family lost their husband and dad. I lost a tremendous friend and mentor.
Mac Baldrige, the former U.S. secretary of commerce, Connecticut industrialist and silent friend and donor to many, died in on July 25, 1987. He was doing what he was passionate about – roping in a rodeo competition. The clichés flew: he died with his boots on, died doing what he loved, etc. Cliché or not, it all was true.
Mac brought me to Washington to work for him when he joined President Reagan’s cabinet. I didn’t know it at the time, but that move changed my life. I think of him literally every day and think of things he taught me almost as often. Many of the friends I made at the
Commerce Department are still close friends today. Some of the integrity I hope have today is thanks to Mac Baldrige.
When Mac died there were memorials for him in Washington and Connecticut. I knew a lot about him, but learned so
much more by listening to the heart felt eulogies. One woman in Waterbury, Conn., my hometown and where Mac’s company, Scovill Inc., was headquartered, told the story of one cold winter when the furnace in her storefront community center died. She didn’t know what to do because so many in the neighborhood depended on the services her non-profit offered. She called Mac. He gave her $10,000 on one condition – she didn’t tell anyone it came from him. I
subsequently learned that was just one example of his generosity and caring for his fellow human beings. He put that condition on many of his kind contributions.
My late father once said to me, “Baldrige is like a father to you.” I told my dad, “I only have one father.” But Mac was someone I looked up to (still do), learned from (still do) and cared deeply about (always will). I’m still friendly with his daughters, who he would be so proud of today –strong women, smart women, lovely women, and his widow, Midge – if you don’t’ know her, think Katharine Hepburn’s elegance, presence, voice and candor, that’s her but
with that “Midge angle.”
In my office I keep a picture of Baldrige and President Reagan. They are shot from the back walking toward Marine One, the president's helicopter. You don’t see their faces. Reagan is in his English riding gear, Baldrige in his jeans, cowboy hat and boots and slightly stooped strut. If you didn’t know who they were, it’s a magnificent picture of contrasts. When you know who they are, it takes on whole other layer of fascination.
I miss him. But he lives on in my memory and, I hope, in how I live my life.