Bon Voyage, Laverne! A Fond Farewell to Our Own Texas Rose

Grand Circle is a family company—and not just because Alan and I purchased and grew the business together. Our associates are all part of the Grand Circle family … and some in particular have grown especially close to our hearts.

If you’ve ever visited us at Grand Circle headquarters, you probably met Laverne Schaff at the reception desk. For 17 years, her infectious smile and charming southern drawl were the first things associates and visitors encountered when they entered the building. You only get one chance at a first impression—and we were happy to consider her the face and voice of Grand Circle. When Laverne told me last month that she’d made the difficult decision to retire, of course I was happy for her—but I was sad, too, because I knew we were losing a true company gem.

Usually I use this journal to write to you about my international travel experiences—but last year, I wrote about a different kind of trip. Yes, it was closer to home, but it changed my life as powerfully as any journey across the world. Laverne invited Alan and me to join her family’s annual Fourth of July celebration in Amarillo, Texas—where we donned Texas garb and did the two-step at a real West Texas barn dance. We will never forget the hospitality and love we received from these wonderful people. And of course, we’ll never forget seeing Laverne come to life on her home turf. When you cross into her hometown of Hereford, Texas, your eyes—and your nose—immediately know you’re in the heart of cattle country. Laverne just smiled her big smile and laughed her bigger laugh, and yelled out, “Smell the money!”

I have so many other memories of Laverne—of traveling with her through China, where she shopped her way across the country and made friends with everyone she met; and of her famous Halloween costumes, which she wore all day long, including during her morning commute on the train. She got to know each and every associate, and was never without a kind word. And in her own irreplaceable way, she epitomized the unique culture that we cultivate at Grand Circle.

Now, Laverne’s real family will have more time to appreciate her loving nature and indomitable spirit—and I’m sure they’re well aware of how lucky they are to have her. We were lucky, too, for 17 years.

I hope you consider yourself to be a part of the Grand Circle family—and that you’ll continue to share all your wonderful stories of discoveries you’ve made in your travels. Next month, we’ll be featuring some of our favorite traveler stories from the past year in Harriet’s Corner. Email me to tell me yours—and if you remember Laverne, and want to wish her bon voyage, I encourage you to do so in the comments.