I lost another dear friend this week. Nancy Conley was my office manager for 16 memorable years. I can still remember the first time we met. When she interviewed for the job, she was completely lacking in any of the bookkeeping skills I required for the position. I hired her anyway. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. She was feisty and pushy and confident in her ability to learn everything I needed her to do. I brought in a retired bookkeeper to teach her the basics and she caught on quickly. From that point on she was unstoppable and she ingrained herself into my business like no one else could. There was nothing she wouldn’t do to help me go from good to great and I thanked God for bringing us together.
Nancy was intense and inquisitive about everything and it was all I could do to stay one step ahead of her. She enjoyed making me squirm and I enjoyed fooling her into thinking I actually knew it all. We made a great team, especially with the customers. She and I competed like quick draw specialists to see who could answer the phone first. She won more than I did and if she didn’t win she accused me of cheating by just sitting on the phone. I didn’t even try to compete with the walk-in clients. She had the front office and she was closer to the front door so it wasn’t even possible to compete for the honor of greeting clients. Most of them loved her more than me anyway, so I didn’t really care. She knew their names, their birthdays, their pets, their hobbies, their families and she made all of them feel special. I always thought I had good people skills but her’s were off the charts. She was funny, kind, compassionate and genuinely interested in everyone. I was incredibly lucky to find someone like her.
By the early 90’s, we hit a rough patch. She was going through a messy divorce and I was attempting to re-invent the company with all new technology and a massive amount of debt. The stress level was ridiculous but we finally sat down and had a heart to heart talk. I was shocked to learn about the divorce and I was deeply sorry for not being more supportive. We both agreed to try harder to be more open with our feelings and what was really in our hearts. Neither one of us knew how much our relationship would be tested in the near future. I found out I had cancer in October of 1993. More than anyone else, Nancy helped me get through that nightmare. On the days when I just wasn’t feeling that great she tried even harder to pick up the slack. Just about the time my doctor finally cleared me, Nancy found out she had breast cancer. I did all I could to be there for her but it never seemed like enough. She was so independent and such a fighter that the thought of giving in to any disease just made her mad. I wasn’t about to stand in her way when her Irish blood started boiling. I will always be grateful for sharing that experience with Nancy.
After she was over the divorce, Nancy took a trip to Ireland. It was tough without her for two whole weeks but I really wanted her to go and have fun. Vacations were all important to Nancy and she worked hard at having fun. Whenever she took a week off to go to the parks in Utah, I knew better than to expect her back on time. She would drive straight through by herself and then call me on Monday morning to tell me when she could still make it in. I just laughed and told her to get some sleep and see me tomorrow. That one extra day always seemed to be enough to get her rested up from her marathon vacations.
By the end of the 90’s, we were attempting to re-invent the company again with an emphasis on multi-media and Nancy insisted on learning this new stuff. She and Kevin Cullen worked tirelessly to learn A/V editing and digital photography. The work they produced was superior in every way but we were kind of ahead of the market because high speed internet was still too expensive. As the printing side of the business declined rapidly we just didn’t have enough time to get the next big thing off the ground. Kevin and Nancy were the last two employees to go, when I finally closed in December of 2003. By that time it was pretty obvious that they had become very close and I was happy for both of them. They were good for each other.
After we closed down, I tried to stay in touch but that’s always difficult. Sixteen of the best years of my life were spent with Nancy Conley and then it was over. She took it as well as could be expected because she knew it was coming but I’m sure it hurt. It hurt me too. Losing a business is more than just closing the doors. It’s the loss of relationships that are the most devastating. I only saw Nancy a few times these last ten years and now I’ll never have that chance again. That’s going to hurt for a long time now.
After I read the obituary Nancy wrote, I felt a lot better about us. She reminded me that life is short and we only get one chance. We had 16 amazing years together and for that I will always be grateful. She was one in a million and I was blessed to have her in my life. Her smile, her laugh, her wicked sense of humor and her work ethic were all part of her life’s work. She got more out of life than almost anyone I know and I’m sure she had no regrets. Right now she’s probably pestering God Himself to make some improvements around Heaven. He may be almighty but I’ll bet Nancy will make him prove it. Maybe, by the time I get there she will have the place whipped into shape and then we can just sit around and laugh about all the crazy things we went through together. May God bless you Nancy, you are the best.
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