We have a tradition at Dandelion of celebrating birthdays. We ask everyone what their favorite treat is on their first day, and then on their birthday, their team typically surprises them with pizza, a chocolate eclair, or a little cheese plate. There have been a few times when team members have joined Dandelion on their birthday (Anna, Pablo) and we’ve had to scramble to uphold the tradition.
One of our last in-person, unmasked birthday celebrations was in 2019. I happened to record the birthday on my handheld iphone. In the video, you can see about two dozen team members huddling in the hallway while Caitlin lights the candles on top of a plate of cookies and ice cream. And then, all at once, the chocolate factory erupts in a remarkably on-key Happy Birthday for our wonderful Production Mechanic, Chuck.
Chuck joined us over five years ago, half retired but wanting something to keep him busy. He started at Valencia and helped us open the 16th Street Factory in 2019.
He had the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met as well as a habit of sending “love notes” to the factory every quarter or so. One went like this:
Hello Dear Dandelions,
Tomorrow I get to begin my sixth year trying to support the production team. What a ride! And I hope it keeps on keeping on.It continues to be a joy to come to work and spend my days with the wonderful people on our teams.
I have said this before but it bears repeating. When you discover someone worthy of your love, add them to the many you already love. You won’t run out. There is no limit to how many people you can love.
Also to repeat, somehow Dandelion finds amazing team members and I just love you all. Thanks to you all for being so thoughtful and helpful.
I continue to know that if I have these feelings and don’t share them the opportunity to say nice things may pass and I will rue the missed chance.
With great love to you all,
During Covid, Chuck came to the factory every day to keep the chocolate production line humming so our bean-to-bar chocolate factory could exist through today — with pictures of his family and grandchildren on all walls and surfaces of his tool room cheering him on.
In early August Chuck came to Todd and said, “Todd, I think it might be time to think about really retiring,” which surprised us all. And perhaps Chuck suspected something because the next week, he received a late-stage diagnosis and shortly thereafter entered palliative care. Even from the comfort of his living room surrounded by family, he woke up to join our weekly virtual Wednesday-morning All Hands and told us (again) that he loved us all.
We hoped he had more time then. His wish was to have another Christmas with his family. But as Chuck always reminded us, you should always say “I love you” to those you care about because you never know how much time you have.
We’re a small team today and work shoulder-to-shoulder at the factory. And we’re still feeling the shock waves of losing someone we’ve worked beside, who helped carry the factory during these past 18 months, and whom we cared about very, very deeply.
Chuck, we miss you and we so love you too. It’s hard going into Q4, typically the busiest time for our chocolate factory when we all rally together, without our loyal mascot of so many years.
And yet, if there’s one thing that Chuck would want, it would be for us to make sure we remind those we care about that we love them. And sappy as it might sound and though it’s unlikely we’ve ever met, I want to say we love you all too. Thank you from all of us for supporting craft chocolate, for making our livelihoods possible, and for cheering us on during uncertain times.
Wishing you all health and many good days ahead.
Chuck, rest in peace our dear friend.