September 17, 2019

Farewell to a Mentor - Part II

Yesterday, I spoke about Harold Prentiss, who in my opinion, was one of the greatest human beings whoever lived.

When I concluded my column, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed. There was so much I wanted to say that I had left unsaid.

But I had to stop where I did, because I was afraid of bogging down the readers with detail, and boring them as a result.

However, I figured there’s nothing that says I can’t do a follow up, and so here we go!

Like everyone, Harold had his flaws – who doesn’t? One of them was he was not known for his polite language. To say that he could make a sailor blush was definitely an understatement. I often swore that Harold could have put the entire Seventh Fleet to shame!

One thing I want to emphasize here. I never in all our years of knowing each other did I see  Harold to swear at someone. Whenever he let loose with the sulfur – which I admit was pretty regularly – it was always to vend his wrath on the fates, or whatever was bothering him at the moment.

A popular target for Harold’s tirades was the telephone. Practically every time it rang unleashed a sampling of the Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television.

It got the point when – whenever I called him – I would start the conversation with “You shouldn’t yell at the poor phone like that. It’s only doing it’s job.”

Another amusing thing the situation was he was totally unaware – at times – of what he was doing. The newsroom was divided from the front desk by a wall. The wall did not reach all the way to the ceiling – meaning that someone at the front desk could easily hear what was going on.

Each time the receptionist would come back and tell Harold someone wanted him, he would get up, and – while walking to the desk – spew curses all the way, in a not too quiet voice. But the moment he turned the corner, he would smile at the person and say: “Hi, I’m Harold Prentiss, what can I do for you?”

Yes, I used to often wonder “Boy, Harold, don’t you think those people can hear you.”

I came to be amused by it all, because I knew he never meant it. In fact there was a time I mentioned to him that if they kept a tally in heaven because of his bad language, St. Peter would probably turn to St. Paul and say “Hey, I think we got a record here!”

On another note, Harold always stood behind me, and kept me from making a fool out of myself – something I very much appreciated. There was a time when a council member was very insulting to me during the meeting – in front of everyone. When I got back to the office, I prepared to write a very scathing column about the incident. However, Harold advised me against it – explaining that even though I was in the right, it wouldn’t look good. I grumbled about it, but eventually came to realize the wisdom of his advice. In fact, it’s advice that I still take to heart to this day.

And then, there was the time a member of the public insisted that I not report what he said during a meeting. This is a no-no, as far as I’m concerned. If you’re going to say something in public, then be prepared for it to be reported. That’s something both Harold and I always agreed upon.

The real blowup came a bit later, though, right after the meeting. This fellow, who was pretty obnoxious, was talking to someone that I needed to speak to for some information. But when I walked over to them, he turned to me and snarled that if I didn’t leave he would punch me in the mouth.

That did not go down well. I responded by slamming my notebook down on a table, putting my hands behind my back, stepping forward so my face was close to his, and said “Try it.”

He backed down, but I heard him mutter “We’ll see about this.”

The next morning, when I got to work, I immediately told Harold about what had happened. I actually found the incident amusing, but I figured it would be best if he knew about it.

I swear, about two minutes later, the phone rang, and I could tell from Harold’s end of the conversation that it was the gentleman I had stood up to the previous night. The conversation went for several minutes, but I knew everything was going to be all right when Harold finally said “Well, to tell you the truth, if you had said you were going to punch me in the mouth, I would have told you to try it too.”

It turns out this fellow attended the same church as Harold, and figured it would give him the pull to get me into trouble.

Fat chance!

Ah me, I got countless war stories about Harold and me, but there’s just not enough space to tell them all.

But I will leave you with this. Harold was a good Catholic, yet I am certain he did not spend a single moment in Purgatory after his death. Because I know the Lord looked at all the good Harold did during his lifetime and waived the requirement, based upon the fact that he was such an outstanding person.

Also, I put in a good word about Harold with God by having a candle lit in his memory at the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Tunkhannock. I’m certain he would have liked that.

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