Wednesday, December 01, 2010

A Requiem for Peter

He came to my agency in 1989, a television producer/director with an impressive resumé. The new communications director brought him in to build a teleproductions operation, from a corner room in the basement with a motley collection of audio-visual equipment, to a full-scale television production studio. His team produced and directed award-winning documentaries to underscore the mission of our agency. And for two years before he left this summer, he was the director of our "creative services" division, which comprised teams dedicated to graphic design, printing, and teleproductions.

I had reached the point in my career where a major sea-change was going to have to happen, the alternative being to languish here in my remaining years. Five years of studying web design left me with a middle-management, with no idea of what to do with what I had gained (and for which they had paid, with your money). This reticence came even at a time when the use of "new media" was on the rise. Then there was a need for a video editor. The editing software operated somewhat like Adobe After Effects, the animation software I had used before. So I swallowed a big lump, threw my shoulders back, marched down to his office and said, "Hey, teach me how to use this. I can do this." He was somewhat reluctant at first, but with a hiring freeze, and limited contracting ability, he took a leap of faith. I obtained the necessary equipment, and was sent to training.

That was about fifteen months ago. By this time last year, I had exceeded everyone's expectations. My annual performance appraisal showed a "highly satisfactory" rating, a 4 out of a possible 5, my first in about fifteen years. I received my largest bonus ever. That was a great Christmas.

Over the course of this year, changing policy directions from the political leadership, as well as (quite frankly) petty bickering among them and the career middle-management, contributed to a roadblock in my continued development. (My being discouraged all too easily in the face of events certainly didn't help either.) He was confronted with the prospect of an operation that took twenty years to build, suddenly being cast aside, for little reason other than the ability to "do video" from a camera phone. Coupled with the news of his failing health, he announced his departure from Federal service last summer. He retired to his home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

My attempts to reach him by phone to visit him proved unsuccessful, and there was reason to believe that his condition was worse than he had let on.

Peter died last night, after a battle with cancer. As best I can remember, he was about 65. He leaves behind a wife, seven children, and those of us who knew him as a dedicated professional, a tireless advocate of his mission and his team, and a good friend. I can barely contain my anger at those who made his life so difficult with so little forethought. I wonder what they have to show for themselves now.

And in the end -- vanity of vanities! -- I wonder whether it matters.

“Here he lies where he long’d to be;
 Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
 And the hunter home from the hill.”


1 comment:

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