Too often it takes a tragedy to make us appreciate what we have.
In my last letter to you I was delighted to report that the union had achieved two major and long- elusive goals: a balanced budget with a surplus for our reserves, and timely delivery of members’ residuals.
We made a point in the boardroom of acknowledging the operational effort that went into these extraordinary achievements. But two recent and tragic losses really drove home for me that accomplishments like these don’t happen simply because they are demanded – they are the result of the passion, commitment and professionalism of each individual who makes the choice to work for us.
Lamont Correll and David Metz were two of these deeply dedicated people. And they both made our union and our professional lives measurably better, as individuals and as valued members of our staff team.
Their backgrounds and their paths to SAG-AFTRA could hardly have been more different. Lamont, 41, graduated from William Howard Taft High School with numerous basketball scholarships and worked for Acura of Santa Monica for many years before joining SAG-AFTRA’s Residuals Department a year ago. He was first brought in as a temp to work through the tremendous backlog of residuals checks, but his positive attitude and work focus paid off this past March with his hiring as a full-time residuals processing specialist. He took real pride in being part of the team that got our residuals system back on track and got us our checks when we needed them.
David, on the other hand, after a brief flirtation with a career as a commercial airline pilot, graduated from Cal State Northridge, earned a CPA license and worked at Arthur Andersen, followed by stints at Polygram and Capitol/EMI. In 2007 he became SAG’s controller and immediately went after the existing operation, systematically streamlining, revamping and correcting anything that was not up to his exacting standards. Pre-merger, Dave worked tirelessly with staff and elected to develop a dues structure and business plan for the new union. Once merger passed, he devoted himself to integrating people, systems and finances, and cleaning up the problems we inherited. As much as any other single person, David is responsible for the fiscal strength we now enjoy– and the perfect audit that we just earned.
David and Lamont were both deeply committed to their families as well, Lamont as devoted single dad of three boys, Dave to his husband of 24 years. And they were both treasured by their co-workers: Lamont with his infectious smile, and always something positive to say, and Dave, unflappable and with a wicked sense of humor, keeping everyone calm and happy.
On July 4th, driving home from a celebration of their department’s hard-earned turnaround, Lamont’s car was struck from behind, killing him and his two sons, and seriously injuring fellow employee Tyree Nash and another child. (Tyree is recovering well.) David had congenital heart issues that in early August resulted in heart attacks. He was hospitalized and put on the short list for a heart transplant, and seemed to be stable. But on August 13, at age 52, we lost him as well.
Neither man sought the spotlight. They were not superstars, except to the people around them. Unlike our cherished brother Robin Williams, also taken so tragically from us, they didn’t have the opportunity to touch millions and millions of lives. But their care and dedication did touch your life, and mine. Let’s take a moment to think of them, and to be grateful for the SAG-AFTRA staff family who work every day to make our lives better.