On Monday evening, Nov. 7, I prepared a post for LinkedIn. I wrote it in the spirit of my looming 65th birthday. The post started off with the first line of the amazing Tower of Song, Leonard Cohen’s masterpiece that was released in 1988.
‘All my friends are gone and my hair is gray’…
As scheduled, my post went live on Linkedin on Tuesday morning at 6:00. At 7:00, I woke up, and, as always, checked my e-mails first thing in the morning.
I was numbed. My friend Jim Prevor (Jimbo, as I lovingly called him) had died while I was sleeping.
I looked in the mirror. Indeed, my hair was gray and my friend was gone. I ached.
Jim was more than a friend. He was my muse and my mentor. Most of all, in terms of sustainability, he was my anchor in stormy waters. Whenever I became despondent because the “world out there” was not paying enough attention to sustainability, Jim edged me on. “Just follow your heart,” he would say, “and at some stage, the corporates will follow you.”
You see, Jim supported me in my belief that to become involved in sustainability does not require special knowledge of the theories of CSR, emissions, or scientific-based evidence. Jim firmly believed that to be successful in sustainability required — more than anything else — the ability to connect people. And that is the one thing that Jim Prevor did so exceptionally well. He was the ultimate ‘connector.’
Jim believed in me. He took me by the hand and connected me to good people all over the world, not once wavering in his belief that, in the end, goodness will prosper and conquer.
When we met for the first time, I blurted out my story to him about wanting to make the world a better place. Jim looked at me bemusedly and said, “You will then need some good people who believe in you.”
Subsequently, Jim believed in me. He took me by the hand and connected me to good people all over the world, not once wavering in his belief that, in the end, goodness will prosper and conquer.
Fact: Jim was a good person. He firmly believed — first and foremost — sustainability requires solid partnerships and collaborations between people with good intentions. He once said to me that one just needs to create a group of ‘believers’ who can — and want to — work together to make the world a better place.
And so Jim connected me to industry stalwarts all over the world. He humorously introduced me as “the South African who talks until you tell him to stop.” He gave me a podium in New York, London and Amsterdam. He always introduced me as “one of my best friends.” He made me believe in myself, and that is a legacy for which I will remain indebted to him forever.
But there is one more thing for which I will be forever grateful to Jim. Right from our first interaction, I was incredibly jealous of his eloquence. He could express complex thoughts in a manner that I could understand, both verbally and in writing. During a long dinner in Boca Raton, I once said to him I wanted to write like him. Typically Jim, he said, “Well, then you better start writing.” And I did.
Thirty-two columns in PRODUCE BUSINESS later, whenever I lack inspiration, I still remember Jim’s words: “Well, you better start writing.” Because Jim understood like no other that writing is not only a calling, it is also a job. Even this evening, as I sat down to try and write this piece, I can almost hear him saying: “You want to be a writer? Well, then start writing!”
My dear friend, without you In my life, I would still be a fresh produce cowboy talking non-stop and hoping something will stick. You formed this gray-haired, old guy in more ways than one. You gave me a voice, and a podium for sustainability. You gave me your wings of goodness.
Love you forever.
To Debbie, William and Matthew, Barry, as well as Ken and the entire team at Phoenix: Thank you for sharing this icon, this darling of a person with me. I am eternally grateful.