Lee Maxwell Retires: A Collection of Appreciation

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Lee Maxwell Retires: A Collection of Appreciation


By Erik Brinkman

After thirty-three years working for Brinkman & Associates, our tireless General Manager Lee Maxwell retired this year, becoming the first lifelong employee to retire from the company (as opposed to leaving for another job). At the Brinkman Christmas Party in December, Dirk Brinkman, John Lawrence and Baba Brinkman delivered speeches (Baba's was a rap) of gratitude for Lee’s time with Brinkman. Here are some key excerpts from these three speeches, celebrating Lee’s time with Brinkman and her many contributions to the company.

Dirk: Lee Maxwell has retired. So we want to acknowledge her. We want to thank her for helping create the glorious years. >She started from the ground up, from the Riondel office above the curling rink, moving to her first formal bunk room office in the trailer camp we bought from Canfor Woss in the early 80's. In the beginning she worked with Joyce to build the payroll and accounting systems, always focused on making it work in the field.

She was one of the first coordinators—the first in an enduring tradition, mentoring many operations and regional managers. Because of her strength, Lee’s role was often to step into the breach in a crisis, or to facilitate a transition. During her 33 years with the company we have assembled a glorious group of exceptional people who were wonderful friends to work with. Lee’s tough love held us together and we loved her for it.

John: I first met Lee back in the 80’s after Robyn convinced Dirk’s brother Wiebe to hire me, and we started planting in Ontario. Lee was the key to the move to Ontario and it must have been as hectic and crazy for her as it was exciting.

I remember always finding Lee to be a calm and reassuring voice at the end of the phone line. I called Lee at all hours, weekends or weeknights (rarely during office hours) and she always answered as I crammed myself into countless pay phones across northern Ontario.

Throughout the years there were many successes and many failures, sometimes those failures could be pretty overwhelming to a tired kid learning the ropes.  So, I’d call Lee and we’d laugh, A LOT!  It seemed to me that Lee never treated a problem as anything other than an obstacle to be overcome – there weren’t failures, just funny stories.

I learned a lot from Lee, sometimes directly through her guidance and perseverance, and sometimes indirectly through her patience and support as I puzzled things through. Like many of you, for many years my entire contact with the company and head office was Lee. There’s no question that working with Lee was an important reason why I stayed with this organization, and I will always be grateful for everything that she taught me and everything that we shared together.


Whatever the job, Lee was up to the challenge

Brinkman was expanding, and had work enough for her talents

She was sent to the field to avert disasters

Serious, stressful situations, punctuated by bursts of laughter

She was sent to Northern Alberta to recruit planters

She was sent to audit supervisors' books and improve standards

Some people lead with their guts, and act on intuition

So Lee was tough, but friendly, the smiling inquisition

She made sure the numbers reconciled and made sense

While my dad continued his world domination plans

She learned how a big loss and how a big win feels

And with the nurseries she learned about tilting at windmills

The company expanded further, it always had a heartbeat

The office moved to the new location on Sharpe Street

And Lee became operations manager, the gravitational centerpiece

Her official job description was “Chief Preventer of Entropy"


Which wasn't easy with a dozen powerful personalities pulling

In a dozen different directions in each discussion, with some cajoling

And some bulldozing, and often the heat was shocking

The conversation could be about pay or pizza toppings

Brinkman just attracted strong-wills and strong minds

Some of whom just couldn't function within a hierarchy's confines

Lee was promoted to General Manager and had a claim to seniority

A former hippie with a newfound taste for authority

A mother hen surrounded by insubordinate peacocks

And a boss who thinks only in global historical epochs


Brinkman is what it is because of Lee’s influence

Her life is unfolding in thirty three year increments

This is 33 AD, thirty-three years After Dirk

And now, at 66, her next epoch is After Work

It begins tonight, the next in a series of transitions

That’s Lee’s nature, she always takes an active interest

Always thinking of others, always generous to a fault

Never concerned about the credit, just the result

Brinkman is blessed for the years that she invested in it

And envies the next group with whom she spends a minute

Here’s to half a life spent in the Brinkman trenches

And here’s to the next thirty three years of adventures!