I’ve been stalling out on writing this post, as it’s a hard one to do, and quite personal. But, as I’ve stared at the blank screen for a week now, I’ve finally accepted that prolific words aren’t going to come to me until I just start typing. And, even then, I might not be able to eek out anything prolific, but will try to do this justice as it’s news that should be shared with the VVR family.
Last week we received a call from Suzanne Munn, who owned the ranch with her husband, John, from 1991-2006. As soon as I heard who was on the phone, I knew why she was calling. John had passed away.
What makes this personal is Suzanne and John owned the ranch for the first 9 years of my time here at Vista Verde. They brought me into their home, their family, and John became a powerful mentor in my young life and continued on in that role long after they sold the ranch. In fact just two weeks ago I was going to call him for some advice, but then held off. I wish I would have made that call.
John was the toughest person I’ve worked for, and never allowed me to leave something good enough. Anyone who worked for John will smile when I refer to one of his favorite terms– “betterness.” The spell checker still hasn’t figured out this is a word in my vocabulary, and still underlines it every time I use it. But, to me, and the hundreds of young folks who worked for John over the years it meant something powerful. Never settle for good, never stop improving, always be looking for ways to do what you’re doing better. To this day, we are striving for “betterness” here at Vista Verde, and that legacy John left behind will live on in the future.
Being surrounded by young people in his time at the ranch was what energized John. His reminder each Sunday to take the time to appreciate the view, the tranquility, and the lifestyle at the ranch went over many of our young heads, only to be remembered in years to come as we recognized what he meant and the power of what he was pointing out to each of us. But, my word, he demanded a lot. He expected hard work and didn’t see a reason to make a big deal out of doing your job to your best ability–that was just expected. And, he would see every detail missed, point out every little smudge on the glass, crooked guest list, and a pebble out of place on the beams. Yes, you VVR alum know what I’m talking about, and the beam sweep lives on today each Sunday. While pushing us, he would pick off those with a glint of promise of something bigger, and help them find a way to do something bigger in this world. He loved business, and loved helping people find a way to entrepreneurship, and he helped so many people get a start in the business world. Following his retirement from dude ranching he loved hearing the latest crazy ranch stories and finding out what was going on in the industry.
Back before texting, and LOL’s and BTW’s, and IDK’s, John had the corner market on acronyms. The OG (Old Guy) used to write notes to SO (Stephanie Offen), which then became SW (Stephanie Wilson, after marriage) and finally landed at MW (Mother Wilson, after baby #1). He would refer to Suzanne as SB (Sweetheart Baby) and you knew when he always delegated OTY. And, speaking of delegating, no one who worked for him will ever look at a workplace challenge without thinking to themselves of John walking into the room, rubbing his hands together conspiratorially with a smile on his face saying, “Have I got an opportunity for you!” But, this is how John looked at challenges. They were indeed opportunities to grow, learn, try something new, stretch ourselves, and figure out the puzzle.
So, here we are, with the “opportunity” to move forward without John as a part of it. For some, he’s been out of their minds for years, but for many the lessons they learned from him bubble up from time to time. And for some of us the loss is closer to our hearts and more raw. My dear friend CJG reflected, “I didn’t think I could lose two dads in one life.” You will be sorely missed OG, and thank you for loving us and helping us find “betterness” in our lives. We hope you’re enjoying a stroll with Tillie, carrying the mail in your tote bag, and taking in the green view.