NEEDHAM, Mass. When United Blogtronics employee Chuck Blednarski passed away last weekend following a life-long struggle with Osgood Schlatter’s Disease, his co-workers were genuinely saddened despite the fact that they knew very little about the quiet, unassuming man who had serviced the company’s photocopiers and printers for seven years.
Chuck, doing what he did best.
“Chuck was always there for you if you had a paper jam in the automatic feed,” says Cheryl Nublez, an administrative assistant. “And if a printer was low on toner, he was the one who got the black stuff on his hands changing the cartridge.”
The widespread feeling of sadness that followed Blednarski’s death at the age of 35 inspired management to put together, for the first time in the company’s relatively short history, a mid-afternoon memorial service yesterday, complete with refreshments, at which his colleagues could share their memories and gain insights into the life of this very private man provided by his sisters, who celebrated customary holidays with the bachelor, and others who knew him outside the office.
“I’ll have your new toner cartridge installed in a jiffy.”
After the reading of a sentimental poem alluding to the possibility, however slight, that the firm’s workforce would be reunited en masse in heaven, the firm’s CFO Bill Norgreen reads a letter from the deceased’s sister Noreen Sailey, of Keokuk, Iowa. “A lot of people probably didn’t know it, but Chuck was a huge Barry Manilow fan.”
“Hey Chuck–I’ll see you in heaven. Or not.”
The comment generates soft laughter of appreciation at the touching tackiness of their former colleague’s taste in music, but there is also a murmur of dissent heard from the back row of folding chairs. Joe Vastiglione, a weekend guitarist in a blues-rock band called “Hellhounds on Your Trail,” stands up and, in a subdued voice but with less grace than might be expected at a celebration of the life of one recently departed, says “Sorry, I can’t feel much sympathy for somebody who liked that kind of crap” as he walks out the conference room door.
Next up is Chuck’s neighbor, Mark Hyman, who served with him on the Water & Sewer Commission in this western suburb of Boston. “Chuck always tried to see the good in people, and worked very hard to make the world a better place, but he kept his political views to himself because, as he said, he’d rather lose an argument than lose a friend.” There are nods of recognition, and more than a few sighs heard that seem to express a longing for less contentious times. “In fact,” Hyman continues, “it may surprise you to learn that Chuck was a ‘closet’ Republican, because he knew he’d lose a lot of liberal friends if he was open about his views.”
“Chuck was apparently a schmuck!”
“Did you hear that?” Marie Oswald says to her fellow accounting department employee Rainette Oliver.
“What a jerk!” Oliver says, and the two stand up with approximately four others and make their way, quietly but with a common attitude of offended huffiness, to the exits.
The last speaker is Chuck’s sister Annette Viguerie, who lives one town over in Wellesley and who will inherit his cat Sophie while auctioning off the rest of his belongings at an estate sale. “They asked me to come up with something that would surprise you about Chuck,” she says, looking down at handwritten notes. “Well, I bet you didn’t know that Chuck was an avid skeet shooter.”
“He what?” asks Jean Trace, a receptionist who is a self-described “crunchy granola” type who pays extra for foods labeled “natural.”
“He liked to shoot skeet,” her friend Norma Wylik says.
“Oh those poor little birds!” Trace says, the corners of her mouth turning down in sadness.
“I hear they’re on the endangered species list,” says Bill Orthwein, sitting a row behind the women.
“That’s enough for me,” says Trace, who stands up with several others and starts to leave.
When CFO Norgreen notices the declining numbers he moves to halt the outflow. “Aren’t you guys going to stick around for cake?” he asks plaintively.
Trace gives him a look that could freeze a strawberry and says “I’ll take mine to go.”