Remembering Elmer – Good Friend, Good Man, Good Times

Although I thought nothing of it at the time, a “moment” with a friend would turn out to be the beginning of his end.

The moment was in December 2006 and guests were enjoying our latest networking event. My friend Roland and I had planned it and were the hosts. Near the end of the night, Elmer Blackwell mentioned that he wasn’t feeling well – something I never heard him say as he was always full of energy. I could tell that he wanted to stay since he was never one to miss a fantastic night. He left shortly after our conversation.

Less than a week later, I received a phone call from a close friend of Elmer’s. The news was not good – Elmer was in the hospital and it was serious. Although the friend was vague, she left no doubt that his health had taken a significant blow. Elmer told her to call me. I later found out that I was one of the first friends he asked for.

When I received the call, I was tired and heading home from work. Despite only wanting to go to my apartment and relax, I immediately went to the hospital. It was soon clear that I made the right decision.

Entering Elmer’s hospital room was bittersweet. I was glad to be there as a good friend although my heart was heavy as he informed me that it had been a rough couple of days – days where he was fighting for his life. He seemed comfortable and we had a warm conversation. There was little doubt in my mind that his two years as an ex-pat in Stockholm were coming to a close.

I also saw the fighting spirit in Elmer that night as the ordeal he described could have easily killed him but he was determined to live.

Elmer and I shard many good times together whether it be with friends, at events or enjoying a fine dinner. One of the things I liked about Elmer was his spontaneity, often calling me the night before to see if I would join him or his friends for dinner. I appreciate when one is spontaneous so I usually joined him if my schedule allowed.

In addition, he was frequently open for organizing or participating in an event, including hosting gatherings at his own apartment. Two events at his home come to mind when I think of Elmer:

1) A social networking event in late 2005

Roland, Elmer and I organized this Friday, after work gathering and it was a fabulous mix of Swedes and foreigners – a mix that is far too infrequent and is sorely needed in Stockholm. We had great food, good music and most importantly, our guests met interesting people and engaged in diverse conversations.

2) A Halloween Masquerade Party in October of 2006

This night was of one of the best events that I have ever been associated with. Again, organized by the aforementioned threesome, it was an invitation only Masquerade party. The diversity of the costumes and guests exceeded our expectations. We even had a spontaneous “best costume” contest where participants proudly showcased their look, often dancing across the floor.  As a host, it can be difficult to enjoy your own event although I loved every minute of this night!

Each year since our October party, someone has mentioned the event and it always brings a smile to my face. You can gain some aspects of the excitement at the link below:


Within a month after seeing Elmer in the hospital, he was stable and on his way back to the USA. I was happy that we both kept in touch after he left Sweden. He was frequently upbeat after a positive treatment in the USA although when his health was less than stellar, his emails reflected his tough battle.

Subsequent emails were tough to read as his battle with a rare form of cancer (Multiple Myeloma) was taking its toll on him. One day, the emails stopped.

Although our friendship was less than two years, Elmer was a man I liked and respected. He worked extremely hard as the CEO of 3M in Sweden yet still had super high energy outside of work hours. In addition, he was funny, smart and relentlessly upbeat and positive. His positivity was refreshing especially in a country like Sweden where such positivity is a rare thing. Also, he was genuine, never trying to be anything other than himself

Despite a strong fight for three years, the end finally came – Elmer died on September 18, 2009. If you want to read more about his life, you can visit the following link:


Elmer was a good man and a good friend. I was fortunate to know him and enjoy his friendship for two years. There is not a year that goes by when his smile, positivity or energy is not thought of. Had his health not deteriorated, I can only imagine how much fun my inner circle and I would have had with him. Life often confounds when a young life (he was 46) is swept away although I am grateful for our short time together.

Rest in Peace Elmer.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

The late Elmer Blackwell (left) and Gswede friend Kevin Ryan in 2006

"White Shadow" couldn't help Turkey as USA wins World Championship Gold

It was very interesting to read how one of my favorite TV shows (White Shadow), helped the popularity and expansion of basketball in Turkey. Their dedication to the game helped them to reach the Finals of the World Championships.

Though the show had modest USA ratings, in Turkey it was a BIG hit.

I implore you to read the article titled, "Turkey Channeled "White Shadow" as Basketball Caught On". A few paragraphs and the link are below:

Turkey’s rapid rise as a basketball power can be traced, in part, to “The White Shadow,” whose 54 episodes appeared on black-and-white TV here from 1980 to 1982.

“It made people aware of basketball in Turkey,” said Alper Yilmaz, a former national team player who works in the front office of Efes Pilsen, a club in Istanbul that has won 13 Turkish League titles since its founding in 1976.

“There was already basketball in Turkey,” Yilmaz added, “but after that show, everyone started playing.”

“ ‘The White Shadow’ effect is real,” Aytac Erenler, a former player at Middle East Tech in Ankara wrote in an e-mail. “It immediately influenced crowds and even made parents look more positively to their children’s passion for shooting a ball to a rim attached to the electric pole on the street for hours.”

The inept attitude and play of the USA over the years at these championships was never surprising to me as we were lazy, unfocused and had a lousy structure. Not any more.

To see our dominance not only in these games but in all areas of basketball (USA holds every world title) is not surprising either because we finally have a system in place that gives us the opportunity to play our best basketball despite the differences in international rules and style of play.

The paragraphs below (followed by the link) tell the story of how times have changed:

Durant’s dominance underscores the larger theme of this American victory. The team came here without a single member of the 2008 gold-medal-winning Olympic team but won in part because of the larger infrastructure Jerry Colangelo has built at USA Basketball since 2006, in the wake of several embarrassing performances in the past decade.

American basketball now holds every major world title — Olympic, world championships, FIBA Under-19, FIBA Under-17, FIBA Americas Under-18 and FIBA Americas Under-16. The United States also qualified for the 2012 Olympics in London and overtook Argentina for the No. 1 world ranking, sealing a renaissance that had been years in the making.

“It’s a tribute to the structure and foundation we have for USA Basketball that we can turn over as many players that we have and be as successful as we’ve been,” said Colangelo, the organization’s managing director.

Krzyzewski’s international record in the period since taking over the team again in 2006 is now 49-1. He completed an impressive triple crown by winning the world championships gold to go with an Olympic title in 2008 and an N.C.A.A. title at Duke in 2010. After losing in his two previous tries at the world championships, Krzyzewski appeared emotional after the victory.

Over the past 16 years, some of my European friends would tease me or give that sly proud smile when the USA went down in defeat time after time. I don't think any of them are laughing now.

I tried to explain to them that if we ever truly cared, got focused and put a plan in place with the proper players, it would be EXTREMELY difficult to beat us despite the location. Being a former Division 1 basketball player, I hope they took my words to heart as my background should have elicited a bit of credibility.

Coach Ken Reeves from the "White Shadow" did a wonderful job of molding his kids and teaching them the game of basketball. Turkey gained a great deal of inspiration from the show and that is a beautiful thing. The rest of the world will need a bit of that "White Shadow" magic in order to take away our title as the World's best.

I wish our competitors well although I have a feeling that we will reign supreme for many years to come.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

The end of a a thrilling practice - my "American Basketball Coach in Sweden" program in 2009.

George & Richard - "Running to Remember" September 11, 2001

This past Saturday, my colleague Richard Puttock and I ran the "Stockholm Half Marathon" in memory of those who lost their lives on 9/11, 2001.

It was a gorgeous day (exactly 9 years after 9/11) with intermittent sun and clouds. I didn't train in my typical fashion and had an August injury although I was determined to run the race. Richard trained well and was raring to go!

Our beginning was strong and we maintained a 2 hour pace for 60 minutes yet quickly decreased after the first hour (10K), due solely to my limited training. Richard was strong throughout and I encouraged him to go ahead of me several times as he could have done 1:45-2:00 hours. Being a good friend, he ran at my pace for the entire race. We finished at 2:22 and it was my most enjoyable half marathon experience.

During those tired moments, I thought of the 9/11 victims I knew:

-- Two gentlemen I played basketball with on a weekly basis. They were at the top of one of the towers.

-- A client who was the Head of HR for a financial company. Most of her employees and guests were ushered to safety due to her fast thinking and guidance. Unfortunately, the second plane hit before she was able to get out.

September 11 was a day I will never forget and I was grateful to play a part in helping people. The following link details my day:


Another goal for the race was to raise money for a charity who helps in the effort, aftermath or deterrent of tragedies like 9/11. The charity I chose is "The Children's Health Fund". In addition to focusing on children, I like that they respond in times of a national crisis.

Their website is  My youth basketball program ( will donate $100.00 to the fund.

Here's a taste of what they do and have done:

The Children’s Health Fund (CHF) is committed to providing health care to America’s most medically underserved children and their families through the development and support of innovative primary care medical programs, response to public health crises, and the promotion of guaranteed access to appropriate health care for all children. Founded by singer/songwriter Paul Simon and pediatrician/child advocate Irwin Redlener, MD, in 1987, CHF launched its first program, the New York Children’s Health Project (NYCHP), with one “big blue van,” a state-of-the-art mobile medical clinic that brought medical care directly to children with the greatest need and least access to care

The Fund also responds in times of national crisis to ensure the well-being of children, whose families would otherwise not be able to access primary and mental health care services. In the aftermath of 911 and Hurricanes Katrina and Andrew, CHF was among the earliest responders. During Hurricanes Ike and Gustav, CHF mobile clinics mobilized to respond to the hurricane evacuees’ health care needs. CHF has designed and designated mobile medical clinics that are prepared to respond to disasters or public health crises around the country.

If you would like to contribute to this charity, please go to the following link where you can donate in a variety of ways:

For my collegues who may want to give, you can visit the CHF company matching link below as our organization participates in matching our donations for this or any qualified charity:

Giving comes in many shapes and sizes but the main thing is to be consitent with your giving. I wrote a 2008 article on the topic called, "Giving is More Important than Ever" (

Pass it along to someone you know who many need a little push to open up thier heart and begin the giving process.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

"Running to Remember" 9/11 - The joy of finishing a half marathon

Love's in Need of Love Today

When Stevie Wonder was a twenty-something, he gave us an album called, “Songs in the Key of Life”. For a young artist to produce such a beautiful, profound and relevant collection of songs was (and still is) inspiring.

One of many favorites from this classic 1976 album is “Love’s in Need of Love Today”.  A few verses are below:

Hate’s going round
Breaking many hearts
Stop it please
Before its gone too far

The force of evil plans
To make you its possession
And it will if we let it
Destroy ev-er-y-body

We all must take
Precautionary measures
If love and peace
You treasure
Then you’ll hear me when I say

Oh that
Love’s in need of love today

While listening to this song, one may think of the global terrorism threat (the force of EVIL plans, to make you its possession). Terrorism is indeed one of our biggest challenges although other underlying evils include but are not limited to:

-- The rising tide of anti-intellectualism and hate in America since President Obama was elected.

-- The discrimination many foreigners face when they apply for a decent job in Sweden.

-- The greed of powerful banks and organizations around the world - arrogance that led to the world financial crises.

-- The awful food many of our children are given (particularly in the USA) at school and in the home.

In addition, hate and evil manifest in the way some of us or people we know treat family and friends, when narcissism rears its ugly head with those solely concerned with their own well being or in the lack of empathy, care and action displayed for those less fortunate souls around the globe.

To improve on these evils, we must adhere to Stevie’s words when he says, “We must all take precautionary measures, if love and peace you treasure”.

Precautionary measures come in many forms but the one thing they cannot lack is the boldness to peacefully confront, acknowledge your disdain for or keep out of your life those:

-- Who spew uneducated, hateful or racist words/actions.

-- Who discriminate against a qualified job candidate mainly because they aren’t comfortable with him/her.

-- Who are allowed to risk shareholder money with little or no consequences when the risk turns sour or puts the company in a dour financial situation.

-- Family or friends who don’t act in your best interests or are hateful/jealous.

-- Who care ONLY about themselves EVEN if they are a part of the family.

-- Parents you know or family members who give their precious children chips for dinner, coke at 2 years old or don’t prioritize proper nutrition. I have seen all the aforementioned and have heard of much worst. (the chips for dinner was given to a one year old in Sweden)

I implore you to listen to the song and reflect on which side of the fence you and those around you are on. Are you an asset to the evil or lack of love side or do you fall into the category of  “Compassion, Love and Peace”?

Let's all remember the words below and be diligent in spreading more positive love in our own circles, families, occupations and to our struggling brothers and sisters around the world.

Love’s in need of love today
Don’t delay, send yours in right away

Happy Gswede Sunday!

The beauty of sky, flight and water - Picture by Mia