This past week has been a whirlwind. Each week I have is full, and I’m fortunate for that. I have some great things going on at work, and I was able to also have the opportunity to speak at the Vermont SHRM State Conference and attend a SHRM Board meeting. Any time I can be near my HR peers and get to know them more, do good work and share some laughs along the way, my bucket is filled.

However, this week, my bucket leaked a little.

Several years ago, my dear friend Matt Stollak, was talking to me about his HR Students at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin. He is a phenomenal human who also happens to teach people to become the future practitioners in our profession. Matt always has fond stories of his students, but one in particular made a profound difference in my life. One day he reached out and wanted to make sure that I connected with one of his students named Callie. I sent her a note to connect and she jumped on the request right away.

Callie was eager, interesting and engaged the first moment that we talked. She was always smiling, ready to share a jab and challenge your perspective because she wanted to learn more and more about HR. When I started to get to know her, she was the SHRM student chapter President. She interviewed me for a paper of hers and kept in touch until she graduated. When she entered the workforce, we stayed connected and I loved seeing her start to dig in and grow as a peer in HR.

Our paths crossed over the years at various SHRM events because she remained involved as a SHRM volunteer leader for the Wisconsin SHRM State Council as both the Social Media Director and College Relations Director. I’ve been active and volunteering for two decades now, so I had a good chance of running into her. Just a short time ago she left the corporate world of HR and actually joined SHRM as an employee. Her role was as a Field Services Director which meant she would visit State Councils and local SHRM chapters and conferences to work/meet with SHRM volunteer leaders. It was great to see her join in and give the role a new viewpoint and energy !!

As I kept staying involved myself, I saw Callie more regularly because I had stepped into different roles which allowed me to travel and speak around the country. Every time I was at an event with Callie we would chat, catch up and laugh (of course.) She was a bright light that I couldn’t wait to see. She was continuing to flourish and improve the lives of so many people, and I loved seeing her thrive !! She even recently stepped into the role of overseeing College Relations and the Young Professionals efforts of SHRM National.

A few months ago, she called me and shared some incredibly grave news. She told me she hadn’t been feeling well and the doctors she had visited couldn’t figure out what was happening to her. After multiple visits to doctors, she was told she had Stage 4 stomach cancer. I was crushed. I thanked her for letting me know, but I felt absolutely helpless.

I reassured her that I would check in and be available for her at any time. I am a man of faith, and I told her that she would be in my prayers. This wasn’t a hollow sentiment. She told me that she was facing a fierce regimen of chemotherapy, but was hopeful that since she was younger, she would get through.

A week ago, Matt reached out and told me that Callie was given 4 to 6 weeks to live. Now I was devastated. I reached out that day to text her and tell her how much she meant to me and to so many others. I told her that she needed to know that she was a light who made a lasting impact on everyone she encountered. I also told her that my life was better because she had been in it. Again, not a hollow sentiment.

I then heard that she was going to meet with hospice this week. After I had spoken at the Vermont SHRM conference and had a packed room filled with more HR peers who were laughing and looking at life and HR in a positive way, I got the news that Callie had passed.

Picture with dear friends at SHRM18 in Chicago. From left to right: Michelle Kohlof, me, Mary Williams, Callie Zipple and Anthony Paradiso.

There are no good words for how much I’m affected by her passing. I know that the loss of anyone is never easy. I ache in a way that seems to have no end because Callie is no longer here. I’m crushed for her husband and family as well.

I reached out to Matt to ask if he thought sharing the news on social media would be okay. I wanted to be respectful, but also wanted to let others know that were fortunate enough to have met and known Callie. He thought it would be fine. When I shared, I was floored by the incredible response and outpouring of love and support. She HAD made a difference !!

I’m writing this today for two reasons: (1) I needed to make sure that even more people knew about my friend Callie. (2) I wanted this to be a reminder for all of us.

You see, Callie engaged every. single. person she encountered. She met them with interest, joy and a willing ear to listen. She didn’t look past anyone to get to something, or someone, more important. People mattered to Callie.

My friends, we have the same opportunity that Callie took every. day. We are surrounded by people in our families, our workplaces and in our communities. Are you taking the time to engage with others? Do they matter?

Do you know that YOU may be the one person who chose to stop, connect and listen at the exact moment someone needed to be noticed and heard? The people who are in your life are there for a reason.

You need to remember that you make an impression on people any time you meet them. Those interactions can be positive and lasting if you choose to be intentional and step into the lives of others on purpose. You can be the one interaction to remind them that they matter.

Callie did that for me as well as for so many others, and I am eternally grateful that she did.

29 thoughts on “Callie”

  1. Callie did touch a number of lives – and it is awesome that you want others to know of and be inspired by her…because they should be. The world is better because both of you have been in it.

  2. Steve, your words are beautiful. I first met Callie last year, after speaking on twitter she eagerly grabbed me for a hug and a selfie. She was joy.
    Seeing the outpouring of love and the celebration of Callie’s life and all the people she impacted makes me feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to meet Callie and for the incredible community we are surrounded by.

  3. What a nice tribute to Callie and a good reminder to all of us. Callie’s energy and love of life lit up every room that she walked into. I am fortunate to have met her.

  4. Such a beautiful tribute to a beautiful young, inspiring, intelligent, kind hearted lady. I loved hanging out with Callie. She was so funny and was always cracking a joke. She will truly be missed… 😥

  5. A truly beautiful woman inside & out. I only met her a handful of times but she always made me feel like we’d known each other for years! RIP Callie! Until we met again.

  6. That is a beautiful tribute to a wonderful person, Steve. I was fortunate to work with Callie briefly towards the end of my experience as District Director for Indiana’s Northern Region and was impressed with her knowledge, passion and energy. I am so sad about her passing and will try to honor her legacy and #LiveLikeCallie.

  7. Straight from your heart and beautifully said Steve. Callie mattered and made an impact on everyone she encountered. People matter and we can and should be more intentional about letting them know. I love your big heart and genuine interest in people my friend.

  8. I never had the good fortune to interact with Callie but your touching tribute has shown what a shining light she must have been. So sorry for your loss.

  9. Very well written Steve. Callie always had a smile on her face. Definitely made a lasting impression on many people. She will be missed.

  10. Steve, an amazing tribute to a talented young woman and HR professional who touched the lives of all of us. In Callie’s world, she never focused the attention on herself, she made sure the center of attention was on those around her. I am so humbled to have had the opportunity to work with Callie and get to know her as a friend, a colleague and an all round HR pro destined to do good things in her life. She accomplished that and much more. Callie, you will always be in our hearts, and there will not be an HR event in which we don’t expect you to just show up in your own way. Always remembered, never forgotten, RIP my friend.

  11. Beautiful tribute. Although we never met in person, we were connected professionally.
    What an accomplished professional with a big heart.
    Rest well Callie.

  12. Thank you for your great ability to write what we are feeling but can’t seem to find the words. Callie was a wonderful human and I’m glad I got to know her – she was a light and a great person. She will be missed!

  13. An amazing tribute to a beautiful person, I’m heartbroken as so many of us are, she was a light in a sometimes very dark world. I accidentally emailed her after I heard of her passing and I could hear her laugh. She touched everyone and everything and will be missed by all. God Bless!

  14. Beautifully said, Steve. Callie was a powerhouse and made a lasting impression of what an HR professional should be. We should all aspire to be a little more like Callie. ❤

  15. Callie was first a coworker and then evolved into a great friend. I’m blessed to have had the time with her and saddened that others won’t get that same opportunity. She made everything more enjoyable and I am so proud of what she accomplished in her short time with us. Thanks for sharing Steve. To know Callie is to know joy. I sure will miss her.

  16. When I first heard of Callie, it was from Johnny Taylor and his emotions touched me greatly when he spoke of Callie at the VTSHRM conference. I’m so sorry to hear of her passing.

  17. What a wonderful tribute to Callie and a great reminder to all of us. Although I never had the chance to meet Callie, your tribute shows what an amazing person she was and how she touched so many lives in a beautiful way. I am so sorry for your loss.

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