I have a story to tell. About a man who departed this earth last week leaving in his wake a mighty legacy. A man who remained my greatest mentor long after my introduction when a young, newly wed Aussie settling into her husband’s small New Zealand home town. Learning of his passing I shared my sadness on FaceBook and within minutes two people messaged back in disbelief – ‘he was so fit and healthy?’; sadness – ‘family, local and international friends will be shocked’, and nostalgia – remember when we were ‘Charlie’s Angels?’ Reminiscent of that time, a few words aptly summed up the man:
Five small years working with Heaton Haglund left a large and lasting impression of a man whose flirtatious charisma, business savvy and uncanny knack for claiming a free advertising coup regardless of dignity, brought him exceptional pharmacy success. Lovingly referring to us as his Angels (Charlie was his nickname) we reveled in flicking our matching Farrah Faucet waves as we did Charlie’s bidding.
Annie recalled the times we swapped out half his sultanas with Senokot tablets (a laxative) knowing he’d soon be unwittingly flipping the lid and throwing the entire mini pack back. Jo, the deftness with which we prized the corners off his yoghurts and inserted finely diced glycerin suppositories (another laxative – seeing a theme here?), the perfect pineapple chunk replication, knowing he’d soon be scooping great spoons-full.
Insisting that we get our butts to work no matter how ill we were, working public holidays to keep him company. tempered with turns to sit on the heater on a quiet winters day and knit.
Patiently responding to a constant barrage of questions from atop that heater about his grasp on Masonic scriptures, stock turns, buying deals, negotiation, why the Arden rep wore his pants so tight, average unit sales, precise drams for that extemporaneous compound, why smelling salts knock you out not awake you up.
Metering out Sherry between 25 to 100mil conical measures, volume share according to longevity, on a quiet Friday eve, followed by office chair races through the pharmacy screaming ‘winners are grinners!’
The cheery smile he’d bestow on a kid just before he stepped on their toes to prevent further trashing of his precious antique floor scales, soon replaced with a wicked grin in our direction as the kid did it’s best to suppress tears. The disbelief on his face the time a customer dared him to act on his offer to rub Vicks on her chest to soothe her cold.
The day he squeezed out a few tears before rushing to a local music store to scoop up the entire back catalog of Elvis albums while shamelessly declaring ‘I LOVED THE KING!’ to the press the day Elvis died. The day he rushed through the pharmacy pulling stock from the shelves before calling same press exclaiming shock at the devastation the latest earth quake had created, then demanding photos.
Humour, patience, tolerance and a big, big heart too. You see, Heaton also funded a bridging loan so that Kent and I could buy our first home, negotiating a withdrawal from my weekly wage to cover the debt without leaving us short. Offered to act as a reliability witness should we be charged and summoned to court after a friend in Australia sent a letter to which they’d lovingly added a joint, the missive intercepted by the police (the case later dropped due to inability to actually connect the joint with us). And then there was the time when…I could go on but I know that Annie, Jo and all who were blessed with knowing him will have so many wonderful recollections of their own…
Heaton remained a constant in my life, his teachings (along with a number of additional mentor pharmacists) founded the skills to lead teams of 30+ in my first Aussie pharmacies; drive the opening of seven sites from scratch; regionally manage 15 more; educate pharmacy franchisees on best business practice across 95 sites. Over the years I drew on his wisdom and in return was eventually able to share my own understanding on franchise operation, floor plan design, HR and marketing as he grew his NZ empire – the perfect mentor/mentee relationship.
As I write in lieu of being there, I know his life celebration today will be packed with folk just like Annie and Jo and me. People whose lives he touched in some special way…before Beverley, his lovely late wife took his hand and whispered in his ear ‘Come Charlie, it’s time, and we’ve so many countries yet to explore together’…