“Hey boss, come here. I have something to tell you.”
He didn’t say, “I have something to ask of you,” or “I have something to discuss with you.” He said, “I have something to tell you.”
My wife, Robin, and I first met John Piches when we moved into our Park Drive home in 1983; about the same time he and a handful of others established the Roseville Historical Society. Our son, Robert, was born three years later in October 1986. John and his family figuratively adopted Robert as their grandson, making our family an extension of their family.
It was during a neighborhood gathering at our house over the 1986 Christmas holidays that John first called me “boss.” Although this was his title, he called those he respected “boss.” This made me, on the one hand, proud to be recognized by John and, on the other hand, a little apprehensive. The Boss had a Greek godfather-like quality. If John’s life had been made into a movie, Anthony Quinn (a.k.a. Zorba) would have been cast to portray John on the big screen. Had The Boss taught me to dance the Sirtaki, I would have danced with enthusiasm.
“Now that you have a son” John said, “it’s time to give back to the community.” Then he said, “Get me a glass of wine and sit down.” I walked to the dining room table, poured a small glass of wine for him, and poured a wee dram of whiskey for myself. I walked back to the living room, where he sat by the large window overlooking the park, handed him the wine, and sat in a chair next to him.
“Now listen, Boss,” he said. “I want you to join the Roseville Historical Society.” He took a drink of wine and looked me in the eye. There were a few seconds of silence as I drained my glass of whisky, and finally asked, “How can I be of service?” He replied, “Come to the monthly Historical Society meetings with me.”
Those nine words were life changing. It was one of those pivotal moments that Frost spoke to in his poem, “The Road Not Taken.” John was calling me to action and I had the choice to either take the road well travelled or, as Frost penned, take “the other, as just as fair, and perhaps having the better claim because it was grassy and wanted wear.” At John’s calling I chose the road not travelled and, to quote Frost once more, it “has made all the difference.”
At my first meeting with the Roseville Historical Society, I shook hands with a few of the old guard that helped shepherd the sleepy railroad town of Roseville into the 20th century. Unknown to me at the time, The Boss was grooming me to help position Roseville for sustainable growth, and to assure its quality of life, into the 21st century.
John told me to, “give back to the community.” I responded with vigor and with pride. Besides, when The Boss told you to do something… you did it! I did this by not only serving on the board of the Roseville Historical Society as its recording secretary, but by serving on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, the Planning Commission and on the Roseville City Council. In addition to city offices, I served on the Board of Directors of the Roseville Arts Center, Project Go, Roseville Healthy Cities Coalition, The Performing Arts of Roseville, and the Western Placer Waste Management Authority, to name a few.
John passed away on April 5. Robin, Robert and I were invited back to Roseville to join his family and the community in celebrating his life last Friday. This we did with pride and joy in our hearts. John was not only The Boss to us, but also a source of inspiration, a fountainhead of wisdom, and a father figure.
As my Scots-Irish ancestors would have said, “Good on ya John. Good on ya!”