By: Sam Northrop
Hello everyone, my name is Sam Northrop and I manage the Clifton Park store for Hudson River Tractor. It was here where I first met Lee, and where I have spent almost every day with him over the last 9 years. Lee not only helped develop me in to the businessman I am today, but the father and the friend I am today also.
When I came to Clifton Park, I was as green as green could be when it came to managing a store or selling small residential equipment. See, I came from our Schaghticoke store, where I was an on-road agricultural equipment salesman. My days consisted of pricing and talking about larger farm machinery, so rarely did I have the time or desire to deal with the smaller stuff. My first Spring at Clifton Park could best be described as a whirlwind. I was in way over my head, and I think Lee knew it. He helped me make it through that busy season successfully, and every busy season after that. He was a sound board for me and someone I could look to for answers. Whether it was related to a customer purchase or an employee issue, Lee was always there to offer advice and a level-headed opinion, which evened out my often times cynical and emotional response.
His personality is really what made him successful not only in business, but in life as well. He was kind, quiet, and humble. He rarely had a bad thing to say about anyone and was usually one of the first people to offer his help or assistance whenever a fellow employee was in need. He was more than a coworker; he was family. And in our family unit, he was the patriarch, lovingly referred to as “Grandpa Lee” by some employees. He would buy donuts every Saturday for the guys in the back, and once told me that the only reason he continued to do so was because he made the mistake years ago of buying them and now they expected it. And, if it wasn’t donuts, he was bringing in bowls of candy leftover from Halloween or other various treats he had laying around the house. I often wondered if he did that just to butter up the service guys. If that was the case, it worked.
Lee was also lovingly stubborn, refusing to ask for help when he needed it. He didn’t want to impose on anyone or cause more work for them, which is why I think he didn’t ask. Humorously enough, the only times he would every get in to a confrontation with anyone, was usually with Harvey (our service manager) over when something needed to be set up or delivered. He would walk in to Harvey’s office, ask which day worked best for delivery, and then once agreed upon would tell the customer a completely different day. Personally, I think that he did this on purpose just to get a rise out of Harvey.
There are two things that I will always remember about Lee aside from his love of onion rings and daily lunches at Snyder’s Diner. One, was the coffee mug he used. Now, I know some of you already know where I am going with this, but for those who don’t, Lee had a particular coffee mug he used every day for his morning cup of coffee. On the surface, that doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary, but what was strange, was the fact that in 9 years I don’t know if I ever saw him wash it…not once. Not only that, but he is the only person I have ever met who could make a half a cup of coffee last him all day when I have a hard time making 16 ounces last me 30 minutes.
The second is actually a story that happened before Hudson River Tractor had taken over at Clifton Park, so I can only go by the folklore that has surrounded its story since. From what I was told, it was a sunny spring day, and Lee was doing what he did best, showing a young couple one of the many lawnmowers he had to sell. The lawnmower was sitting on the loading dock and Lee was going over operation with them like he always did. During the process, Lee hopped on the seat to show them something and ended up driving the tractor right off the edge of the loading dock. The customers, in shock, just stood there trying to help in whatever way they could. Bloody, and with a bit of a bruised ego, Lee got up and continued his sales process until they eventually bought the machine (although I don’t think it was that EXACT machine). The only thing he said to anyone after the fact was that the mower was probably going to need a new hood.
Lee was also one of the hardest working individuals I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Over the past few years, I would often hint to him that he could start taking more time off. I actually had that exact conversation with him a week ago, telling him that if he wanted to take a few days off during the week that we would be fine. He would smile, say ok, but never do it. He enjoyed coming to work and said that if he didn’t come to work, he would be bored at home, sitting in his recliner. He was the walking example of someone who really loved what he did.
I will dearly miss seeing him every day. As I have said before, he was truly more family than he was co-worker. He had one of the most genuine smiles of anyone I have ever met and could be brutally honest with you exactly when you needed it. He cared about others, and most importantly me. He would always offer to work so that I could spend time with my two young children. He wanted me to be successful, and I can never repay the debt I owe him and his family. He really was a special individual, and I cared for him profoundly.
To close, all I will say is that I don’t know if God is a John Deere man or not, but I know that if he isn’t, Lee will change that soon.