March 2010 – In Memorium – Brent Willard Carlson
Judge Arthur M. Monty Ahalt (Ret.)
In 1961 I met Brent Carlson while a student at the University of Maryland when we both pledged at the SAE fraternity. He was a freshman and I was a sophomore. I knew that a friendship was likely in store as my then girl friend, now wife, Sandy, said after meeting him at a social – “I really liked that red head.”. I should have known then that he would become one of my best friends. We both were married shortly after that and coincidentally, moved into apartments right across the street from each other. Brent was a freshman majoring in agricultural economics and I was a sophomore in agriculture economics. Brent was determined to graduate with me – Paige was on her way and he was a man in a hurry to take over the world. Somehow he convinced the dean to take night courses
– something that was never allowed – 24 credit hours a
semester. We would take many of the same courses and by watching each others lights across the street, we would see who stayed up the latest studying. I would claim that he just left the light on and was sleeping – but I am sure he was really burning the midnight oil. He reached his goal and we both graduated in 1964. He graduated in 3 years. He took a job with Ford and I went to law school at American University. We continued our friendship, meeting every Friday for lunch at Maggie’s restaurant on Wisconsin Ave, in Washington DC.
Ford was just several blocks away and American several
more. Life was very busy for both of us , young families, I worked a full time night job in addition to law school and Brent was outworking everyone at Ford. There just wasn’t time to get our families together so we started a tradition of meeting at each others house on New Years day – a tradition that continued until Wendy passed away.
The measure of a man is his character and the character traits and gifts that he was endowed with by his creator. I am sure every one might identify different ones for Brent – but here are my top five –
1. Persistent and Zealous
Lou Holtz is fond of quoting Aseop who penned the phrase – “when all is said and done – more is said than done” – with Brent it was always – more done than said. Brent was a man of few words but many actions. He moved at “warp” speed long before the term was made famous by Star Wars. Wendy, his wife, often was reining Brent in from going too fast. My son Kevin described this characteristic as “a spontaneity that made Brent fun to be around and lifted up everyone around him”. He remembered one instance on New Years’ Day when Brent tackled, to the surprise of everyone, Wendy on the couch – “stop it Brent” Wendy intoned and we all shared a hearty laughed.
In all that Brent did a pattern could be seen –
1. He always had a vision
2. There always was a strategy – Brent was a very
strategic thinking individual. He would figure out a
method to win.
3. Enthusiasm – if you look that word up in Webster, you
might be surprised to learn that it is the power of the
Spirit of God
4. And work work work – no one out worked Brent. He
was the first in the office and the last to leave in the
evening.And that was after arising at 4 AM , running his
5-10 miles, mucking out Wendy’s stalls, feeding the
horses and still being the first one to arrive at work.
Brent had a keen desire to compete. He wanted to be first.
And he knew that success was never about the individual. So at Xerox Brent was known as one of the most organized leaders, always enthusiastic, always committed to the success of everyone else. He was a great team leader.Never did he have a negative thought or word. He once told his friend, Curt Tyrrell, that the first thing you need to do every year is to figure out the compensation plan – because management was always trying to change things in their favor.
Very early in his career – when Xerox had a push to put coin operated copy machines in retail stores – Brent went out and sold machines to every Sears and Roebuck store in the nation establishing a national account. Never mind that it broke all of the Xerox sales territory rules and that he had to fight for a very well deserved and large commission. But he did it and he became the Xerox salesman of the year. Because of his many admirable character traits, his engaging personality traits and his winning ways, Sandy and I were privileged to name our 2nd son, Brent after our friend Brent Carlson. It was interesting when our Brent was also born with red hair and has developed many of those same winning ways.
I had the privilege of meeting with Brent many times over the last 7 or so years and observed how all of these many traits helped him deal with his constantly deteriorating physical condition. And in our discussions it was clear that he had developed a deeper connection with his God.
Brent knew Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior and was looking forward to spending eternity with Him. As Paul told Timothy in the the Scriptures. – ” I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” And so Brent has fought the good fight and finished the race. Brent ,while
we will meet again, we all will miss your enduring qualities and winning ways.