I wrote these words last night in an email to a couple of old and dear friends.
“Did you hear?”
The subject line was: “Sharon.”
Thanks for indulging me here. You will likely find nothing in this Lunar that will benefit you. That is, unless you worked for Percivall Advertising in Raleigh in the decade of the ’80s. My old and dear friends worked there then. So did I. So did Sharon.
Percivall Advertising was a successful “mom-and-pop” shop. They had a few really good clients, and they took a chance on an arrogant young guy in 1982. When I joined them as Creative Director, I was 28 years old. John and Lynn Percivall were around 50. So was John’s partner and Art Director, Ron and the other artist there, Patty. It was just the five of us for a while. I was the first infusion of young blood there.
John and Lynn were the best. I was hired away from a job where acquiring a pencil took an act of Congress. My first April 14th at Percivall, John, a large and round and sweet faced man from South Carolina farm country came into my office. It was late in the afternoon. He was nervous and grunting like he normally was and did.
He asked me, “Are you going to have to pay any taxes tomorrow?”
“I’m fine, John,” I replied.
“Well, let me know if you do,” he said. “I can help you out.”
It was the consistently steady kindness and generosity of John Percivall that lured into our fold only the kindest and most generous of young bloods in the following months and years. Percivall Advertising grew, and Big John was not afraid to bring younger folks into his family. That is, as long as they were as kind and generous as he.
It took me a while to figure the man out. Often I felt out of place. I was brash and much bolder than I am now. I was certainly more brash and bold than were John and the others at the time. But I was the first “youngster” there.
It was the second youngster that came along that maybe gave me a new perspective on things. At least she began the process that didn’t fully engulf me until years later. Eventually I got it. I got Big John.
She was young. Younger than me even. She was hired as an artist. I liked her right away. She had the qualities that only a Percivall hire should have. She was sweet. She was beautiful. She was kind and generous. But I have to tell you, I liked her mostly because she wasn’t 50-years-old. Even though she was younger than me, she was of my generation. She fed my passion for youthful brashness.
At the same time, there was something terribly wrong with the woman. Look, I was the Creative Director. I was compelled to wear ragged jeans, long hair, untucked shirt tails and Adidas basketball shoes to work. I was creative, you know? So are artists. So was she. Her perfectly pressed, below-the-knee, color-coordinated dresses and accompanying sweaters and perfect-height heels every day did not fit the creative type. My hair was all over the place. Her hair was long and so silky smooth and full and forever in place without ever the slightest hint of Miss Breck or White Rain aerosol spray. Yet she was so very creative.
Now, creative types are, sort of out of necessity, supposed to freak out when presented with an impossible task. For years, my initial reactions to such tasks were ones of dismay and rejection of such demeaning demands on my time. Even the 50-year-old Art Director behaved the way I did.
Sharon did not. She never did. She calmed us all. She did her job. Her best was always exactly what was needed. She always gave her best. And she always gave with a smile, a laugh, a reassuring gesture of some sort.
Sharon kind of set the bar for the future youngsters Big John brought on board. Some of the new blood dressed more like me, some of them had more expensive and exotic tastes in clothing, and some of them were almost Sharon clones. But they all had Sharon’s heart. And Sharon’s was absolutely hers. But it was also absolutely the same heart as Big John’s.
After about 8 years there, I needed to leave those folks at Percivall Advertising. A friend of mine and I set off on our own, doing video production. We started Full Moon Productions. A few good friends helped us find a path. Sharon was one of those friends. And a key one.
She designed our logo. She designed our initial mailer, a file folder with four staggered information sheets inside the right side pocket. That woman had our backs. It was if Full Moon Productions was hers as well. She felt it. She was with us. Every step of the way.
It was on the inside right panel of the Full Moon folder that she, once again, showed her heart, her calm, her smile and her laugh. Her Big-John persona. Her reassuring gesture.
Beneath the four staggered pages inside the flap on the right side panel, and visible only after the readers removed the four pages, was an intended reward for the readers’ efforts – and a total Sharon creation. A simple illustration of a cow jumping over the moon.
Sharon, her husband, Larry, and I have lost touch over the years. If I ever met their adult son, it was in his infant years. I sort of reconnected, though, the past couple of days. I learned something online. And I emailed a couple of old Percivall friends.
“Did you hear?” I wrote. “Sharon died yesterday.”