Kevin Hancock recently wrote a cover story for our employee newsletter, Roots & Branches, in memory of our friend and co-worker, John Kohtala, whom we lost earlier this year. We wanted to share Kevin’s message with everyone we’re connected to!
It’s Not About WHAT you Do…It’s about HOW You Do It
John Kohtala’s funeral was held at Lake Region High School because there was not a church in all of Southern Maine that could hold all the people who wanted to attend (700 people). The night before, visiting hours almost closed Route 26, as people from all over Maine stood in line to pay their respects.
What was it about John that made so many people love him so much?
I have given this question a lot of thought—and, for me, the answer has become clear. John was loved so much because in an age of tasks, busyness and deadlines, John ALWAYS had time for people. John worked hard and he got a lot done, but he believed that the most important purpose of a day on Earth was the opportunity it presented to spend time with people. John always made the person he was in front of feel special, important, and valued. John never hurried by someone on his way to another task. In a world that feels constantly short on time, John had plenty when he was with you.
As sad as John’s passing makes me, there is a great gift in his legacy for all those who will listen. Being busy is not the purpose of a day. A day is for people. It is a chance to spend time with people and truly engage and enjoy them. There should be time to share a story, a smile, a hug, a laugh. We can be competitive without rushing by the people around us. John was extremely competitive, but he always had time; he had time for people.
John and I became friends when I was 18 years old. We worked summer after summer as counselors at Hoop Camp and this forged a lifetime friendship. Each summer he would bring my mom blueberries from his family farm in Vienna. In return, my mom would give John some of her homemade whoopie pies. The first time they met, he called her “Mama Hancock.” That’s just how John was. He made everyone around him feel special. As John’s older brother, Ed, said to me, “Kevin, you will probably be one of 200 people at the funeral who thought he was John’s best friend.”
Job descriptions are important, but they will never tell the whole story of what a person con- tributes to the organizations he or she belongs to. Susan Lamb, from our Damariscotta store, actually nominated John for their store’s 2014 employee of the year recipient. Think about that for a moment. John was in Damariscotta once a week, for a couple of hours….yet, made that big of an impression.
Our company has a big heart and this is why John was such a good fit and great example for us all. I, for one, am trying every day to remember the last great lesson he offered. In a world full of tasks, a day is still just an opportunity to enjoy and appreciate the small moments with the people we encounter along the way.
Following the loss of our dear friend and co-worker, John Kohtala, Hancock Lumber wanted to do something for John’s family. Kevin Hancock discussed the idea with John’s family of setting up a ‘scholarship fund’ for his two daughters, with the purpose of the fund to support John’s daughters’ college education. Hope, his oldest daughter, is a senior at Poland Regional High School and will be going to college in the fall.
If you would like to contribute to this fund in memory of John, please send a check payable to “Kohtala Scholarship Fund” to Karyn Knights’ attention at the Hancock Lumber Administrative office:
Kohtala Scholarship Fund
C/O Karyn Knights
PO Box 299
Casco, ME 04015
Hancock Lumber has contributed $10,000 to this fund, making the combined company and employee donation over $20,000! Thank you to everyone who has participated in memory of our friend, Johnny K!