Most CPAs, like other professions, will tell you that they had mentors during their formative years at an accounting firm. Traditionally, that person, or persons, have been battle-proven veterans of the profession, but unselfishly took a fledgling, entry-level accountant under their collective wings, and gradually allowed that person blossom to their fullest potential.

Often, in interviews, I hear CPAs speak fondly, or even on occasion, choke up, when they refer to a mentor who has since passed on.

I mention this only because I now know what it’s like to lose a mentor.

Mine was not an accountant, although he easily could calculate multiple numbers in his head and even prepared tax returns for his extended family.

No, my mentor was placed in the unenviable position of being my father-in-law.

It was an arduous, three-year sell job to convince him I was the right man for his oldest daughter, but eventually, like a persistent child begging his parents for a toy, I wore him down.

A hulking, barrel-chested man with a booming voice and laugh like a department store Santa, Vincent (or ‘Vinny’ as he was known to his friends, relatives and paying customers), patiently taught me "carryover" skills such as rewiring lights, simple plumbing repairs and the correct technique to avoid paint drips. His reasoning was that if you could do it yourself, a professional won’t overcharge you.

In another era, his patience with my bumbling would have earned him sainthood in at least five churches, as my home improvement skill level was roughly comparable to that of an aardvark.

He was "Trading Spaces" before it became trendy.

Since he had worked with his hands – either on large scale projects like airports and office buildings, or just tinkering around the house, he never quite understood this journalism business — only that it managed to support his daughter and later, two grandchildren, without regular pleading to wire money.

Later when I accepted the editorship of Accounting Today, he looked at me quizzically and said, "but you’re not a CPA."

When his once-powerful body began to betray him, my family, ever the optimists kept hope alive. But as a cynical journalist, I knew better and truthfully, despite the brave façade, so did he.

I’ll probably like the world a little less without him in it.

But in future interviews when the word "mentor" surfaces into a conversation, it will be one of the few times in my career that follow-up questions will be rendered unnecessary.

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