Through a Golf Tournament

By Jan Williams | Special for the AJT

Jan Williams

Sometimes you never get around to saying “thank you” until it’s too late.

For whatever reason, I didn’t fully understand the life changing impact that my mentor had on my life, or feel a need to repay the debt until after attending my mother’s funeral. I was recalling my childhood memories as I drove around my hometown of Morganton, NC for probably the last time and I passed the old golf course that’s still segregated to this day. Near it was the home where they had lived. Only then did I fully comprehend the impact that he had on my life, and, in fact, the life of my entire family.

To this day, I don’t know his full name. Mrs. Reinhart called her husband “Perk,” or perhaps the correct spelling is “Purk.” I don’t know if that was his real name or just a nickname she used. My parents never called him anything but Mr. Reinhart.

I tried finding out more about them when I attended my 40th high school reunion, but the folks I knew at the local golf course are all deceased or moved on, the factory Mr. Reinhart managed had closed over 25 years ago, and my white classmates didn’t recall knowing them. As a kid, I simply took it for granted that they were a rich white couple who were very kind to black people. In hindsight, they were probably middle class, and only wealthy in the eyes of poor blacks.

It was 50 years ago, when I first developed my relationship with Mr. Reinhart, and he never disclosed to me or probably anyone else for that matter, that he was Jewish. In public, in the “spirit of the times,” he no doubt felt the need to show the world that our relationship was of a typical black/white, employer/employee nature. Privately, he talked to me like a father and a grandfather all rolled into one, and Mrs. Reinhart was equally as loving and compassionate.

I was the black kid who took care of their yard work, but he left no doubts that he saw me as much more than that. Our relationship shifted drastically one Saturday when he directed me to a giant stack of newspapers in the garage. I had never heard of the Wall Street Journal and when Mr. Reinhart showed me the stock listings, he might as well have been showing me a book in Chinese. But he told me to take a few copies home, read them from cover to cover, and come back with any questions that I might have.

I had lots of questions, each of which he answered patiently. After a while, he started asking me questions, such as “what do you think about this company or that stock?” Much to my surprise, he actually listened to my answers and began buying shares in those companies that I recommended. Apparently, those investments did well for him, as he rewarded me with portions of the proceeds that exceeded my entire summer of earnings from yard work.

Our relationship grew well beyond the Wall Street Journal and his investment portfolio. He taught me to play golf, how to drive stick shift and even to hunt. The only picture I ever recall taking with him was one that his wife took of us holding up pheasants from a day of hunting. He had taught me how to shoot flying birds that day and Mrs. Reinhart was so proud of him for doing so. Unfortunately, I never saw the developed picture and never thought to ask for it.

It was not the profits he made on the investments I recommended that led him to offer to pay my way, as well as my older sister’s way, through college. For whatever reason, the Reinharts took great interest in the well being of my entire family and I know, without question, that my life would have taken an entirely different course had it not been for him, and the self confidence he helped me to develop.

I only learned that the Reinharts were Jewish when “Perk” died and I went to pay a condolence call to Mrs. Reinhart. It was then that I also learned how important his Jewish identity had really been to him and how much his Judaism played a part in what he had done for me.

I never had a chance, or more correctly, took the opportunity to say “thank you” to Mr. Reinhart the way I now know that I should have. So I’m doing what I think is the next best thing: lending my support to his people in a way that he himself would have appreciated the most – through business and through golf.

Through my relatively short relationship with Conexx, I’ve come to appreciate how it’s a win/win/win organization – for Israel, for the local economy, and for its members. I also have come to realize how much more it could do with just a few more resources. That’s why I volunteered to chair the first annual Conexx golf tournament and why I got my good friends at Toyota to come on board as our presenting sponsor.

I hope you will be joining me at the Standard Club on November 3. While we won’t be officially honoring Mr. Reinhart’s memory at the tournament, when I tee off, I will be thinking of him. (By the way, did I mention that he gave me my first set of golf clubs?) Tournament Registration and sponsor opportunity information can be found at: tinyurl.com/conexx-golf-clean.