supposed to. While I was always impetuous and impatient, Marty was careful and meticulous, and somehow, it always worked.
In his later years, I was thrilled that Marty and his wife Diane joined Crossroads Presbyterian Church—the church my family belonged to when we lived in Wisconsin. They joined after we had moved to Maine, so I was always a little sad that we didn’t get to worship together. But he never failed to keep me abreast of all the goings-on at Crossroads where he and Diane had become hard-working and dedicated members of their church community.
Well, Marty passed away suddenly this week. I found out when his wife called me on his phone early Wednesday morning. Seeing “Marty” on the caller ID, I smiled and thought, “What newsletter did I screw up this time?” But when I heard Diane’s sad voice on the phone, my heart stopped, and I knew what she was going to tell me, and I was right; he was gone.
Marty was a good man and a true friend to many. He was the kind of man who would stop everything he was doing if you were in trouble. Your problem was his problem because to him, that was what friendship was all about. The owner of one of the last companies Marty worked for said the following when they were told about Marty’s passing: “He was one of the best individuals to have ever worked for my company.” And I might add that Marty was one of the best individuals I knew period; so long, Marty.
As we all get older, remember how fragile life can be; it’s here one day and gone the next. Cherish the time we have together.
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.
Martin Petersen Obituary