I’m just back from 24 hours in Las Vegas where I spent time remembering my friend IJ Gorman.
Ira-John Gorman was an athlete, a coach, and a teacher. He persisted through a rocky childhood and made a place for himself in this world by being an advocate for children, their education, and his faith. Family was everything to him, and his definition of “family” included people who endured less-than-stellar upbringings.
And his definition of a family included me thanks to his lovely wife, China Gorman.
China and I have been friends for a decade. On a trip to Las Vegas in 2010 or 2011, my husband and I joined the Gorman family for dinner at Ceasars Palace. Ken sat to my right, IJ sat to my left, and because I have atrocious table manners, I kept trying to drink IJ’s water.
I grabbed his water a dozen times before IJ laughed and told me, “Look at your hands and make the ‘okay’ sign. See how your left makes a b, and your right makes a d? Bread and drink. Bread and drink. Bread and drink.”
Ken and I still use that to this day!
It’s so funny that IJ Gorman taught me table manners, but he was committed to being a positive influence in my life. When I saw him at HR events, he always asked me if I was doing okay. Were people treating me with respect? Anybody hassling me? Because I should come to him if there was anything I ever needed. Did I hear him? Was he clear? Come to him with anything. He was here for me.
When I had the privilege of seeing IJ in person, our conversations always went to respect and integrity. He believed in the adage that how you do anything is how you do everything. Having a personal brand online and a different set of behaviors in real life was appalling. There should be no daylight between what’s in your heart and how you act in person. Show up for people no matter the medium. Relationships matter.
I went to Cuba with China in 2015, and IJ sent a message on Facebook asking for photos of his lovely bride in Havana. She would never think to post selfies. He wanted to see his wife enjoying herself.
I ask you — How many husbands would do that?
And IJ reached out with support and kind words about my blog posts, speaking events and videos. He’d send cat videos to say hello. And he never missed my birthday.
IJ was such a phenomenal human being, and his memorial service was everything you’d expect for a guy who was so beloved by friends, family, and colleagues. Everybody in the room laughed and cried, and, not that it needed to be confirmed, but it was clear IJ was a powerhouse of a human being who made the world a better place.
We all just got better for knowing him.