As a stamp dealer, Iíve had lots of influences in my lifetime. One of those influences was taken away from me on March 15th.

My father became ill after Christmas and went into the hospital on Jan 26th. He wasnít eating right. He was very weak and he had a persistent cough. Fluid was building up in his body. Growing up, my father never went to the doctor or the hospital. When he asked to go to the hospital in January, I knew something was seriously wrong.

His heart was very weak. He had two leaky heart valves and congestive heart failure. The doctors tried different treatments, but his body didnít respond very well. He spent 7 weeks in the hospital, mostly in the Intensive Care Unit.

Despite small improvements here and there, he progressively grew worse as time went on. His heart was too weak and he finally passed away in the early morning hours of March 15th. Heís back with my mom who passed away just over 17 years ago.

Mom and dad were the ones who got me started in stamps. It was Christmas 1976. One of their gifts to me was the 1975 USPS Commemorative Mint Set. And I got a red H.E. Harris Traveler stamp album (who didnít have an H.E. Harris album in those days?) along with a packet of hinges and a small mixture of worldwide stamps in one of Harrisí famous orange cloth bags. I was hooked. Other than a few years lapse for college, Iíve been collecting stamps ever since. I still collect today.

Mom and dad didnít collect stamps. However, they taught me things that I use today in the stamp business. One of momís favorite sayings (Iím sure she borrowed it from someone else): ďHard work never killed anyone.Ē Thatís why I work hard at everything I do, including the stamps. I give 110%. I am not perfect. I make a few mistakes. They always taught me to learn from my mistakes.

Mom and dad operated a TV business in the 1970s and 1980s. Thatís when you still repaired TVs instead of throwing them away. They struggled to keep the business going and to be successful. They took phone calls all hours of the day and night. We didnít have caller ID back then. You answered the phone because you didnít know if it was a customer for the TV business or someone else calling.

They taught me respect. Always refer to someone as Mister or Misses. I do that today. Some of my customers say, ďOh, please call me by my first name.Ē Sometimes I forget and still use the formal title. Old habits are hard to break when theyíve been drilled into your head for 40+ years.

They believed that the customer was always right and that you should go the extra mile to keep them happy when there is a problem. I believe that too. Customers were mom and dadís life blood for the TV business. Customers are important to me too. Without customers, Iíd be out of business.

I rushed to get the Spring 2011 pricelist together and mailed on March 1st while visiting and taking care of dad in the hospital. Some of you experienced small delays as I tried to keep up with the stamp business while taking care of things with dad. I hope I didnít inconvenience anyone too much.

Mom and dad are both gone now. I miss them. But I will always remember them starting me into stamps. I still apply the work ethic they instilled in me all of these years. Itís part of who I am and Iím thankful that I had wonderful parents to learn from. Someday, I hope to instill those same principles in my two daughters.