I remember the first time I walked into Foothills County council chambers to cover a meeting. I felt like a deer in headlights and tried to hide my nerves as best I could, finding the media table and taking a seat.
In a matter of seconds, Larry Spilak approached and introduced himself and welcomed me to council chambers. His smile was warm and genuine, and relaxed the jitters I'd felt just moments before. He had that way with people.
Over the next five years, Larry would always stop by the table to greet me as he walked in, or stop to chat on his way out when council adjourned for lunch. We got to know one another personally, sharing stories of our families. When I was about five or six months pregnant with Jordan, he sat next to me for a good five minutes one morning. The conversation started with, "Number five. I don't know how you do it," and then he joked, "Don't tell my wife."
He was always interested in my kids, asking about what the oldest would do after high school, giving both of my teenage girls warm welcomes when they attended meetings with me on Take Our Kids to Work Day.
Larry had a way of making a person feel important - like the time he led council in singing Happy Birthday to me before kicking off the business of the day.
I always enjoyed dialling him up to talk about issues because after the interview questions had passed he inevitably made time for conversation.
Our relationship was mainly professional, but Larry touched me deeply in the five years I knew him. He was one of my greatest champions, and told me bluntly when I returned from mat leave I wasn't allowed to leave again. The appreciation and respect was mutual.
Rest now, Mr. Spilak. I'll make sure to follow the last advice you gave me: "Take care of those kids of yours and make sure you do what makes you happy."