Seventeen years ago today, my dad passed away. He was an avid golfer (if “avid” means “obsessed”) and after his death, his company started a golf tournament in his memory.
Not too long ago, an article was written about the man behind the name of the golf tournament. (Oh, and the title only works if you mispronounce Mather. It should be may-ther, but whatever.) And the pictures are just random ones I like of us.
Golf Tournament History That ‘Mathers’
APRIL 14, 2015
If you work for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, find yourself on a golf course on a windless day and notice your ball rolling further than it has any right to, you can probably “thank” John Mather for it.
Mather, whom the annual John Mather Memorial BCBSLA Golf Tournament is named after, was a premiere golfer, a tech enthusiast, a jokester and just a good guy, according to his former coworkers. He lugged around a golf bag on the green and one of the briefcase-sized, monochrome Kaypro computers at work. A man not shy about his rotund figure, he would hop down the stairs like a kid in an attempt to make the building shake.
Mather passed away suddenly in 1998 from a heart attack. At the time, he held the titles of vice president of accounting and controller. These lofty positions he held, in addition to his CPA, he earned with hardly more than a high school diploma and a bit of grandfathering.
“Was John different? Absolutely,” says Darrell Langlois, vice president of Corporate Integrity. “John was not your typical executive. He was more an everyday man.”
Financial Analysis Manager Susan Fisher worked with Mather and describes him as being soft-spoken, quiet and having a good sense of humor.
She remembers that one time during the holiday season, Mather’s secretary was upset because she couldn’t afford to get each of her two boys a new bicycle for Christmas. Mather heard of the situation, and not long after, the secretary received a call from the Capitol Schwinn Cyclery to come pick up her bikes.
Fisher explains that Mather was known to eat with the same group of guys almost every day. So commonplace were he and his troupe that they held an unspoken reservation over a particular lunch table in the cafeteria. Fisher and her coworkers, as a prank, decided to disrupt the state of lunchroom affairs. They sat at Mather’s table, leaving him and his comrades in a stupor over their broken routine.
Mather got his revenge the next day, when Fisher and her coworkers found a sign on the table that exclaimed it was reserved for grumpy old men.
Fraud Analyst Theresa Vu migrated to the States in 1975 at the age of 19 and started working for the company in 1977. She credits Mather for encouraging her to pursue her U.S. citizenship.
She remembers a time when she and some of her coworkers heard the Italian model Fabio Lanzoni, known for his butter commercials, romance novel cover modeling and bird strikes, was going to be visiting the old Godchaux’s department store in downtown Baton Rouge.
Having never seen Fabio before, Vu asked Mather if she could take an extended lunch break. Mather, agreeing to the request, wondered aloud, while patting his belly, why she needed to see Fabio when “Flabio” was right there. Not long after, Vu and her coworkers pasted a photo of Mather’s head on a picture of Fabio and gave it to him.
Greg Hanly, regional director of Group Sales and former golf tournament coordinator, was a good friend of Mather and actually had the (relative) pleasure of golfing with him.
“[He] was famous for leaving little surprises in each of our golf bags when we weren’t looking,” Hanly writes. “After several weeks you would begin to notice that your clubs were not fitting properly in your bag, and when you dumped your bag out to see what the problem was, you would discover an assortment of items such as candy wrappers, bottle caps, partially eaten cheeseburgers, etc.”
On the course—pranks aside— Mather was an excellent golfer, regularly shooting in the 70s.
“He was the lifeblood of our Sunday group,” Hanly writes.
Actuarial System Engineer Lee Lawrence, current tournament coordinator, joined the company just before Mather passed. He didn’t have the chance to know Mather very well, but he still recalls with a smile one thing Mather told him. His shoes were ugly.
That article captures my dad’s personality – goofy, kind, incredibly generous, and again, goofy – better than anything I could have written myself.