Maybe it’s a product of age or the fact I was born and raised in Hamilton, Ont. and that I attended school there. But I went straight to the obituaries in the Hamilton Spectator that Friday night.
It jumped out at me.
Art Joosse was dead.
I was numb. I had known Art about 30 years and in several capacities – most recently through his involvement with the trucking industry and owner/operators.
But Art and I went back to a time before he was president of the ComCarOwner/Operators Association. We went back to a time when he was a teacher at my Hamilton high school, Westmount Secondary.
I think my first encounter with him was in Grade 11, where I spent a memorable two years of my life (something that is indicative of my early academic achievements). I believe he was a science teacher at the time.
It was the ’60s and, as the old saying goes, “If you can remember the ’60s you weren’t really there.” But there are a few stories that do stick out. And while his loving wife Joanne may not have heard them, she will know that my stories were vintage Art.
I was first introduced to Art when he was working cafeteria duty. While most teachers did not like that job, Art always had an affinity for teenagers – particularly those who were a little rough around the edges. (Somewhat regretfully, I fit into the latter category.) I was generally wreaking havoc with a few of my buddies when Art put his hand firmly on my shoulder and asked me in a gruff voice to step outside. I guess he thought I was the ringleader. I readily complied, figuring he was looking for a scrap. This was my golden opportunity, I thought, to duke it out with a teacher. And the bonus was that he asked for it. I didn’t.
At least, that was my crude logic. He ordered all of the other kids to stay inside.
With his arm still on my shoulder he said, “Blair, you can be a pain in the ass and sometimes you just don’t get it. But I kind of like you. In fact, I can see a whole lotta you in me. You’ll do OK … trust me.”
He mumbled something else about the vice principal of the day, and other teachers having difficulties with me and other high-energy types, but that he’d always be around if I ever wanted to talk to him about anything.
He said he drove a truck or something. That was a positive factor to me. He had actually worked for a living … a truck driver became a teacher. Cool. The first solid layer of my respect for Art was in place. It would continue to grow over time.
My math marks were atrocious. No, embarrassing is a more accurate word. And I guess the word got around. “Gough would have a tough time adding two and two, let alone dealing with an algebraic equation.”
Art ambled over to me one day on the football field behind the school. He had a notepad in his hand and said there was a rumor that I was a write-off in math. The subject always gave him a few difficulties as well, he said. So he sprawled out on the grass and gave me a few fundamentals and tricks to make it easier for me.
As it turned out, I didn’t pass math that term – or the next for that matter. But at least I went up to a “respectable fail” category, and I give full marks to Art for getting me that far.
In short, through my years in high school, Art treated me like gold, and I didn’t really deserve to be treated that way.
I ran into Art the odd time over the next 10 years or so. During that time I took a similar path to his. I drove trucks for a while, enrolled in university (Lord knows how), and ended up working in the Truck Office at the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.
I was thankful to the trucking industry for giving me the financial opportunity to further my education, but also to guys like Art who pushed me along the way.
During my time with the ministry, I spoke with Art on numerous occasions, particularly on issues relating to owner/operators. We attended the same seminars, training and education sessions as far away as Thunder Bay.
Over the last 10 years I met with Art several times, sharing information about the industry. And the last time I hooked up with Art was last fall.
The bottom line is this: There are people you remember. There are people you respect. Those who are committed. Those who are versatile. Those who are your friends.
And those you love.
Art was all of these to me over the 30 years I had the pleasure of knowing him.
I want his wife Joanne and his family to know that I’ll always remember Art, particularly for the help, confidence and friendship that he extended to me.
His mark will not be erased. n
– Blair Gough is a consultant to the trucking industry and can be reached at 905-689-2727.
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