Henry Joseph Rettew and his name sake! #twinslife
His name is Joe Bridwell. He is my mom’s dad, who past away in March 2011. I called him Pop. I am the oldest grandchild on my mom’s side with my mom being the oldest living child of my grandfather’s. As I was thinking about Pop and Henry, I remembered what I said during his memorial service. I had to take the funeral home’s audio CD and have it transcribed so I could pull the exact words from that day. What I found is what I said straight from the heart and matches all the reason Henry Joseph Rettew was named partly for my Pop. I took those words and edited some to bring context to path down memory lane.
Pop was an amazing businessperson and he also was a good businessperson with his family. I think back to the years we were growing up as kids over in Regency Park. All the different pine straw forts that we used to build.
He knew that if he and Nana put together a great Thanksgiving dinner, the whole family would come over, have Thanksgiving lunch and then he put everyone to work in the afternoon to rake up all the pine straws.
Pop, to me, was many things. Pop was a jokester. He liked a funny card. He liked it off color. And he liked to tell jokes. He also was a sportsman. He never told me if he liked Clemson or South Carolina, but he always rooted for both of them because the house was divided with many Gamecocks and many Clemson fans.
Pop was a family man. And because of that, as a grandchild I always felt like a son. I never felt like that I was a, quote unquote, “grandchild”, and I think, and I can’t speak for all the grandchildren and my cousins, but I think that each of us kind of felt like a child to him. Because, in his own special way he always wanted to mentor us. Whether if he was letting us know that we were making a mistake, or if he was listening to us and trying to build us back up; we were still sons and daughters to him regardless if we were grandchildren.
When I think of Pop I think of a few things. There’s three topics: entrepreneurship, family, and legacy.
I’ve been in the middle of this big entrepreneurship debate with a lot of my friends and colleagues, I have been trying to figure out if whether entrepreneurship is a learned skill, or is it genetic. When I think about entrepreneurship, I think about Pop. I wonder when he was a young son to Granny (his mother my great-grandmother), did he wake up one day and say, “You know what? I’m going to be an entrepreneur”. I don’t know. Really, I don’t know what led him to be an entrepreneur. When you think of him leading a long career in real estate here in Anderson, SC, it was preceded by his big career as a pharmaceuticals rep. And when he retired from pharmaceutical sales and wanted to tackle the real estate world, he knew what it would take! That is the measure of an entrepreneur; that’s an innovator who is willing to see that there’s an opportunity and a market need, and then willing to go tackle it.
So Pop had a tremendous drive an as entrepreneur. And I wrote this about Pop about a few yeas ago, when I was sitting down reflecting, “Entrepreneur’s success is dependent upon the people around us and their support. Now we will have plenty of people around us that find it in their best interests for us to fail. But the ones who really love us and support us; they listen to our successes, they listen to our failures, they encourage us to just go out and swing that bat again, because we all like to go out and swing that bat. Pop knew how to swing that bat. He did. He got up to bat every time, every day…he was swinging. He was an early man. Early riser. And he got up and swung that bat every morning.”
Pop loved gadgets. I don’t know if you knew, but Pop probably had the first cell phone in Anderson, South Carolina. I remember him pulling in to the drive way in his first Mercedes. It was a tan 240D Mercedes, it only went five miles an hour, at least that is what it felt like, but it was spotless all the time. He had a phone in the center console, it was big and it had a rotary dial. We thought it was the coolest thing, I was only 10 years old riding down the road and he was dialing on a rotary dial telephone from his car. It had a big antenna on the back, and it looked like a big truck antenna. But he knew, it was a market differentiator because he would get on the his rotary dial phone, driving down the road, and organize his real estate deals.
Over the years, he always had the latest mobile phone. When a new one would come out, he had to have it. He would even have three; sometimes…he would play with it and he’d get mad at it and go get another one. And that’s how he was. He always had to have the latest gadgets. And I can identify with him because I fill my briefcase and pockets with the latest iPhones and iPads. We were always wondering what was Pop’s latest gadget, so we could play with it and figure out if we wanted to get it.
Pop’s gadgets got him in trouble. I think of three examples. One is a trip to Vegas. Few people know about the Vegas trip, but Pop and Nana, along with a a few friends took off to Vegas. When they arrived he got a phone call. There was a deal. So he answered the phone, his cell phone, got on a plane, left his wife, and his friends, to fly back to manage the deal. Yes, Pop’s gadgets got him in trouble. I don’t know what happened when Nana got a hold of him, but I’m sure If that was me I’d probably would have been sleeping in the office for a few weeks.
Pop had triple bypass surgery when I was a young boy. When Pop woke up the first thing he grabbed was his cell phone. Now I don’t know how he got his cell phone into the middle of the ICU, but he coaxed someone to give him the cell phone. And as soon as he woke up he turned that joker on, and he sent the nurses into a frenzy because all the monitors were going crazy. At that time, the cell signals were a little bit different. And they were on the same wavelength as most of the technology inside the room. So, it got him in trouble…Nana had to take it away.
Pop … also it got him in trouble with his driving. He would be driving down the road with his knee holding the steering wheel, he’d have the newspaper in one hand, and the cell phone in the other. And that, you know, led to many rear endings. So, it got him in trouble on the road.
Pop and I share that love for gadgets. I remember when I purchased my first iPad. I was one of the first people to pre-order the first iPad released, and I couldn’t wait. I was checking FedEx all the time online to see when it was going to show up. And when I got it, I opened it up, and the first thing I wanted to do was go take it to Pop and let him play with it. Pop had this affinity for technology, I think innovators and entrepreneurs have that affinity for technology. We always want to be on the cutting edge, allowing us to do what we do best.
Pop also believed in the customer. The customer was always number one, he always took care of his customers. He listened to them, he made sure that everything was taken care of for his customers. I wrote this about him a few years ago, after I’d sat down and chatted with him, “My grandfather believed in the customer. He was not a serial entrepreneur. He was a real estate man. He did not spend all of his time focusing on the properties, he spent his time getting to know his customers. He listened and responded, he put the customer first. In his time away from the customer, he spent walking through tons of properties, memorizing each one”.
Pop had a photographic memory. It was amazing. It was amazing, when I would ride with him, he could ride through a neighborhood and he could look at a property, and he could tell you exactly the makeup of each house. And he would tell you the details about that house. He would look at a house and say, “You know, that was a three bedroom, four bath, it was renovated two years ago, but before it was renovated” … And he would just list the intricacies of the house as if, in his mind, he was walking through it with a customer. And it was amazing, his ability to visualize his passion.
When I was in graduate school, I took one summer off. And the main reason I took it off is because my Pop decided that he wanted to, once again, help a customer and climb up on the side of a Ford Explorer while riding through a piece of property, on the side of it! He fell off of while they’re driving through the field. And of course he hurt his hip and broke his arm. But he had to work. He had to do it. So, it was Bobby driving Mr. Daisy. Now I don’t know if you all know but Pop always had to have the biggest BMW Mercedes out there, because he liked to pile all the people in, but for some reason he decided to try out the new BMW 7 Series and it was like having a living room in the back seat. So I drove him around for about eight weeks. Just me and my Pop, and I learned more that summer about being an entrepreneur than you can imagine.
But there are a few funny things that came out of that summer. The first is, I call it The Godfather Story. We pulled into a house out on the lake. Pop’s sitting in the back, and he looked at me and said, “Bobby, when we pull in I want you to go check out the backyard”. I said, “Well, yes sir”. So we pulled in, and as I’m walking through the backyard scanning around, trying to memorize everything to relay it back to him, I look up; and the person that was going to sell the house and sign the listing walked up, sat in the backseat with Pop. He was smoking a cigarette and Pop was sitting there just working on his contract. And I kind of looked back up, and I felt like I was kind of the watch person for the Godfather. Watching out, wondering if anybody else in going to show up; and in this long, big old BMW, there is a deal going down in the backseat.
Pop loved chicken salad, you could see his mouth watering when I even mentioned it. So Pop looked at me one day and said, “Bobby, let’s go get some chicken salad”. So I drove him up to his favorite place, Jake’s on Highway 81. So we drive up Jake’s, pull around, and we order two chicken salad sandwiches, two Cokes, and I ordered a thing of fries, he wanted to have a few. He never ordered fries.
So, we pull up, and I said, “Pop, you got some money?”
He said, “No, did you pick it up?”
“No”. “Well, I thought Nana gave you your allowance?”
“No”. “Well, how are we going to pay for this?”
So I pull up and I say, “Ma’am can you hold on just one second. We got to pull the money together”. And she stuck her head out the window and looked at this long BMW, she looked at me driving Pop, him sitting in the back. I bet she was thinking why are these two men digging around in the floors for money in this big ole, spotless 7 Series BMW for money. I paid with it through pennies and quarters that were laying in the ground. It had been a few weeks since the inside had not been vacuumed. We must have found $10 in quarters laying around in the floorboard.
My Pop loved his work. He loved his family. He was always working a deal, showing a house, meeting someone new. As kids, it was hard to understand his commitment to his work, but now I do. I’m an entrepreneur, business owner, a gatherer. My aunt Mary Jo said it best one night while Pop was in the hospital. I was worried I was going to have to go on the road when Pop was declining fast. She said that Pop would understand because each dollar I made is not like everyone else’s dollar. It pays the mortgage. And if we had enough it goes into savings when times are slow.
He raised four hardworking children. You will not find a lazy Bridwell. My last name may be Rettew, but I am also a Bridwell. We are leaders. We do not lead to get noticed. We are problem solvers. My final time sitting and listening to him, his body was old and tired, but his mind was keen and sharp. He believed in people. He believed in good business. He believed in his family. He always wanted to know what deals I’ve signed, what new person I’d met, what new places I’d seen with my eyes. He was always thinking business. It was hard for me to look at him in his casket. See, Pop was not a quitter. He did not give up on anything.
We can say that Pop is in a better place. We can say that Pop is selling real estate again in the neighborhoods of heaven. or whatever metaphor you choose to use. It is my thought that I would rather carry the legacy of Pop, from the teachings, and the life journeys of times we had together. My Pop still is not a quitter. Even though he is no longer here, his legacy lives on. You see, entrepreneurs are always thinking three steps ahead. That’s what we call innovation.
Legacy. What legacy do you want to leave? I could write on and on about my Pop, his legacy, the way he viewed his life was so unique. I wanted so many times to extract as much information out of his brain before he left us. I wish it was a hard drive and I could plug a thumb drive in and save as much information as it could hold.
My Pop left us a legacy. He was the only son to my Granny. When he passed away, he had four great children, eght grandchildren, four of which are married, one great grandchild and two more on the way. That was his lasting legacy. After the visitation we all huddled up at Pop and Nana’s house, eating food, watching basketball. It’s almost like we were kids again. It really was. We were not dwelling on the sadness, but enjoying the fellowship. We were sharing living that legacy. We have a tremendous burden. I am not a Bridwell by name, but I’m a Bridwell by blood.
What he did not realize is one day I would name a son in his honor. Henry Joesph Rettew, and you can already tell he is a people person, and extrovert, and person that wants to be in the middle of it all. As an infant, he likes to be held and wants to be in the room with everyone else. As a twin, he likes to sleep next to his brother so he can snuggle up and feel the human touch. Pop was a people person. He was an extrovert and I think we appropriately Henry Joseph Rettew, in honor of my Pop, Joe Bridwell.
I will leave you with this, as John Maxwell, author on numerous book on leadership said, “There are two types of people in life, those who make things happen and those who wonder what happened”. Legacies aren’t just wishful thinking. They’re the result of determined doing. The legacy you leave is the life you lead. You must never know whose life you might touch. You can make a difference. Legacies aren’t just wishful thinking, they’re just determined doing. A legacy comes from the idea that everyone, regardless of rank or position, can make a difference. Legacies encompass the past, present, and future. Legacies force us to consider where we have been, where we are now, and where we are going.
A quest to leave a lasting legacy is a journey from success to significance. How do you want to be remembered? By living each day as if it matters, we offer up our own unique legacy. We make the world we inhabit a better place than we found it. We can choose to lead every day. We choose aspirations of long term significance over short term measures of success. It takes courage to lead. It takes courage to make life. Courage, like leadership, is a choice. My Pop was a leader. He led a lasting legacy of Bridwells. And these Bridwells will lead beyond living the life that Pop led every day. We are forever indebted to his legacy. It is my hope that we live on with that burden. To share that legacy with our children.