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Happy Birddog Day, Charlie Hounchell

This week, we once again celebrated Charlie Hounchell for the amazing person he was and the inspiration he continues to be in our lives.  Charlie’s 54th birthday was on Tuesday June 11, 2013.

A great deal has been written about Charlie since his passing on February 17, 2013, and for months now, I have been meaning to try to put into words what Charlie meant to me as a person. However, the overwhelming task of trying to reduce Charlie’s impact on me to writing has prevented me from doing so thus far.  Notwithstanding, it feels appropriate to tackle that challenge on his birthday.

In reality, I did not know Charlie for all that long.  However, that never stopped me from feeling like I had known Charlie all of my life.  I once heard a person say that Charlie didn’t know any strangers; everyone was his friend.  I couldn’t agree more.  Making people feel welcome was Charlie’s gift, and it made him unforgettable to all who had the privilege of knowing him.

I first met Charlie in January, 2012, when he invited me to Tampa to meet with him to discuss the potential of working together.  After reading about Charlie online, I jumped at the opportunity, and knew I could learn much from him.  I was intrigued by the fact that Charlie owned several businesses and was more than just a lawyer.  I will never forget meeting with Charlie for the first time, and many parts of that discussion will remain with me throughout my career.  One thing Charlie said to me that day stands out in particular.  Charlie told me that being a lawyer was a fantastic career; it opened so many doors, however, it is not the “end all, be all” and there are so many other ways to put a legal education to use beyond just practicing law.  This was Charlie’s basis for tying law, real estate, and a plethora of other businesses together.  I think about those words almost daily, and it reinforces what we do here at the office every day.

After first meeting with Charlie, it took a frustrating 4 months of back and forth discussions before we decided to “pull the trigger” and work together.  However, I am so thankful that we kept the lines of communication open because it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  The opportunity to work with Charlie quite simply changed my life.  Frankly, I feel badly for anyone in this world who never gets the opportunity to work for someone like Charlie.  He refused to let me call him my boss, always deferring to colleague or partner instead.  Charlie constantly reinforced my hard work and achievements and most importantly was always quick to say thank you for my efforts.  It was a rewarding experience that not only made working together enjoyable, but also inspired me to work harder for him.

Whether Charlie meant to be or not, he was also an amazing mentor.  He took me under his wing and got me involved in many of the organizations that he was so deeply rooted in.  Always encouraging others to get involved as much as possible, Charlie challenged me to make Tampa Bay’s 30 under 30 list.  It is a challenge that I cautiously accepted, but intend to do my best to achieve.  In the small amount of time that I knew Charlie he opened so many doors for me, and I am so grateful for those opportunities.  But it was not just me that Charlie opened so many doors for.  Everywhere I go, I hear the familiar tale of how Charlie helped others get involved in the community, obtain a new job, or just network with those that are similarly situated.  By trade, Charlie was a real estate agent and lawyer, but he was truly a wizard at networking.  After Charlie passed away, Stephen and I were kidding around about the wording of a tribute for Charlie.  I told Stephen that the particular verbiage chosen made Charlie sound like a magician.  Stephen’s response to me was that Charlie was a magician; Charlie The Great.

As we all push forward in the wake of Charlie’s passing I have tried to hold onto as many lessons that Charlie taught me as I can. Trying to fill Charlie’s shoes at the office is an impossibly large role that only further impresses upon me how big of a person Charlie really was.  The conversations that I have had with people since Charlie’s passing continue to baffle me.  The sheer number of lives that he impacted is staggering and the lessons he imparted upon others are held so closely by all.

I still have trouble accepting the fact that Charlie is gone, but I am so happy for the memories and things that Charlie taught me.  The balance that Charlie was able to strike in his life is one that should be enviable to all.  Charlie was successful in business, but more importantly he was successful in his personal life.  Charlie measured success the correct way, by the relationships he formed and the amount of lives he touched.

So, if you are like me, be very thankful for the opportunity to have known Charlie, even if for just a short period of time. Cherish the times he made you laugh and the life lessons he imparted upon you; those memories will last a lifetime.  I am so happy to be able to say that the last time I saw Charlie I shook his hand; it was the perfect goodbye.

Cheers to you, Charlie, on your 54th Birddog day.

~Andrew Hoek~