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Any Sunday, a Given: How Hans Roderwald Held Court

Hans Roderwald led by example as he organized our weekly basketball games. His untimely passing came as quite a shock, but his memory will live on.

May 27, 2014
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Related Topics: Organizational Culture, Mission Statements, Talent Management, Workplace Culture
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My Sunday mornings begin on Tuesday.

Been that way for five years or so.

That’s when I and about 50 other people receive an email asking who’s “in” for basketball on Sunday.

Then a wave of emails follows “In,” “In,” “In,” “Out this week.” Once in a while it turns into a “rib” fest as one guy or a group of guys good-naturedly turns on another “Sunday slacker.”

When we rent the gym out in the winter, it’s first-come, first-served. The first 15 guys to respond are “in” for 8 a.m. and get an hour of full-court basketball. If you don’t make the cut, it’s wait till 9, and you might spend as much time watching as you do playing.

With the weather warming in Chicago, the games moved outside a couple of weeks ago. I’ve missed the past few Sundays waiting for a sore Achilles’ heel to heal.  

It’s a great group of guys. “Big Joe,” “Big Dave,” “Medium Dave,” “Little Dave” — yes, our Daves come in all sizes — “Ninja,” “Nelly,” “Pick Coming Todd,” “Gater,” “Rog,” Drew, Ken, Mike, Jason, Murray, Larry and so on. (Sorry, guys, couldn’t list everyone.)

And then there’s Hans, or “Hansee,” as some like to call him. Hans took over the email list a few years ago and reserves the gym for us. He collects the money and is the unofficial leader. Nicest guy you ever want to meet. Takes some good-natured ribbing on the court, but always has a smile on his face. Never heard him yell, and I can’t remember a time he appeared frustrated — even when I stepped on the three-point line while shooting a jumper for the umpteenth time. He leads quietly and is always willing to guard the toughest player on the other team. And he is just as likely to pick up a broom and sweep up when he’s not in the game without any complaints.

On the court, he’s a tough guy for me to guard. He’s always cutting to the basket and is a solid shooter from 8 to 10 feet. I can hear Brian now: “Who isn’t a tough guy for you to guard, James?”

But things changed last week.  

On Friday I took a quick peek at my home email. There was a message from Larry that had “Hans Roderwald” as the subject line. Something didn’t seem right. I quickly opened the email and read that Hans was dead at the age of 40. He had been missing since Wednesday. While riding his bike home after a volleyball game, he was struck and killed by a vehicle. After tracking his cellphone, police found his body hidden in the tall grass a couple of days later.

Truthfully, I’m still in shock.

Thankfully, someone came forward after the news broke and said he might have been the person who hit Hans. Carl, that is. I never knew Hans was really his middle name until I read the reports about his death.

But Hans’ — Carl’s — memory will live on. It will live on with his wife, his daughter, his family, his friends, his colleagues.

For me, it will also live on via LinkedIn. As a connection, Hans endorsed me for a number of different things in the past couple of years, even though I never worked with him. At first I was a little embarrassed by it, but then I realized that even though he didn’t know my job skills firsthand, he was endorsing me as a person more so than as a journalist, and that meant a lot. So I returned the favor.

I’m guessing I’ll be getting reminders from LinkedIn about his work anniversaries and such. After all, with social media and the Internet, I’m not sure anyone leaves this earth entirely.

At work, many of us spend more time with our colleagues than our families. Some people we get along with; others we don’t. And that’s fine. But regardless of who you like and who you don’t, you’ve made a connection at some level.

I always thought about asking my basketball group to get together for a picture, but fearing I’d take some “sentimental crap” crap, I never did. Now I wish I would have since I have no pictures with Hans.

Consider a group shot at your place of work, maybe once a year. Get your group, your office, your company together for a quick pic. Within that pose will be a memory that you can return to should a colleague leave the company or, sadly, the earth.

Goodbye, Hans; we still have game because of you.

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