Last Tuesday, when I dropped him off at the front door of his apartment building, just a couple of blocks from where I live, I said good-bye for the last time to Mike Levine.
No, Mike isn’t dying. He’s moving to Israel to be near his daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and even though he and Sybil have made it clear they will welcome visitors, because of my aversion to travel it’s highly unlikely that I will ever see Mike again.
Mike and I have been close friends for almost fifty years. We met in the mid-60s when we were both teaching the Dale Carnegie Course; and since 1966, except when I’m in PEI during the summer, he, another Dale Carnegie instructor by the name of Ken Linn and I have been having lunch once a month. Ken and I are chartered accountants, Mike is a lawyer who spent most of his career in the real estate field, and we all plied our trades in the financial district of downtown Toronto.
It’s an understatement to say that the lunches were always lively. There was never a formal agenda, but we always brought each other up to date on our families, analyzed the stock market, pondered the economy, shared the newest jokes, discussed the latest public scandals, dissected current politics and politicians, opined on the probable fates of the Leafs, Blue Jays and Raptors, and often reminisced about our Dale Carnegie days. Over the years there’ve been lots of disagreements but no recriminations.
Mike is a living, breathing personification of Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People. I’ve never once heard him utter an oath, he always made other people feel important, and the closest he ever comes to criticizing anyone is to express disappointment in their decisions or behavior.
Two other Dale Carnegie instructors, Al Addie and Steve Cornforth, eventually joined our luncheon group, but unfortunately both succumbed to cancer at an early age. A couple of years ago, another former Dale Carnegie instructor, Tom Roberts, became a member.
For about thirty years or so, one of Mike’s best friends (and, coincidentally, a former partner and long-time friend of mine), Stephen Freedhoff, has been a member of the group, even though he was never a Dale Carnegie instructor, which is an indication of the high regard we have for him.
After we all retired, we named our group the Romeos, which stands for “retired old men eating out.”
Ken, Stephen, Tom and I will carry on; but it won’t be the same without Mike.
Oh, how we will miss him!