It’s pretty rare for a business writer to come across a personal connection in following a story. The first time it’s ever happened for me – after 30-odd years of business writing – came about when I interviewed Mohit Uberoi of MEGTEC Systems for Insight's February cover story, "Power Source." (You can check it out at http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/insight/iob_201102/#/0.) I was aware that a lifelong friend, Ken Jenquin, had worked for a De Pere company called TEC Systems, but somehow I never made the connection to MEGTEC, which is what TEC Systems became a few years ago after a merger with a European company. I was well into the first interview with Mohit before it dawned on me that the companies were one and the same. I asked, of course, if he had known Ken, who died in 2008 after a short bout with cancer. Mohit’s eyes welled up. “Ken was like my brother. Ken was a model for all of us,” he said. I should have guessed. When I told my wife, Sherry, what Mohit had said, she cried too. She had also known Ken and his wife, Judy, since high school.
We hadn’t seen a lot of Ken and Judy the past 15 years. They had spent much of that time living and working overseas – in Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, mainly. But I’d known Ken since 1967, when my family moved to Green Bay in the middle of my junior year in high school. I knew no one, but Ken took me under his wing. He was always like that, with everyone. It wasn’t really a surprise that Ken was the same way in his working life – that he was as respected and loved by his professional colleagues as he was by family and friends. “If we could all live our lives the way Ken did …,” Mohit said. He didn’t have to finish the sentence.
When MEGTEC decided to open an operation in Singapore several years ago, Mohit chose Ken to get it going, operating out of a trailer until the factory and offices were up and running. Ken and Judy lived there for more than five years. When challenges arose in MEGTEC’s Australia and New Zealand operations, Mohit chose Ken to troubleshoot. He and Judy lived there for another five years.
Ken was finally coming home to Algoma in 2008 and nearing retirement when he was diagnosed with cancer that spring. By November he was gone. Always deeply spiritual, Ken could only talk in those final months about how blessed he was and how at peace. A life lived with no reason for regret might have something to do with that.
The guys Ken introduced me to that first day of school more than 40 years ago – Mitch, Rico, Jim, Christ and John – became my friends for life. Ken, Christ and John are gone now. Mitch, Rico, Jim and I are 60-plus, and lately I’ve been thinking about that Harry Chapin song, “All My Life’s a Circle,” that we all liked back in the day. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yjxWfyxpqY)
All my life's a circle, but I can't tell you why;
Seasons spinning round again, the years keep rollin' by.
It seems like I've been here before; I can't remember when;
But I've got this funny feeling that we'll all be together again.
You sure touched a lot of lives, Ken. We miss you.
– By Rick Berg