I don’t normally publish personal reflections here, but I know many of you are entrepreneurs, or at least aspiring business owners. Many people want to “be their own boss,” but few would want that to happen quite this way. I hope you find the story inspiring. Success comes not simply from hard work, but from finding joy in working hard—and inspiring others with that combination of effort and joy.
Many words could be used to describe Lyola: kind, generous, loving, faithful, jovial. But the one word that stands out above all is “inspiring.”
For the first two-plus decades of their marriage, Lyola and Herb Girtz farmed near Pierz, Minnesota, and brought 11 boisterous children into this world—nine boys and two daughters.
In his late 40s, Herb was told by his doctor his back was no longer strong enough for farming, so he’d need to find a new line of work. Herb and Lyola sold the farm, packed up the family, bought a resort, and moved to the lake country of northwestern Minnesota.
Only a short time after the move, Herb was tragically killed in a hunting accident. Lyola was left in largely still-unfamiliar territory along with the youngest nine of her children, aged four to 17.
So what did she do – go on welfare? Apply for food stamps?
Oh hell no.
Such ideas wouldn’t even have occurred to her. No, what she did was to throw herself, with her 8th-grade education, into learning the business end of running a resort, while managing her baseball team-sized crew of offspring. Everyone had a job on the resort, from maintaining the boats, docks, and cabins to laundry, cleaning, and burying the entrails from the fish-cleaning shack. As the older kids graduated from high school and moved on, the younger progeny were “promoted” into their roles.
Under her leadership, the resort thrived, with many guest families returning for her hospitality (and the good fishing) year after year. She successfully sold the business only after most of her “workforce” had grown up and moved out to start their own families.
In her late 80’s, Lyola moved into an assisted care facility. Shortly after arriving, she noticed most of the women there spent their late afternoons and evenings sitting in front of the TV in the dining room. There was little activity or conversation.
Lyola organized a daily “happy hour” for her housemates and the staff, with coffee and cookies. She also taught all of the ladies (who were capable) to play her favorite dice game, “Farkle.” The TV increasingly went ignored, its noise drowned out by conversation and laughter.
No doubt Lyola is now busy reuniting with her beloved husband and family members who went before her. And it won’t be long before many of the saints in Heaven will be learning to play Farkle.
When your journey gets tough, think of Lyola. And smile. You can do it.