To an absent friend, Chuck, who taught him to be passionate

Rick?Bean is publisher of The (Durham) Herald-Sun and The High Point Enterprise. He wrote this column about Chuck Cooper for those newspapers and offered it to The A-T for publication. We gratefully accepted. – Editor

Passion is more than an underrated word. It’s an underrated way of life.

Nearly 40 years ago, I met a community leader who would have a lasting impact on my life. He didn’t know it then, and neither did I. His name was Chuck.

Chuck had a reputation for being outspoken, even aggressive. As a rookie publisher, all of 31 years of age, I was full enough of myself to think I could play on the same field. I was clueless as to what was about to happen.

Two strong-willed people, coming from different backgrounds and diverse interests, found a common bond. It was a bond that started as business acquaintances and led to being customers of each other’s business. Eventually, a friendship developed.

There aren’t many people I call friend. There are plenty with whom I’m friendly. A friendship, however, is something much deeper.

This friend, not that many years my senior, in fact, became my teacher. He taught me the meaning of passion. Few people could rival his passion for life.

Chuck’s lessons started when he shared his dream for what life could be in the small community we both called home. He was passionate about his hometown and he expected others in leadership positions to be equally committed to improving life there. He had little patience for the naysayers. Folks could disagree with him, but they never could question his passion.

Chuck also had passion for the parochial school his children attended. That passion didn’t flicker as his children grew up and moved on. His commitment to the school remained unrivaled.

Everything Chuck did, he did with passion. He always was fully engaged. He owned a successful business and grew it into several successful businesses. The same passion he had for his businesses and his causes, he had for his family.

To this day, I haven’t met a person who comes close to attacking life with the same passion.

Reflecting back on those days, I realize now passion can be a sort of an elixir for behavioral malfunctions. As I approached my job back then with lots of passion, I made many mistakes.

I learned, however, that when those mistakes were the byproduct of passion for a worthy cause, folks generally were forgiving and understanding.

This gets me to why I wrote this column about Chuck and his passion for life. I learned Thursday he passed away. The past several years have not been easy for him.

Anyone having a surgical procedure hears and reads about the things that could go wrong. It’s like reading the disclaimer for some new wonder drug. In his case, the procedure did go wrong, and his life forever was changed.

Last summer, I saw Chuck for the first time in more than 10 years. In spite of all he had been through, he still had the same endearing grin.

I’m with you friend. And, thanks for the lesson on passion. I can’t imagine life without it. Today, I can’t imagine a world without you.