"Who Is Your Hero?"

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Who Is Your Hero?
by Joe Bonura, CSP



I had the honor of speaking at the funeral of my first business mentor and role model, Carl Edward Fessel. I knew him as Ed. He was a dynamic advertising executive and president of Fessel, Siegfreidt and Moeller Advertising Agency where I received my first entry into the advertising agency business.


Ed Fessel was my “American Business Idol.” Not simply a great advertising executive, Ed was a real “American Hero.” I do not suggest that Ed was a Batman, Spiderman, or Superman, but I mean the kind of hero that has made it possible for us to be the free nation that we are today. Many of the veteran heroes from WWII, The Korean War, The Vietnam War, Iraq I -- II, and Afghanistan were present to honor Ed at his visitation and burial.


During World War II, Ed served as a gunner on a B-17 Bomber, the same type of plane that was in the movie “Memphis Belle.” On his fifth mission, his plane was shot down over Germany, and he parachuted out, but he lost his side-arm and injured his back upon landing. He attributed those two ill-fated happenings as two very fortunate occurrences. He figured that if he had his gun, he would have tried to fight the approaching enemy, or if he had not injured his back, he would have tried to escape, and the enemy would have killed him.


He became a prisoner of war for 13 months in the infamous Stalag 17. Ed was not a fan of the TV series “Hogan’s Heros” because the sitcom did not truthfully portray life in the prison camp. In reality, Ed said that he kept a journal of his stay in the prison camp, and that horror was so disturbing that he never reread his writings. Instead of blankets to ward off the cold, the prisoners used old newspapers. He related that his friends, who were prisoners with him, continue to experience cold sweats 70 years after the war.


When the allies planned to liberate the prison camp, the Germans fled with their prisoners. During the 18-day death march, the weather was so cold that the German soldiers died from exposure even though they wore warm coats. Fortunately for Ed, he befriended one of the German guards who warned Ed that he and five other soldiers were to be executed the next day. The German guard explained to Ed where there was a weakness in the camp so that an escape would be possible.


They escaped that night and spent the next six weeks sleeping in the barns and basements of sympathizers. When they arrived at the American front, Ed weighed an emaciated 90 pounds. He was shipped home through New York, where he met the lovely Josephine Sclafani. They married and had three beautiful children, Claudia, Dennis, and Carla, whose families are a testimony to Ed’s survival. Tom Brokaw aptly named Ed’s generation, “the greatest generation” in his book by that title.


Twenty-two years later, I had the privilege of working for Ed Fessel. I paid close attention and learned many of the success principles that helped me build my career. I often attributed Ed’s incredible work ethic to the fact that he knew what it meant to get a second chance in life. He used his second chance to build one of the most successful advertising agencies in Kentucky. When he retired from the advertising agency business to live in Florida, I was puzzled that a man with his energy and experience was going to play golf and lie on the beaches of Florida. That is not what he had in mind.


A few years after he arrived in Florida, he went into the real estate business. Within a few years, he finished second in a race for the mayor of Port St. Lucie, Florida, and at one time, C “Ed” Fessel Realty was the number one realtor in his new home town.


Ed was a living example of following a magnificent obsession. He was obsessed with helping clients succeed and helping other people succeed. Ed was a true “Serveperson.” He learned that lesson from having served with so many brave men during WWII, where many of his friends made the ultimate sacrifice. Bad experiences in life can either make us, or break us. In Ed’s case, adversity made him the dynamic and aggressive man that he became. He was a survivor in war and a survivor in business. As I have said so many times before, we are the sum total of the people we know, the experiences we have had, and most importantly, the choices we make. Ed Fessel knew how to make the right choices.


When you do not feel like getting up and going the extra mile, think of people like Ed, who have traveled the road less traveled, to leave a path for us to follow--people who have earned the right to earn a living in the greatest country in the world. Who is your hero?


I ended Ed’s eulogy with the following quote from Robert Wickman:

“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: Wow! What a ride!”

Enjoy the ride. Ed sure did.


© 2010 Joe Bonura & Associates, Inc.

To see Joe and hear one of his favorite selling tips, follow this link to a video he created to share with folks who are interested in making more sales, or finding a job:



Joe Bonura would be pleased for you to reprint the article text free of charge (non-exclusively), but asks that you include his name and contact information:

Joe Bonura
Joe Bonura & Associates, Inc.
Website: www.bonura.com
407 Landis Lakes Court
Louisville, KY  40245

(502) 553-1746 phone

E-mail: joe@bonura.com

About Joe Bonura

His background is unique. Joe owned and operated a highly successful advertising agency for 18 years. During that time, he found his advertising campaigns were more effective when he educated his clients in the areas of sales and service. He conducted training seminars for his clients as added value. Word spread that Joe was a quality speaker and more and more people asked him to speak. The demand became so high that he sold the agency to three of his associates to start his own speaking and consulting company, Joe Bonura & Associates, Inc.

Joe is past President of the Kentucky Speakers Association and a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), a prestigious designation earned by only 8% of the 3,600 member National Speakers Association. Joe presently serves on the board of directors of NSA.

He is author of the audio learning systems "Three-Dimensional Selling®" and "Turning Customer Satisfaction Into Customer Excitement®." He is author of the book Throw the Rabbit—The Ultimate Approach to Three-Dimensional Selling.




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