This is normally a spot where I talk about some kind of news in sports, or politics, something along those lines. But today is no normal day. Today would have been my father Mike Angell's 49th birthday.
At 14, you don't expect to lose your father, and you really don't know what you have until you lose that relationship. But death is not the end of the relationship. Since his passing, my father has given to me in many ways. One of the most obvious is the re-opening of his side of the family. Due to personality conflicts, I grew up having seen my aunts and uncles on my father's side once, maybe twice in 14 years. One aunt lived in the next county, and I had never seen her. That changed once my father was no longer around. I've often wondered if giving that gift to make our family complete was the reason for that.
It wouldn't shock me if that was the case. Mike wasn't someone who saw his own successes as being more important than those he cared about. His sports teams certainly displayed that. As a fan of the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Browns, he saw the Browns win an NFL title in 1964, then never saw Cleveland reach a Super Bowl in 43 years of life. In the last 13 years, two of his sons (obviously not me) have a combined four Super Bowl titles. He never saw his Indians win a World Series. I have two titles from my Blue Jays.
But that wasn't what mattered most to him. He cared most about spending as much time as he could with those that mattered to him. That was the reason for the family firewood business. Although we hated having to split wood all day long, (as a result, I hate snow to this day) we did it because he wanted to spend as much time with his family as possible. He had a normal job for years, one where his bosses enjoyed having him. But that cut into his time with the family, so he decided to build his firewood business from something he did on the side into a way of life.
From making deliveries to his friends and neighbors, he expanded to include restaurants throughout the Washington D.C. and Baltimore metro areas. He added accounts that he knew he couldn't get to frequently without spending much of his time on the road, then added partners local to those areas to share the revenue with. He understood his business and was determined. An example can be found in California Pizza Kitchen. When he first started to add restaurants by taking a contract with The Italian Oven, he had his eyes set on the more famous CPK chain from the start. About a year after adding The Italian Oven, he had not only taken on barbecue chain Red River, but had nine California Pizza Kitchens receiving firewood from him once a week. From there, the business expanded to include Carrabba's, Macaroni Grill, Famous Dave's barbecue and Red Hot and Blue, plus other smaller places. For the Red Hot and Blue account, he had things figured out so well that he had a free order of potato salad written into his contract every time he made a delivery to any of his RH&B restaurants. (Later, I had a free peanut butter pie written into my contract. Then it was discontinued. I wasn't as good at this as he was.)
But although I might not be as good at that, I think I've got the determination, and that's what's led me to the Trentonian. I know he had something to do with that, and I know that I'm making him proud by doing what I'm doing. One thing Mike knew how to do was push for talent. From the beginning, he was on me to do well in class because he thought I do anything I wanted if I worked hard enough. Now I am doing what I love. He pushed Simon just as hard in baseball, and Simon was the second-best player in the district his senior year.
Everything I do, I do to honor him. I'm proud to be his son and grateful for all I've received because of him.
My time is up. You've all been great. In honor of Mike, enjoy Merle Haggard.