By Mike Martin
That's how I felt the other day after I called Assured Title in Columbia
with a question for Dan Olsen
, who had guided me through many real estate closings with patience, humor, integrity, and care.
A Wisconsin native I got to know when he ran Assured's predecessor -- LandAmerica/Commonwealth Title Insurance -- Dan became a confidante on a much deeper level when we started sharing stories about the women in our lives and breast cancer, usually on the way into or out of Gerbes supermarket.
Our six years of conversations started less personally, however, long before my wife was diagnosed in 2009.
We'd see each other standing in the checkout line and start shooting the breeze, about the real estate market, or foreclosures in Columbia, or the latest crazy government requirement for closing documentation. Or he'd tell me about the joys of Door County, Wisconsin in the early Fall, like Vermont in the mid-west, where Dan loved to take his HOG -- his Harley -- and hit the open road and think.
Dan had a low, gentle voice -- honed I understood from radio and broadcasting -- and a quiet wit, on full display one memorable day when he coined the name "Garagezilla," about Columbia's giant new parking garage.
I almost split a side laughing when he slipped that in -- I don't remember what we were talking about, but it obviously had something to do with one of my favorite subjects: the City Hall Follies. I'd heard "Garage-mahal" and other nicknames, but never Garagezilla. I imagined the beast eating cars and shooting its bright, dragony lights across unsuspecting neighborhoods, just like Godzilla storming Tokyo.
I started using "Garagezilla" in Heart Beat stories and as it took flight, I thanked Dan and joked with him that one day we'd have to host a special awards ceremony for his important contribution to Columbia lore.
One day, I'd make it to Door County too, and tell him all about it. One day, he'd meet my wife Alison, and we'd share stories, and she would meet that fellow Dan from the title company I had talked about so often.
I was heartsick to hear he was gone.