We all have people who touch our lives in many ways. One of those folks was Mike Casalini, the first manager I had at Target that took me under his wing and mentored me professionally. When I was just an hourly employee, Mike saw in me some sort of future potential and helped me discover my path as a leader here at Target. He was instrumental in helping me realize that this could be a great place for career.

Sixteen years later, I’m still here plugging away – and having a great time. Mike had a lot to do with my decision to make Target my career coming out of Indiana University.

More than just my boss, Mike was my friend – and a friend of many others that he worked with here at Target.

I became Mike’s peer in 1995 and then moved away from Indiana in 1996 to the northeast. In 1997, Mike joined the team in New Jersey, and not long later, I was promoted and became his boss. In much the same way that Mike taught me as my leader, he taught me as a member of my team.

It wasn’t long that he was promoted again to be my peer – moved out to Pittsburgh, met his wife Lisa and had two children. Later, they relocated to Philadelphia and moved into the stores organization as a Store Team Leader.

We lost touch somewhere in there – we were in different organizations, and I had moved on to headquarters. We’d see each other at some meetings from time to time, but generally had not had much contact with each other in quite some time.

Just a few days ago, I picked up my phone to discover several text messages and a few voicemails. The first voicemail I listened to was from a peer on the east coast who told me that Mike had passed away suddenly on Saturday night.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in the last few days since Mike’s passing, as old friends and co-workers have gotten back into touch, is that you should never let your friends become fade away… I’m grateful that I’ve relearned that lesson, but ashamed that it took Mike’s unexpected death for me to realize it.

He was only 38 years old.