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The Three Lessons I Learned From Losing My Most Loyal Employee

The Three Lessons I Learned From Losing My Most Loyal Employee

A couple of weeks ago, I posted this tribute to Kent – my friend, 20+ year employee, and confidant:

Goodbye Kent Kozimor

It is with a heavy heart that I write these words – my friend, colleague, and 20+ year  employee, Kent Kozimor, passed away yesterday.

It was over 20 years ago when he responded to an ad in the local newspaper. He traveled with me to seminars. He DJ’d, filmed and distributed training manuals. Mostly, he helped calm my nerves. “You’re Shari F—ing Levitin,” he would say. “You’ve got this.”

It wasn’t long before he told me I needed a salesman.

He quickly earned the title “Director of Sales.” Since1999, he’s filled every role – from contract writer, to content creator, to head of Guest Experience.

He was the Oz behind the curtain, never wanting or needing recognition. If you were to ask him about his job, he’d say “My job is to make Shari look good.”

He was loyal to a fault, working nights and even during a Patriots game if need be.

His greatest loyalty and love was for his son, Ryan. I watched him navigate the complexities of parenting a rebellious teenager as a single parent. With love and grace, he guided him to become a strong military man and now a successful entrepreneur. Just three weeks ago, he moved his belongings from his Florida home to Tennessee to be closer to Ryan and his two grandchildren, ages two and six.

If Kent had one weakness, it was his lack of confidence. For the life of me I could never figure out why he didn’t know how bright, articulate and kind he was. Maybe it was simply his humility.

Kent struggled for as long as I’ve known him with cigarette addiction. He said he stopped, but I knew better.

I will miss you, Kent Kozimor. Your customers will miss you, and I promise to let your grandchildren know the values you held so dear.

You died a King’s death – in your sleep, peaceful on your new couch.

May your life and your memory continue to be a blessing.

Though we can never escape pain, we can always change our perspective. I know Kent would have wanted me to learn from it, write about it, and, of course, have him edit it. So here are three lessons I’ve learned from losing my most loyal employee:

  1. Take Time to Mourn and Reflect
    What could I have done better? What were my last words to Kent? Were they “Good Job”, “Thank you for all you do?”, “How are your Grandkids?”. I hope so, but I’m not certain. I’ve been contemplating this for the last few weeks since his death. I hope my last words were kind, thoughtful and encouraging. It got me thinking of the Aristotle quote: “Be Kind for Everyone is Fighting a Great Battle.”
  2. What Makes Someone Life Worth Living?
    I’m grateful I took the time over the years to know Kent as a person, a father, and a friend. But, I haven’t always taken this time with others. For that, I’m disappointed in myself and, at times, even ashamed. What I do know is we can’t possibly affect someone’s outer world if we don’t take time to understand their inner world.
  3. Remember the Back Up Singers
    Kent didn’t need to be the front man, just like the back up singers in the documentary “20 Feet from Stardom.” Darlene Love, Judith Hill, Merry Clayton, and many others who sang backup for the Rolling Stones didn’t need to take center stage. Said Lisa Fischer, “I reject the notion that the job you excel at is not enough to aspire to, that there has to be something more. I love supporting other artists.” She added, “Some People will do anything to be famous. I just want to sing.”

Kent, thank you for your song, your loyalty, and your humility.

Until we meet again, good friend….

If you would like to attend Kent’s Celebration of Life on May 16, please send an email to corporate@sharilevitin.com and we will send you the details.

11 Comments
  • In the short time I knew Ken I quickly realized what a kind, gentle, smart, and compassionate man he was. Shari, my heart goes out to you and all of your staff and Ken’s family. Any loss creates great sadness, but we must realize and embrace the lessons as well. Praying for you all for God’s peace that is beyond our understanding.

    April 29, 2021at10:00 am
  • Michelle Becker
    Reply

    I do not know Kent but now, I feel like a piece of him is out there with the rest of the world. Thank you Shari for sharing this. May all employers learn something from what you shared here. May ALL of us take a moment to ponder what our last conversations were with those around us… coworkers, family members, strangers on the street.

    No, we are not all made of the same cloth but we are ALL worth the time it takes to understand one another and share a chunk of life with. Kent sounds like a very humble man. We can all learn from a soul like that. Thanks Kent for making such an impression on Shari and now…. all of us.

    April 29, 2021at10:08 am
  • Gloria Hawkins-Parker
    Reply

    Words of Love , Kindness and Humility

    A message from your a heart .

    ThNk you.

    Gloria

    April 29, 2021at11:57 am
  • I send my love to you Shari… Kent was a real gem, I could tell and i’d only known him a few weeks. It is so sad. With your inference to smoking I guess that may have caused his passing. I can only guess. Fortunately i quit the weed 25 years ago. wicked stuff tobacco but i was a pipe and cigar man most of my smoking career. Probably no better that cigarettes but i used to kid myself it was. God bless Kent’s soul and his children, his legacy lives on in your Heart. Thank you for all you do. Kindest personal regards, Stuart

    April 29, 2021at12:30 pm
  • Char Middlebrooks
    Reply

    So sorry for your loss…What beautiful words you wrote in Kent’s honor….What a precious reminder to always acknowledge, with human kindness, our fellow colleges & loved ones…Thank you for sharing your heart Sheri ❤️

    April 29, 2021at3:11 pm
  • Oh my gosh Shari I had NO idea.. I am so sorry

    April 29, 2021at6:04 pm
  • Regina Manfredi
    Reply

    Shari, I’m so sorry for your loss. May your memories lift your spirits. God bless you & Kent’s family.

    April 29, 2021at6:47 pm
  • Dear Shari,
    Your story touched my heart Shari. My condolences to you and your team. He must have been a star that shined light in the office, next to you, behind you, for 20 years. An immense loss. Your kind words remind me we have to take time to mourn our loss. I am going through something similar and I will take this again into account…time to reflect. Since I am Mexican I send you an “Apapacho” and I know you know it means.
    Thanks.
    Hugs. Gabriela Mueller

    p.s. interestingly,, I’m fortunate enough to have a 15min call with you later today after a wonderful course I took recently with you. Looking forward to it. Thanks Gabriela

    April 29, 2021at11:00 pm
  • I wish I’d known Kent better. I particularly wish I’d known he moved to Tennessee where we could have been neighbors. May he Rest In Peace as we hold him in our hearts.

    April 30, 2021at5:30 am
  • Karen Payne
    Reply

    Very well said. Kent had such a kind, accepting energy about him that you instantly felt like you had known him your whole life. I cried for all of us when I heard of his passing. I’m glad it was peaceful, as he deserved nothing less. Love you Kent. RIP.

    April 30, 2021at8:12 am
  • Tim
    Reply

    Sorry to hear this and my hope is that others realize they have something to add to this life. 🙏🏼

    April 30, 2021at10:48 am

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