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  • Writer's pictureruthannelphillips

Chet Kuehl

Monday, May 18, 2009

There were unexpected raindrops today and it reminded me of a movie I had seen where a father tells his daughter that the raindrops meant that someone the Lord loves and cherishes has died, and those are God’s tears from heaven. Today, I knew that God was crying for us because we would all be missing Chet Kuehl. However, I also knew, that heaven had just become a much more interesting place.

I can’t officially speak for God, but I believe that Chet was put on this earth to turn the world on its ear as both an agitator and prankster with a wicked tongue and even bigger heart. I met Chet 15 years ago at Fireman’s Fund Insurance. He was a hard living man, the kind I am always attracted to; too much smoking and liquor, and definitely a workaholic. He did not do anything in moderation. If he hated you, he did so passionately, and you probably deserved it. He always had his ears up and was a master at stockpiling bits and pieces of information, always available to be used at a later date.

If you needed to watch your back, Chet would let you know, because as a friend, he always had your back. Chet would have made an excellent attorney and was able to think on his feet. He understood every nuance of the insurance industry and he loved the conflicts and negotiations involved in settling the largest and most hostile claims. He relished taking on David Copperfield (the famous magician), and winning. Depositions were fun for him, court was even better. I once saw him get shoved in a meeting by a hostile attorney. Chet remained calm and used the attack to his advantage in settling the claim. I didn’t know how rattled he was until he tried to light a cigarette in the parking lot later. His hands were shaking, but he was thrilled that he was able to piss off that attorney so badly.

Chet loved to torment people. Debra loved her birds but Chet would still make comments about having them for dinner, and what kind of sauce went well with roasted parrot. Nick loved his dogs, but it would not have been off limits to hear a comment or two about how they eat them in China. With Chet, everything was fair game. Yet, he never forgot a birthday, always asked about the kids, and would schlep over to Palmdale monthly to take me to lunch. They say you know who your true friends are if they show up and help you move. Well, Chet was there for me on moving day. And when he met my family, he jumped right in. He didn’t even bat an eye when my brother backed him into a corner and passed gas on him.

Chet might have given it, but he sure could take it as well.

Chet did not like to talk about himself, but I knew he had been a caregiver to his aging father, adored his family, and loved to disparage his ex-wives. Chet was Oprah, Doctor Phil, and Don Rickles on speed - all rolled into one glorious package. God truly broke the mold when He made Chet.

Unfortunately, when Fireman’s Fund changed their management, their attitude changed and he was not appreciated for his experience, knowledge, or the 70 hours plus that he worked each week. Chet called it liked he saw it, he was a straight shooter, and he was always fair to the company and the clients. Chet’s work ethic should have elicited respect and awe, but at Fireman’s Fund they labeled him a troublemaker and a rogue and forced him into retirement. Fireman’s Fund should never be forgiven for the way they treated Chet or the way they let him go. He deserved accolades for his dedication, spirit and compassion. He deserved to be able to decide when he wanted to retire. He deserved a big party, a gold watch and a plaque that read, “Yeah, Chet, you really kicked some butt!”

Chet was one of my best friends. He died yesterday from cancer. I will miss him. I will miss the friendship, the advice, the love. And I will miss his greetings. Because however long you live, you can never be called “that beautiful, intelligent, lovely lady” enough times. And even if that’s what he told all the women, coming from Chet, he could always make you believe it.

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