Leaders Understand the Importance of Legacy

Man with crew cut hair wearing a t-shirt

This is my first article in a couple of weeks. The week before last, my dad passed away from cancer. He was too young to die. My dad grew up on a small farm in West Virginia that didn’t have indoor plumbing or electricity until he was in college. He was class president all four years of high school and was a gifted athlete, playing football, basketball, and baseball. He also ran track. After graduating from high school, he received a scholarship to play football at West Virginia University. He got married, had a child, graduated, joined the Marine Corps and had another child. My dad served in Vietnam twice, in Panama, the Middle East and in numerous other locations around the world. He retired as a Lt Colonel and was decorated for service, achievement, and valor. My dad was someone who never talked about his accomplishments, those men he saved, or the tough times in battle when things got dicey.

My dad was a farm boy, a student, an athlete, a husband, a Marine, a college graduate. But to me, he was simply my dad and I miss him. He was always there for me and made many sacrifices for me both as a child and an adult. He wasn’t perfect, but he was my dad and I loved him. Though we didn’t live in the same location during the last 11 years of his life, we talked almost every day. And he was a good texter. As I drove around the country for business and pleasure over the years I spoke to him for countless hours. We were friends. He was my dad. And I miss him. His 57th anniversary with my mom would have been in a few weeks. They first met when they were 12 years old.

While I have a heavy heart, I’m also at peace. My dad was a Christian with unshakable faith. During the last few months, I was able to spend 3 weeks with him. He knew the end was coming and he was at peace. We laughed. We cried. We enjoyed a little Pappy’s and we talked. The last time I saw my dad, I gave him a hug, kissed him, and told him I loved him – as always. But the hug might have been a little bit longer. I knew I’d never see him again in this world. I spoke to him the day before he died in his sleep and gave him one last “goodbye.” He was my dad and I loved him.

At the services for my dad in the National Cemetery in Phoenix, a Marine Corps color guard played taps and fired a three-volley salute. A Marine major knelt and presented the folded up American flag that had been draped over my dad’s coffin to my mom on behalf of the Commandant of the Marine Corps. I was standing beside her. Tears welled up in my eyes. It was an emotional moment. A celebration to be sure, but sad at the same time.

And as my sister and I each gave the eulogy, I couldn’t help but think about my dad’s legacy. And mine. What kind of legacy am I leaving? Whom have I impacted? How have I helped others? What difference have I made? Am I living out my Christian values? How have I benefited my kids? Whom am I serving? And so on and so on.

When my dad departed, he wore a simple suit and tie. He didn’t take his medals. He didn’t take his 401k. He didn’t take his ceremonial sword. He didn’t take his college diplomas or his sports trophies or any tangible thing. What he left behind was infinitely more valuable. He left a legacy.

How about you? Are you aware that you can’t take it with you? How will others remember you? Are you, at heart, selfish or giving? My hope is that you find time to think about the importance of your legacy. My hope is that you enjoy each moment on this earth but that you never forget that your actions are creating a legacy, good or bad. I pray that it’s good.

Have a great week and remember that you’re leaving a legacy. What kind will it be?

is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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8 thoughts on “Leaders Understand the Importance of Legacy

    • Thanks Russell. Our conversations on legacies over the years has left a lasting impression on me and made me a better person.

  1. I know he felt your love & treasured all the times he shared with you!
    The older I get, the more visible the legacy of prior generations becomes. It’s never too late to make an impact. Your article has me thinking about it. Thanks!

      • Robert, just this morning read about your Dad’s passing. Prayers for you and your family. *I don’t check my old e-mail acct often. Your tribute to your Dad is a blessing, and you were a treasure to him as such a gifted and loving son…My most used e-mail is rocky.wallace@asbury. RW

  2. Robert, I just saw this this morning. I don’t check my old e-mail often. What a powerful tribute to your Dad. And, what a blessing you were to him all these years…Prayers for you and your family…My Asbury e-mail is rocky.wallace@asbury.edu. R Wallace

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