“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.” –George Washington
“But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine.” –Thomas Jefferson

I’ve been lucky enough in life to have been surrounded by people who really know me, and despite that still love me. I’ve been honored to be acquainted with the Commandeurs for nearly 10 years now. They were my first art collectors and kindest of friends. They own some of my best pieces, and some of my worst and like friendship, they endure the ugly paintings and cherish the beautiful works.

Leo is the kind of dad that I wish all children had. Because of his business savy, he provides a very comfortable life for his family. But, it isn’t the possessions for which his children will remember him best. It will be the times spent around a fire in a mountain cabin playing Jenga, the cold nights in a ski town pounding down chili-cheese fries and laughing, the nights spent playing in the pool under the moonlight. He is the kind of a guy who after spending the day driving his daughter around town, battling traffic, and managing his own injury pain, said when asked that just getting to spend time with his daughter was the best part of his day.

I entered the Commandeur’s lives years ago when I began coaching their son. Cole, a very happy and talented boy, would spend as much time laughing as training sometimes, but always managed to execute well because he would think through his skills. Cloe his sister has always been a talented dancer, my little girlfriend, and guardian. When she was 3, she would give me scoldings for riding a bike without a helmet. Over the years I’ve kept in contact with the family, and been able to watch them grow.

The nucleus of the family is their mother Deb. There are a lot of things that I could tell you about Deb. I could tell you how smart, pretty, and thoughtful she is. But, the thing that I like most about Deb, Leo, Cole, and Cloe is how as a family they live compassion. While affluent, they do not live above their means, they use what they have to help others, and they take in strays all the time. Perhaps why they adopted me. Currently they have opened their home to a wonderful woman who seeking to become the best she can be. She came to America to teach Mandarin, and left her husband and 5 year old boy behind for a year in order to chase this opportunity. How would this woman have survived a year in America without the feeling of a family around her, with out having a precocious young girl to dote on, and without having a place in which to feel loved?

Throughout their 20 year marriage, they have become legal guardians of numerous wayward youth. They have taken over the parenting roles for countless children who never have known what it is to have 3 meals a day and someone to depend upon. To my knowledge they have put two kids through college, supplied many with cars, found work for others, and provided a home full of laughter and love for all. Even in the short weekend that I’ve been able to stay with them, I saw several boys come and camp out on their sofa. For these boys, home isn’t a place you want to or are encouraged to hangout in for long. The Commandeurs open their pantries, doors and arms to these boys who have never known a kind word from a parent. Preferring the acceptance, affection, and generosity that the Commandeurs have become known for, they each, in their own way, find with the Commandeurs more than a house…they find a home.

How will the epitaphs of people like this be eventually written? Will the countless lives of those they have touched say, “He was a good provider.”? Or will the stones that mark their passing not be large enough for all the thanks, gratitude, appreciation, and acknowledgment that these two are due. I know I will be amongst the many to say,'”Thank you. When I needed some help the most, you were there.” May we all be the love in others lives when they truly need it, and seek nothing in return as selflessly as I’ve watched the Commandeurs do over the years.

Love, Peace & Art to all.