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Married, with two children and no money, Harold immigrated to Israel from South Africa in his mid-twenties.
Divorced in his early thirties, Harold was a real bachelor around town until he was 59, when he married Barbara, with whom he happily lives until today.
As a new immigrant, Harold could not practice law in Israel due to the then enormous restrictions (since then completely modified) and he went into business.
Harold created the first ever production line of Solar Heaters. He had a checkered financial career, including the collapse of I.O.S.-the infamous international financial company, which he represented in Israel.
At the age of 47, Harold joined the Israeli Life Insurance industry. Within a short time, Harold became the true leader of the industry.
Harold Stutzen. A true Phoenix Bird. One of the most remarkable people I have ever met.
I was a young Insurance agent when I met Harold at a conference in Qirtyat Anavim, near Jerusalem. Harold was a nominee to the election for the presidency of the Life Insurance Association in Israel.
That evening, Harold made his election speech. This was a great evening for me; I felt I completed my emotional process of belonging to the Life Insurance Association and joined as an active member. One could sense the “electricity in the air” during that great night. Harold was elected with a landslide victory. And I joined the Association as an active member.
I worked with Harold for a few years in the Life Insurance Association. In 1988, I entered KESHET INSURANCE as a partner. Harold made me join in.
During this time, I could see from near how Harold had to deal with some impossible tasks that life and challenges of that time made us confront.
Harold brought the Life Insurance Association to be the real and the only union of all insurance agents and brokers, as any other professional organization. Harold built the different sections within the organization, nominating section managers, people in charge and responsibilities.
The government of Israel could no longer ignore the Association. Until that time, the Insurance section of the Ministry of Finances would take decisions and make rules without any understanding of their true effect on the industry. From then on, any issue that had to do with Insurance was brought to the attention of Harold and the Association before any legislation.
Insurance companies started to consult with Harold and with the leaders of the Association; during those years, as the Insurance industry grew, the Association became even stronger.
Being around Harold, I was influenced and impressed by his wise leadership, sense of orientation and integrity. Harold never thought about himself. It was the Association, his colleagues and the staff in the office, his customers or his future wife Barbara that always came first.
Harold was the leader, the teacher and mentor for many people. Within the office, Yoel, Aviram, Yehiel, Norman and myself were under his shadow and leadership. There was always to gain and learn from this.
I was close to Harold during those years. His success in business and in his political life made his life very hectic. He had friends and enemies, and many people representing different issues and domains of life were daily at his door. Harold had always patience for almost every one. When you came to meet with him, he would take out his famous yellow pad, on which he took notes, put his glasses on – and the conversation started. Harold was a good listener and, in between lighting a cigarette and taking another small shot of quality cognac, he would carefully assess his opinion and views. The outcome was always something to think of.
I had long conversations with Harold. I used to ‘pop’ into his room for a short ‘good morning’ talk. We used to have long conversations in the car while travelling to customers.
I was a frequent welcome guest in his Villa in Caesarea.
“Go to the KASBA” he used to tell me. The KASBA was the most expensive restaurant in town. When I asked Harold how to unstuck myself from a situation of no sales while business was down. Harold told me about the days when he suffered the loss of his business, the sad collapse of I.O.S International. “I had to use busses as I could not afford a car.” “When my spirit was down, with my last penny, I went to the KASBA – a sort of omen-sacrifice for the gods… my unique way to break the bad luck. I guess that helped the ‘self convincing’ that even the worse time ends up with new opportunities and challenges.
Since then, each time I was in a ‘stuck’… I went to the KASBA, or the equivalent at the place I was.
It helps – I can testify …
I have never met many people as Harold. During the time I was around Harold, I could shape my approach to some of the basic issues in life. Harold: the leader, the manager, the friend, the organizer – has left some of all these in me.
However, my story with Harold does not have a ‘happy ending’.
In 1992, the insurance company KESHET worked with offered us to sign a 5 years contract, against a generous loan, that would become a grant, should the group stood the target of sales.
On the negotiation process, I could not agree with Harold about the division of the expected received funds within the group of partners. Harold surrendered to the demand to divide the funds based on the number of years each partner was a part of KESHET. I was the last one to join. But the loan, the grant and the production were for the future, and as most of the future production of sales was expected from Harold and me, I could not accept this approach. Arguments about the matter and some unneeded damaging interferences that came from Mr. Katz Jacob from the insurance company brought clouds upon the relationship between me and Harold.
At my aggressive approach to the matter, I could not listen to my Dad who advised me to accept Harold’s decision, and to forgive him, for whatever mistake I might think he was making. My Dad tried to make me see that Harold was close to his retirement and his approach to financial issues would forever be different then mine.
I was the right side. Or maybe I was not.
I left KESHET angry. I left Harold very disappointed.
Years went by, I went into other businesses, had other challenges and opportunities.
I also grew older. And at times, when moments in life made me remember Harold, a feeling of regret started to build up inside me.
It gets worse as the time goes by.
In February 2000, Harold came to my parent’s house to pay his condolences for the death of my Dad. As we were sitting in my late Dad’s house-garden, I told Harold for the first time that I was wrong.
He smiled at me, and with a hand movement ‘pushed the issue away’; “forger it,” he said.
I did not see Harold since then and I miss him a lot. Building my Internet site and composing this text, I decided to write an open letter to Harold, and once and for all put down my apology clear.
For more then a decade, I am writing this letter to you in my imagination.
On the course of the doing and working, we needed to make some decisions to work out a deal with the Israeli Phoenix Insurance Company.
I was then in my thirties, too young to understand how you think and what motivates you.
I was so self-assured, that I could not elevate myself above what seemed to me then so right and so clear.
Time went by. We are all in the process of loosing our youth. The process of growth in life and managing others have made me see how people can get stuck. Being a father, a boss, a business owner, I often see around me good people, self-assured and bright, people I care about – making mistakes. I see them stuck, I see them unable to elevate themselves above the interest of the moment, I see how they loose their ability to look at the whole picture, being under the influence of the need or greed of the moment.
The past events between us made me able to understand and forgive them.
I want to be as wide in my personality as you were. As big as you are.
I learnt from you to give to people. To help them grow. To accept the fact that some of them will be blind (as I was) to the need to give back to the person they take from.
I miss you very much and I regret the years that we lost as of my stubbornness. I am thinking about this lost time. How much of you, of your company I could have enjoyed all those recent years!
In a juvenile way, I should say that reversing the time, I would not trade this relationship for any financial gain or any win of power.
The outcome for me, as it is always for the fools, I lost the gain I was fighting for, and I lost the friendship with you.
Perhaps it will make you happy to know that ever since then, I grew a lot. My kids are around their twenties and I am operating some businesses world wide.
In all my doing, I still carry and use your vast contribution that you left in me. Your codes of behaviour and sense of direction are carved well in everything I do.
Perhaps it will make you happy to know that ever since then I am promoting among my managers and subordinates the idea of forgiving. I know that dear people are making mistakes. I tell my story about you when I need to show how wrong someone can be and how forgiveness is a rear commodity.
Please accept my apology and forgive me.
Writing this letter, I do not know of your whereabouts, nor how you are. I count that you should be approaching your eighties. I do not know if this letter will ever reach you.
I wish you are well and happy, playing Golf, taking full advantage of the wonderful house you and Barbara build.
You will be in my heart forever.
A NEW BEGINNING
So many nice things happened to me because of this internet site…
I wrote the above article and letter about Harold. I thought it would be a pity to just place it and he would not even know about it. I decided to call Harold.
I asked some of my friends who be both knew. I heard that Harold and Barbara are ok, and they are in Pardes Hanna, a small town north of Tel Aviv.
I called Harold. I will never forget the one silent second that expressed the surprise and the unexpected move. Harold’s voice was so fresh and familiar. As if it was only yesterday that we spoke last time.
Few days later, I met Harold and Barbara in their home. The 10 years during which I have not seen Harold brought some visual changes. After I sat down and had the first drink, after a few moments of conversation, I saw the Harold I knew, the sharp and clever man I have always liked so much.
In my heart, I have decided that, this time, I will not let us get disconnected again.
Ever since then, I see Harold and Barbara each time I come to Israel. Harold is not always well, he is not always at his best – but he is always happy to see me.
We share opinions and views; I am amazed to see how interested he is in the ins and outs of my career. He remembers each and every detail of my stories, and in my next visit, he will follow up on everything I have said last time.
I am so happy with this new-old relationship. All I wish is that Harold will be well, so we can all enjoy these visits for many years to come.
10 January 2007 … I mourn the death of my friend and mentor, HAROLD STUTZEN
In the past year, I saw how the health of Harold was sinking down.
I visited him, sat with him as Barbara was lighting a cigarette and handing the lighter to Harold. He smoked heavily until his last minute.
I went for a visit almost each time I came to Israel. On the weeks I was in Europe, I would call him on the phone every weekend.
As the year of 2006 was progressing, Harold’s situation was deteriorating. He could not walk, he had medical complications of the kind that cannot be easily cured. Harold, being a proud man took it hard. He could not agree with his situation.
In my last visit to Israel in the month of November, I sat with Harold in his home garden. We had a conversation. His mind worked well. As always, he was in good command of his memory.
He was happy I came and asked me to come every time I was in Israel.
That was the last time I spoke to Harold face to face.
In the weeks after, I kept in touch. I heard from Barbara that he is not feeling well.
On the 16 th of December 2006, I received an E-mail from Barbara:
Temp holding in 37.0-0 range (Centigrade for you non-metric people), his blood pressure still jumping around, but low and this morning even was for 1 hour 123/58. Drs will be happy with 60 as bottom number. Yelled at the night nurse yesterday when he dipped into the 30’s and she calmly told me it would be okay – well, I told her to get her butt over to the doctor on Shabbat duty and get an increase in his dopamin – she did and he improved.
This morning he was a bit more alert, turning his head when he heard my voice or Yoni’s voice. I’m not sure he is seeing so well when his eyes are open. He also should be peeing more. His day nurse said she would keep her eye on it. He also gets the fluid drained from his lungs every few hours. There are 3 patients in the room and one nurse on duty just for them. She maintains the feed bag, medicine, gives the antibiotics, checks the blood pressure, etc. Then you have the cleaning and cleanup the patient crews and dr’s visits. So like every 10 minutes we family visitors are being kicked out into the hallway! I now know the families of the other 2 critical care patients and their stories.
I bought five boxes of chocolates for the staff for Shabbat – oh were the nurses happy. Gotta take care of them, as they are taking care of Harold.
Susie really misses H. When I’m home she is glued to me. Also peed in the house last night which is unusual. And thank you, Little Orphan Annie for dropping a small field mouse on the kitchen table! I just picked up Smokey and put him on the table. Mouse was lunch, I think!
Well, if there is anything new to report tonight, I’ll let you know. I just want my man home, and he can complain (and he will) as much as he wants. I understand he’ll have a sore throat from the breathing machine and feeding tube when they are taken out.
On my next visit to Israel, I met with Barbara at the Hospital in the town of Hadera.
We both stood near his bed. Barbara told me about the music she is playing near his bed, hoping that maybe, maybe it will bring him back from the coma he is in.
Talk to him – she said, maybe he will recognize your voice.
I bent near Harold. I called his name. The steady noise of the breathing machine was louder. There was no answer.
On our way out, Barbara and I stood out in the rain.
I asked the silly question “what are the chances”, looking to grasp the smallest glimpse of hope. Something optimistic.
Harold is a fighter, Barbara told me.
How brave and strong this lady is, I thought. I have learnt to love appreciate Barbara during the years of friendship with Harold.
On the 30 th of December I saw this on my mail:
Barbara Stutzen to me ….. 30/12/06
Harold passed away on Dec. 29 at 11:50 pm, not having regained consciousness. Funeral will be Sunday afternoon.
Harold’s voice is still echoing in my memory.
“Take it easy” he used to tell me in the end of each and every telephone conversation.
I cannot “take easy” the disappearance of Harold from my life.
As I am writing these words, feeling my eyes wet, but also smiling at the naughty look and voice that Harold had, I feel the need to say
“Take it easy Harold” wherever you are!
I loved you so much. I miss you already.
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