My Friend Carole
You may think you knew Carole Sloan, but you probably didn't.
If that's the case, you missed someone pretty special.
If you just saw her at a trade show, all you noticed was a woman with a very individualistic sense of style, moving briskly through the market, not stopping for many social pleasantries. Carole could move faster than just about anybody else, even recently when her walking wasn't what it used to be.
If you were only a reader of her stories and commentary in Home Textiles Today over the past couple of decades, you knew her as an astute observer of the business, but you always wondered what she looked like. Carole never allowed her picture to be taken.
If you were on the other end of an interview with her, you knew her as probing questioner, not at all timid about calling you out on your answer if it wasn't credible to her. Carole was no shrinking violet.
And even if you had the opportunity to be with Carole socially at an industry function, you still saw someone who rarely gave an inch of herself to anyone yet expected you to tell her virtually everything you knew. Carole never met an answer that totally satisfied her.
Very few people got past those Carole Sloans. She just had very high standards for who she let into her life. But if you were special enough to make the cut, boy, were you in for a treat.
Beneath that gruff, sometimes abrupt and often curt exterior laid one of the kindest, sweetest and most caring people you'd ever want to meet. Once you were in her life, she couldn't do enough for you, whether it was helping you professionally in your career or calling you - Carole never e-mailed anyone ever - to ask how you or someone in your family was.
She remembered your birthday. A favorite for special benchmarks was an offering of calf's brains, whimsically and wittily suggesting that you needed mental augmentation as your personal aging process progressed.
She found you a job. The behind-the-scenes placement service she ran would have been a full-time job for just about anybody else. The number of people who can trace their career paths to Carole's assistance would fill a market building ... or two.
She knew everything. And everybody. She worked the phones better than anybody, often balancing two or three conversations at the same time. She usually had double or triple breakfast layers at shows. She could spot a news item buried in the bottom of page 27 of the New York Post quicker than the best investigative journalist. Carole was one of the best reporters I've ever known.
She had a wicked sense of humor. And a vocabulary that could make both a Harvard professor and a stevedore jealous.
She had a great appetite. For gossip, for dinner and for white wine ... not necessarily in that order.
But Carole was a private person and frankly, she would hate all the fuss we're making about her now. She never wanted to be acknowledged or honored by the industry, her co-workers or, for that matter, anybody. She regretted the one time she agreed to be part of a group of women industry leaders a couple of market lifetimes ago.
So we're doing something here that none of us would have dared to do when Carole was around. You never wanted to be on Carole's shit list. It wasn't a good place to be.
But for one time only, we can recognize someone who truly did everything in her life on her own terms to the greater benefit of all of us. That's not a statement very many of us can make.