Who Is Your Hero?
by Joe Bonura, CSP
SO LONG FOR NOW
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.
MY AMERICAN BUSINESS IDOL
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.
TIME TO BAIL OUT
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 Hogans 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.
THAT IS WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR
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 Eds survival.
Tom Brokaw aptly named Eds generation, the greatest
generation in his book by that title.
THE SECOND TIME AROUND
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 Eds 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.
PORT ST. LUCIE
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 Eds 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.
GO THE EXTRA MILE
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
I ended Eds 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.