Paying Tribute to a Man You’d Recognize


Paying Tribute to a Man You’d Recognize

My father is dying. He has stage-four dementia and hospice has been called in to help my brave mother manage his final days with us. 

However, I’m not going to dwell on the awful aspects of his final years. Rather, I hope you’ll allow me to share a bit about Gene Wolff and the wonderful lessons he’s passed on to me – some of which he’s not even aware of. I debated if this was the right forum, but the more I thought about it, the more convinced I was that those who know me, and Parker Technology, know my father – in essence. 

All of his best characteristics show up in me, and our work, every day.

Like nearly every person I’ve met during my five years in the parking industry, my father never met a stranger. 

He could strike up and hold a conversation with anyone, and if he were in parking, you would leave him saying what I say all the time: “that was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met!”

My dad came to the United States at 13 years old, as an immigrant. His family was German, but they actually built their life on a farm in Poland. 

During World War II, Germany invaded Poland, and forced my grandfather to serve, battling against the Russians. He was not able to communicate with my grandmother, or their children, for two years. 

Opa was captured by the Russians, and held in a concentration camp, before miraculously being liberated, and sent home at the end of the war.

When he returned, he, my grandmother, and their five children, made passage to the United States. 

When he arrived in California, he knew no English. I can’t imagine. The family eventually made their way to Northern Indiana, where my dad met my mom. 

They married young and moved to Michigan where my dad’s brother-in-law was able to get him a job.

Like his father, my dad could fix anything. It was a running joke that if you wanted something fixed, all you needed to do was start working and call dad for help. 

He’d jump in, take over and have the issue fixed in no time. 

I employed this tactic many times during the Summer of 1984, when I restored my 1969 Camaro. 

What I now appreciate is, like my dad, many of our parking colleagues are remarkably resourceful. 

I didn’t appreciate it as much at the time, but I remember how the owner of the company my father worked for would move my dad around to different departments in the business. 

You see, when there was a problem to be fixed at work, Gene was the guy to figure it out and get it running smoothly again. My father’s generation just knew how to fix things, and I’m sad to say I’ve done a really lousy job of passing that ability on to my kids.

My dad and I often had conversations about managing people. He had a knack for it, and he always sought to bring out the best in people. It’s not hard to figure out where I get that deep desire to help people find their strengths and be at their best on the jobs. Thanks, Dad!  

Finally, this last part is going to be the hardest. It’s true, I’ve said “thank you” to him and mom lots of times for sacrificing on my behalf. 

My parents never went to college, but they sent all four of us. Now that both of my children are in school, I see the commitment and financial sacrifice it took. 

What I never told him is how much I appreciate that he enabled me to stand on his shoulders to create a dramatically better life for me and my family. 

I have gone further and done more things than my parents, by far, because of their selflessness. 

I think a lot about standing on his shoulders and am sorry that I couldn’t express that to him directly. 

The solace I take is that he planted that seed deep inside my soul, and not only have I made it my mission to do that for my children, but I have also made a concerted effort to do that for everyone that works at our company – and anyone I meet personally or professionally. It will be his legacy, and I hope to share that with him when we meet again. 

Gene wasn’t a parking guy, but he would have fit right in! How do I know that? Just look at me! 

Thank you for reading and allowing me to honor my father in these pages. Nothing more to do for him but to keep going.

Article contributed by:
Brian Wolff
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