I love flowers because, like people, each one is a little different with its own special characteristics. And, like people, some flowers are special. The special ones can bend in the wind and then rise up again. They quietly stand out in some unexplainable way and seem to be supporting the other flowers all the time. They make all the other flowers around them seem prettier and bolder and stronger and more special. They are the ones that florists seek to complete bouquets as they look for that one final, finishing, special touch that will take the bouquet from good and past great to excellent. Not so much to be the star or centerpiece, but in many ways the one part of the whole that will make it all go together and then hold it all together. Or they are the flower that makes the others look better or just seem to be in their place because that last one – the one that doesn’t want to be or need to be in the spotlight – is there.
My friend Charlee Lanis was one of those special flowers of which the florist wishes they had a never ending supply. She passed away on Sunday after just over a year of battling cancer. But, despite the cancer, she stood tall and was strong and held things together until the greatest florist of all decided he needed her for, no doubt, a very special bouquet.
In 1998 Charlee joined her husband Tom as an ECU employee. He is a professor in the Stonecipher School of Business and her very fitting job title was simply, “Coordinator, Community Education Program.” And man was she ever a coordinator. An award winning and nationally, state and locally recognized coordinator. Her “coordinations” were recognized time and time again as being or being among the best of the best of the best. She could and did coordinate just about any and every kind of workshop, seminar, continuing education event, class or anything else anyone could come up with in her time at ECU.
While she was employed as a coordinator she was also a volunteer leader in a number of campus, state and national efforts, activities and organizations. If something needed to be done or someone needed to step up she never hesitated to take the lead or, if the situation better called for it, to be a valuable and tireless helper.
More than anything else Charlee Lanis was a wonderful wife, mother and grandmother. Our hearts are heavy for and our prayers go out to husband Tom; daughters Jordi and Cristin; son Alex; little grandson Kason and son-in-laws Bret and Hugh. We know your lives will never be the same, but we also know you – her family - were her life and greatest joy. No doubt little Kason will get to know his grandmother well through all your stories and memories of one of the most special flowers God ever made.
I, and everyone everywhere, loved to work with Charlee. It seemed like there was no obstacle she couldn’t get around or anything she couldn’t find or make happen. And she always did this with a big smile and gentle voice and a heart that you knew thrived on a love of helping others. There was never a complaint or hint of pessimism or doubt. When you worked with Charlee she made you believe anything was possible and always took you and your ideas, hopes, dreams and plans to never imagined heights.
She always put everything she had into everything she did with the goal of making whatever it was in which she was involved the best it could possibly be. Whether it was a workshop, program, meeting, organization, fundraiser, party, brochure, flyer or anything else, if she was involved she was the first one there and the last to leave. It didn’t matter if the event was early or late, a weekday or a weekend, on campus or anywhere else the doors were always open early and everything else was always ready.
The sad, but wonderful, part is that she made it look so simple that she was, in my opinion, vastly under appreciated. No one saw the emails, phone calls, visits, negotiating, early morning and late nights it took to make things all come together. And in the end, usually at the back or side of the room, was Charlee. And at the front would be someone like me welcoming the crowd and basking in the glory of what was about to be a wonderful event. Anytime I was in a spotlight she made shine – even though I knew she didn’t want or expect it – I always had it in my notes to, before she could slowly and quietly disappear as she was prone to do, say thank you to her and to let all the others benefiting from her efforts recognize and thank her. More than once I got excited and didn’t follow my notes and more than once she slipped away before I could.
And so, for those times I didn’t say it, let me say it now. Thank you Charlee Lanis for all you did for me and for all of us. You were a special friend and special flower to all who knew you and you won’t be soon forgotten.
Patrick D. “Pat” Fountain, DBA
Boswell Professor of Business Administration and Proud to be the ENACTUS Sam Walton Fellow
East Central University