Visit from Baldeo etc
By Charlie Hodge
Most of the time I become gruff when one of my cats jumps up on a counter and knocks something off. This morning is not one of those.
When Chaos the cat accidently knocked a book to the floor he actually reintroduced me to a wise, witty writer and all round incredible human being, Rev. Albert Baldeo.
Baldeo’s name should not be strange to long time Kelowna residents, especially readers of the Capital News. For a number of years Baldeo wrote a column for the paper before he died, using his space wisely (unlike some ink-stained wretches) and often made succinct or profound points with his pen. He routinely took full advantage of his tremendous wit and humour in his columns.
Baldeo, you see, lived his words and truly practiced what he preached. He was an inspiration and yet also a calming influence. His humour and sincerity set a soul at ease.
After chatting with a man of such kindness and gentleness one walked away with a renewed sense of dignity and value. Few people have learned the ability to share themselves such as Albert Baldeo.
Holding his book in my hands I was quietly reminded what a gem Baldeo was and how his actions perfectly personified what traits one should look for when defining real ‘men’.
Albert was named winner of Kelowna’s Fred Macklin Man of the Year Award in 1982 for his volunteer work. With no intent on his part, by winning Baldeo set a bench mark that is pretty hard to meet.
A few years after Albert won I was honoured (and shocked) to be named as one of three finalist nominees for the same Man of the Year Award. It was a wonderful evening filled with fancy food and fine wine at the lush Grand Okanagan Resort. (For a Canadian writer – anytime you get free food it’s a wonderful night)
Not surprising, former mayor Walter Gray was named the Man of the Year over myself and Dr. Bill Nelems. While I was honestly thrilled to simply receive the nomination I will not lie and pretend there was not a split second sting of disappointment at playing ‘bridesmaid’. It lasted about 10 seconds and disappeared by the time Walter was saying ‘thank you’ into the microphone.
Teresa and I hung around the Grand that night until they practically kicked us out, and squeezed as much fun out of the evening as we had energy for.
Then life returned to normal.
Two days later Rev. Baldeo phoned and congratulated me on my nomination. His kind words and sincere gesture surprised me nearly as much as the original nomination news.
It was not until Baldeo had hung up that it dawned on me that my telephone had not rung once since the awards.
I sat back and thought about that for a minute and then the grin crossed my face.
It dawned on me that the lack of calls did not mean no one cared about me or the award – it was that people either figured I knew how they felt or they simply had no idea what to say. After all it seems somewhat absurd to say, ”Gee, sorry you never won an award for being a neat person – you are only a runner up neat person.”
Win or lose it was an honour.
However Albert called which is the sort of action that set Baldeo apart from most of us.
Baldeo has spent his life charting uncomfortable or rough waters, helping people at critical times, or even simply awkward times.
Baldeo had rarely been afraid of showing his feelings in an effort to help others with their feelings. He had learned the fine art of putting others first without putting himself second.
Baldeo was free of concerns about what others thought or necessarily did. He was guided by an unbridled spirit of positive energy and a determination to make every day a wonderful day. A few days after the phone call a copy of Baldeo’s book of columns arrived in the mail. I read it from front to back in two nights and loved every inch of it. It was inscribed, “In recognition as a nominee for Man of the Year from Albert Baldeo, Man of the Year for 1982.”
Accurate as that tag may be Albert Baldeo was much more than that. He was a marvelous person who learned to live every day with a lust for life and a love for all.
Baldeo was man of the year every day of his life.