Sunday, July 15, 2007

Remembering Arne Petersen

Just last week, I discovered that someone I considered a friend had passed away on February 9, 2003. Arne Petersen, the Danish-born developer of Taino Beach Resort and Ritz Beach Resort on Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas, suffered a gunshot wound to his chest during an armed robbery in his home. I worked for Arne for a couple of years, after I left John and Ron Holt. He will never know it now, but Arne has influenced me greatly, even to this day. The George Benard Shaw quote on this blog's header owes its placement, in part, to Mr. Arne Petersen.

Working with Arne was difficult sometimes. He was the most "hands-on" developer I have ever seen in my life. Every resort problem, from new construction to new light bulbs, passed through Arne at his beach-side office, the first table on Taino Beach's restaurant deck. He was very approachable; employees and timeshare owners alike could stop and talk during breakfast. Okay, maybe "talk" wasn't the best way to describe it. Arne could speak and understand English, but many times he chose not to. He would sit there with his twinkling blue eyes and reddish complexion (was St. Nicholas a Dane?), nodding his head, waiting for you to finally give up getting your point across. Only then would he smile sweetly, a twinkle in his eye, and throw a friendly verbal jab at you. As I've grown older, I've used this "Mr. P." technique effectively; pretending not to understand what the Hell you're trying to tell me, rather than bother arguing with you. It saves a lot of time, believe me.

Arne only pretended to be a grumpy old man. I remember the day after a killer sales day, when everyone literally bought everything we threw at them, Arne appeared at our morning sales meeting brandishing a fire extinguisher. He ran from table to table, bellowing in his intentionally broken English, "Too much heat! Too much heat! You burn my poor owners!" He was proud, but damn if The Danish Hammer would admit it. It was hysterical.

To this day, I find myself unconsciously adopting another of Arne's mannerisms. When you see someone you really don't feel like talking to, put on a shit-eating grin from ear to ear, wave like royalty, and say in the thickest Danish accent you can, "Hihowareyou?". For some strange reason, it makes the other guy look like an idiot. Somebody needs to throw some grant money on this to find out why.
While he generally distrusted most Americans (most likely due to bad business deals in the past) Arne Petersen passionately loved the Bahamian people. His proudest moment was the day he finally got his long over-due Bahamian citizenship. (Imagine, this is a man who poured millions of dollars into the Bahamian economy, contributed to dozen of charitable organizations, and employed a hundred employees at any given time, but was continually denied?) When the government finally decided to reward him with citizenship, every employee was as happy as he was!
Arne protected his people. I know he gave many of his people no-interest loans to buy cars and houses. If any of the Bahamians needed money, Arne was the first they went to, and Arne would usually give it to them. Of course, payments were deducted from paychecks.
One last thing. Arne loved Tanio Beach and Ritz Beach, especially the trees and foilage he had landscaped. He drove the gardeners crazy. Every tree, bush, and flower was under Arne's green thumb. Arne understood more than anyone, you can always make things better than they really are.
God be with you, Arne. I'm sure the people you left behind can carry on, but I'm sure you are missed every moment.

Arnie and long-time employee Gaynelle

1 comment:

Curlene Bain said...

Well Put. Good Story.

Q: Where can men over the age of 50 find younger women who are interested in them? A: Try a bookstore under fiction.