This list is obviously not going to be complete. There are hundreds of family members, friends, employers, co-workers, teachers and others who have made big contributions. I am just going to try to talk about the people who had the biggest roles in helping me.
BILL AND SHARON HAMEL. I was very fortunate to be born to the best parents in the world. I am fairly smart, and I definitely got that from both of them. They also taught me to work hard, try to do a good job, be kind and fair to people, and don’t give up in the face of challenges and problems.
I don’t have a 100% success rate on implementing these things my parents taught me, and I am entirely capable of making mistakes. However, all my weaknesses are things that I developed on my own.
My parents “indoctrinated” my positive qualities into me so that they are just part of me, and I can’t really take any credit for them. My parents were and are tremendous role models and examples. For most of my life my Dad worked full time as a foreman at the Dubuque Packing Company and its successors; and also worked a second full time job running his own landscaping and a snow removal business. I know there were many times during the spring and summer when he was only getting a couple of hours a sleep a day.
Meanwhile, my Mom was raising six children that were born over a course of nine years. Mom made sure that all of us kids had chores and duties. However, her cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, nursing, educating and general child rearing never stopped. And she handled all the family finances and the billing and other paperwork for the landscaping business.
I have certainly been tired in my life, but I know I have never worked harder than my parents.
THE SISTERS OF THE VISITATION. I went to 1st grade through 8th grade at Nativity Grade School from 1966 to 1973. Back in those days many of the teachers were nuns, and the Order that taught at Nativity was the Sisters of the Visitation. A few of the nuns that I knew over the years were a little harsh. However, the majority were very nice. They all had very high expectations for us. I think the Sisters provided me a great education, and gave me another great example of people working hard to do a good job.
JIM OSTERBERGER. During my last four years at Nativity Jim Osterberger was a teacher, a coach, and anything else the school needed him to do. Very similar to the nuns, Jim had very high expectations for his students. Jim really encouraged me in school and helped give me more confidence in my abilities.
As a big bonus, Jim also got me into his Sunday morning basketball games when I returned to Dubuque from law school in 1986. I managed to keep playing until the accumulation of injuries knocked me out in 2000. The basketball itself was a ton of fun. Additionally, when I was a very young lawyer and still had some devil in me, knowing I had two hours of very competitive basketball at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday kept me out of trouble on Saturday night.
This gets me up to high school. I will pick up the list sometime down the road.