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Monday, March 4, 2019

In Memoriam

John Martinelli died last week at the age of 85.  For nearly 30 years, John did my taxes.

Early on, I filled out the paperwork myself.  My situation became a little more complicated.  I went to those pop up places for a couple of years.  One year, I encountered the height of incompetence, walked out, and never went back.  I wrote a letter to management.  The company offered me a free session with one of their best and most experienced people.  I passed.  You had your chance.

A coworker suggested John Martinelli, and it was a perfect match.

Let me tell you about our yearly meetings.  His office was on the second floor of a building on Court Street in Scranton.  You got there by walking up a long staircase.  John had a huge office.  He would always be watching something on the History Channel when I walked in.  The TV would go off so I had his undivided attention.  He was always in a suit, including the jacket.  I'd be on the other side of the desk, jeans, untucked shirt, scruffy.  I felt like a vagrant in comparison, but tax time is stressful for me and I had to be comfortable.  The office was always a little too warm for my tastes.  There were many February afternoons when I would feel the sweat dripping down my back and sides.  It could have been the stress, too.  My first stop, invariably, after one of our sessions, was the mini mart up the street for a huge bottle of water.  My fluids needed replacing.

Our meetings would never begin until he asked me a few personal questions, getting caught up on my life and my work.  John was all business, but he did care about the lives of his clients.  We'd exchange pleasantries over the weather, the world, politics...

While my finances are rather complex, I always had my paperwork ready to go and well organized.  He looked at what I had assembled in my briefcase one day and said "Why can't everybody do that?"  It was the highest compliment.

John would go over everything carefully, meticulously, entering the numbers, printing the forms, making copies, having me sign where necessary.  It was a thing of beauty.  It was neat, and perfect, and he had my complete confidence.  I subscribe to the Tony Kornheiser school of tax returns.  According to Tony, there is one rule:  "Keep me out of jail."  I am happy to report John did that for me, for a very long time.

John Martinelli was not an electronic filing guy.  I'd cut him a check, as well as one for the state and the school district.  The returns would be mailed.  Waiting a tiny bit longer for a refund was no big deal.  John's services were always exceptionally reasonable.  He would have been a bargain at twice the price.

John stopped doing returns just before last year's tax season.  I realized age and health were issues.  I panicked.  A survey of current coworkers put me in the hands of someone who does a fine job.  It isn't the same.  It never will be.

Martinelli family, I am very sorry for your loss.  I'm thankful John was in my corner.