Tribute to a Friend

I’m not even sure where to begin this post… It took me a couple of days for the news to really sink in. It was only Friday night after I finished my classes that it really hit me. I also wasn’t sure if I would write anything. His family needs time to try to figure it all out. As sad and shocked as I feel, I cannot even imagine how hard it must be for them.

Robert Habbick was a friend and mentor to me. He had great influence on my life. I am shocked to realize that he is no longer walking this earth. We can no longer just pick up the phone and have one of those conversations that I truly treasure.

I can still remember the first time I met Robert. MLH was looking for a new Sales Manager, and the choices were Robert or someone else. Neil, Chiho and I all thought Robert would be better from what we’d heard. About that time, Robert invited all the publishing reps to get together at Good Times in Shinjuku Station. (He was also curious about who would show up from MLH…) Neil, Chiho and I decided we all had to go and convince him to take the job. So we did, and he did!

I learned so much from Robert that there is no real way to even quantify it. I learned things like how to really evaluate a school visit. (How many books do you have to sell to pay for taking a teacher out for coffee or dinner?) But this lesson for me now has nothing to do with sales… it has turned out to be something that I apply throughout my life. How many hours of work does that shirt/book/carpet/computer cost? I often think, “That many hours?!? I don’t really need/want it that much…” He really taught me how to look at things and see the big picture, and how all the little pictures fit together to make that big picture.

Robert could charm the birds out of the trees, but I don’t mean to say that any of his words were empty flattery. He didn’t use empty flattery. His compliments were always genuine, and that’s why they worked. They had real heartfelt meaning. My husband still doesn’t believe me when I tell him about how Robert managed to get upgraded to first class on our flights to and from Korea… just by asking nicely. (Luckily, I checked in with him during the return flight!)

When I got pregnant with my first baby, Robert is the one who made it possible for me to shift from sales (hauling heavy bags of books around) to marketing (working in the office). Marketing was a position that did not exist at that time in MLH. Basically, I became Robert’s assistant. I could take all of his crazy and wonderful (and some not so wonderful) ideas, and make them happen. I think we were a good team. He had tons and tons of ideas and visions, and was great at getting things started. I had the ability to take his visions, work out the details, and finish things off. It was a really great time for me. Thanks to Robert, design software was purchased for the sales department and I got down to business teaching myself how to use it. I got to start designing flyers and promotional materials, something I enjoy doing. And learning how to use that software was something I might not have done, but I use it almost every day now.

After MLH, Robert and I talked quite regularly. He gave me support and advice (and the courage) to try something different. I started doing freelance work. But without Robert connecting me to other people and sending jobs my way, it never would have worked. One of Robert’s best skills was listening and understanding people’s needs and abilities. I’ve never met anyone else so good at putting people and resources together to make things happen. (They may not have always worked out in the end, but there was never any regret at not having tried something.) Even as late as a few months ago when we talked, Robert had lots of ideas for possible ventures. I’m sorry that we will never have the chance to talk about them further. I will miss the challenges that he was always throwing my way. Our conversations often led to me doing something that I had wanted to do, but been putting off. He was also a kind of life-line for me, a connection to a part of my history and present. I will really miss those conversations with someone else who just gets it.

Robert Habbick was a truly caring and wonderful person who has touched many, many lives. He will be greatly missed.

MLH, March 2004

MLH, March 2004

And a much needed laugh… While searching for a photo to include here, I came across some other hilarious photos that I had forgotten existed!

Robert, thank you for being such a good friend and for always being there!


Tribute to a Friend — 3 Comments

  1. Samantha: You wrote a lovely tribute. You make me wish that I had known Robert! I have lost two friends prematurely and it is still a shock when I think about it. I feel your pain. I just wish I could have written as eloquently as you have.

  2. A beautiful tribute Sam. It’s great to know that Robert was remembered so well by so many people. It can sometimes sound a bit trite to say that his spirit lives on, but in Robert’s case, it’s very true. He really connected with so many people. A sad loss.

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