Karen writes about life as a Quiltmaker in Austin, Texas; surviving in an empty nest, marriage, cooking, gardening and (did I say?) Quilting...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Thank you Russ...and Good Travels

Where to start when you learn of the passing of an (almost) lifelong friend? I'm not sure exactly when I met Russ Barnes, but fate threw us together in Austin, Texas, as Supervisor (Russ) and Assistant (me) in the early '80's (1981 I'm thinking... but who's counting anymore!) Russ was hired as Marketing Director, and I as Marketing Manager of America Cable and Telecommunications (ATC) of Austin, Texas. He recently from Jacksonville, and I from a similar job in Orlando. Together, were were put together as a team. Russ with a bit more experience, and me as a young gal in what was still very much a man's game. Both of us were ready to take on the world and were excited to be involved in what was (at the time) one of the country (and worlds!) largest cable television systems - only Manhattan was larger...!

Russ mentored me, and taught me the ropes of the business world (my education was really in the fine arts, with experience from a graphic arts perspective... I was "wingin'" it, and learning by doing. We became fast friends. From presentations to convince the new "boys from Time Inc." that the new name of the Austin Cable company could NOT be "American Cable TV of Austin" (It was named Austin Cablevision as we proposed - after all, AUSTIN is not really "American".... it IS TEXAS!).... to opening the very first "Cable Store" in a new major mall in Austin, our projects were always BIG, and ever successful. Both of us went on to successful careers in cable and telecom, though Russ continued to try to steer back to his first love - writing. I stayed in the business for over 25 years...

 During those early years in Austin, Russ was married, and I had a partner, as we say today, (or person of the opposite sex living together as it was fashionable to say at that time) - Joe Heidelmeier. But Russ and I had a special relationship - one that I think few men and women ever have outside of marriage or a sexual relationship...he taught me many things about live, and especially how important it is to ENJOY THE JOURNEY....I still use what I learned from Russ almost every day...both in business and in life!

When Joe and I tied the knot, Russ and his wife Susan stood up with us along with my parents.

When my son John was born in 1987, Russ wrote a poem - a real, honest to goodness poem in celebration of his birth.  It hangs on my wall in my sewing studio today. Continued inspiration from one who always inspired. Whether it was inspiring creativity, or just giving worldly advice for work or relationships. Russ always gave me help, a ready ear, and ideas, IDEAS, to move my thinking forward, always in a creative way.

Long after that brief, 2 and a half years in Austin working together, we continued our relationship... always as good friends... keeping up with each other's successes and difficulties in business and in life. In recent years, when my Son took a trip with his High School Chorale to perform at the National Cathedral, Russ again stood for us, attending the concert, and walking with John afterward in the Cathedral garden, when we were not able to attend the event in Washington.

We were blessed to have Russ spend some time in Austin with us again a year ago or so - good for all of us, as he was able to again visit the hill country that he had also grown to love. Some writings of his visit there can be found at his blog:  Travel With a Twist. Russ even did a day trip to my favorite annual event (a sort of hage to Mecca for me, a quilter), the Houston International Quilt Festival in 2010.

I probably could come up with many anecdotes about all the fun we had working together -  there is just too much, but I will honor him by sharing his poem, written upon the birth of my son, John, Heidelmeier, born August 23, 1987. To my knowledge, it has never been published, but I hope you will enjoy it as I have, and as I will continue too... a little piece of Russ of my own to share and keep.
Wherever you are Russ, thank you... you enriched my life immeasurably, and will ever be missed.



Among the central Texas hills of Oak,
Caliche, Juniper, and springs that soak
The ancient ruins of arrowheads; Now add
All ranches: Goldthwaite down to Goliad,
Along the barrier islands swept with brine,
The tall Palmetto, sand, and Southern Pine,
By bays and channels off of Melbourne, Cape,
And Lauderdale where folks are all ship shape
For netting Grouper, Mullet, and Blue Gill,
In towns like Richmond, Vegas, Chapel Hill,
Where dishes zap and feeder-cable sings'
In all these spots, the mega-message rings,
"Now Jupiter is juxtaposed with Mars,
An hombre named John Gray now roams the scene
Incarnate here in Austin new and clean
By Karen and by Joe. Now look out towns,
This John Gray Heidelmeier will make his rounds."

Russ Barnes
August 23, 1987