Community leadership comes in many forms.
Sure, elected officials provide leadership, but successful communities need leaders in other arenas as well, including from the business world.
Albany has been blessed with a number of these leaders, people who have not just built successful businesses, but who also felt the need to give back to the community in a number of ways. But it still stings to lose these folks, and we've lost two in the last couple of months.
Thomas Reidar AAsum Jr., who worked with his brother and father to build the AAsum Autumn Chapel Funeral Home in Albany in the 1960s, died on Feb. 7. He was 90. And Rick Rebel, who owned the Albany Agency of Insurance for 25 years, died of lung cancer on Dec. 30. He was 66.
In addition to their work keeping their businesses running, both of these men got deeply involved in the community.
It didn't take AAsum long to get involved: He was voted Albany's First Junior Citizen in 1964 and served as president of both the Albany Chamber of Commerce and the civic ambassador group, the Albany Woodpeckers. His service to Albany includes a four-year term on the Albany School Board, during a time which saw the construction of three new elementary schools. His service went beyond Albany's borders: He served as the president of the Oregon Funeral Directors Association in 1977 and worked with that organization for many years.
Here's a story about AAsum that pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the man: During his time at the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science, to help ends meet, he would pick up doughnuts and coffee on the way into the city and sell them to his classmates.
By the time he had settled in Albany, he continued with the doughnut runs — but this time, the treats were on him, as he delivered the goodies to office workers and mechanics throughout the city.
As for Rebel, consider this story: When Janet Steele, president of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, first met Rebel when she started working at the chamber in 1995, Rebel was introduced to her as "Mr. Albany."
It wasn't really an exaggeration.
In addition to a long and distinguished career in which he gained renown for his knowledge of the insurance industry, he was named Albany's Junior First Citizen in 1990, was president of Albany Rotary Club in 1993, served on the United Way and YMCA boards, was the health care liaison for the Albany Chamber of Commerce Legislative Affairs committee, served on the Evergreen Hospice board, the Greater Albany Public Schools Foundation board and was an agent advisory board member for numerous health care providers.
His service work extended beyond Albany's borders: He was instrumental in raising money to buy simulator race cars to help children at Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel in Portland. The simulators help children undergoing cancer treatments deal with radiation or chemotherapy. Although he died before the cars could be unveiled on Jan. 18, fellow project supporters named them the “Rebel Racers” in his honor.
Both AAsum and Rebel leave big shoes to fill. And it can be a little overwhelming to consider how those of us left behind can try those shoes on for size.
But our hunch is that both men would offer this advice to someone considering deepening their involvement in the community: You don't have to do it all. But find the one thing, the one cause, that really engages you that speaks to your soul. If you find that one thing, the time will follow.
If you multiply that one thing by the efforts of thousands of like-minded citizens, the result can transform a community.
Maybe most of us won't be able to match the records of service provided by Rick Rebel and Tom AAsum. But we can do that one thing that ignites our passion and helps the community. So here's the question: What's your one thing? (mm)