Wayne A. Tenenbaum (1941-2022) – A Personal Remembrance

In the fall of 1964, I started law school at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. I soon met second-year student Wayne Tenenbaum, and we immediately hit it off. It was a friendship that continued uninterrupted for the next 57 years. Wayne died on January 23, 2022, at the age of 80. Obituary here.

As word got out that we had lost Wayne, the emails started coming in to reminisce. Some samples to give a picture of Wayne:

 One of a kind. He was amazing. A brilliant man who positively affected many people. Quick wit, political acumen, and love of stats. Always a smile on his face and in his heart. Such a nice guy – avid collector of baseball cards. Brains and integrity…plus he created fun everywhere he went. One of the good guys…quite the collector and extremely knowledgeable about all things regarding baseball. Brilliant and a great sense of humor. Unique person…but what I appreciated most about him was his great sense of humor. Unique, good humored, intelligent and pragmatic, and a joy to work with. A “take charge” big presence no matter who else was in the room. The guy had some horsepower. His friends will long remember his penchant for a good time (pranks and wonderful parties planned and/or hosted) and good food, sharing that fun with many friends and followers. Super smart, funny and no nonsense. My first time at Arthur Bryant’s was with Wayne…”Showtime” can’t even begin to describe that experience! He loved Coca-Cola…stacks of cases in his garage and stacks of empties waiting for return. A real cool character.

 I agree with all of that. Below, Wayne helping me buy a camera in New York, circa 1980.

An Odd Couple: We came from very different backgrounds. I was from a Catholic blue-collar family and lived in Independence. He was Jewish, and the family business was selling auto supplies (Benton Auto Parts). In 1959, Wayne graduated from Southwest and I graduated from Van Horn. I went off to Rolla for five years and picked up a couple of engineering degrees. Wayne went to Illinois University for two years, but was informed by the school he should not return. I’ve heard two reasons. He played too much poker. He played too much bridge. Probably both.

He somehow ended up at a Methodist school, National College, on Truman Road down the street from Benton Auto Parts. He joked that the only religious course he had to take was on the Old Testament. After graduation, he chose not to join the family business – he did not want to open and close up shop from 6 to 6 each day. Nor was he tempted to become a doctor. Wayne’s line on this: “You know what a lawyer is? A Jewish boy who can’t stand the sight of blood.” So he headed to UMKC law school. I joined him there a year later.

I first met Wayne because he was recruiting for his professional fraternity, Phi Alpha Delta (PAD). He had me at hello. He was friendly, funny, smart and a character. He also took me under his wing for student bar politics and the next year engineered my election as president of the Student Bar Association.

One of the advantages of being active in student bar activities was that we could attend the American Law Student Association Meeting (ALSA). In the summer of 1965, this meant a trip to Miami in Wayne’s convertible. We stopped overnight in Dothan, Alabama, and Wayne said I was sure brave to ride with a Jewish guy through the Deep South during the Civil Rights Movement. Three men had been killed the previous summer in Mississippi, and the two white men were Jewish. I had not been scared until he told me that. We arrived in Miami without incident.

While in Miami, we went to the Playboy Club (he had a card). There was a small stage where bunnies would sing. We were close to the stage and they of course noticed the rotund funny guy (not me). I talked them into letting Wayne go on stage, assuring them he was a great joke-teller. In just the year I had known him, I found that he had a joke for every occasion, often delivered in dialect. He bombed at the Playboy Club. Not his audience. But I always was.

Our summer ALSA meeting in 1966 was in Montreal. Wayne had graduated, but he attended because he had an official position with the national organization. This was our first international trip together. Our next one was 21 years later – around the world. More on that below. 

Early Law Practice: Out of law school, Wayne went to work as general counsel at Parkview-Gem, a major drug store chain in the region. He then moved to private practice at the Sheridan, Sanders firm, where one of the partners was Mike White, our Phi Alpha Delta fraternity brother from law school days. This would prove to be a serendipitous connection.

Politics/Assessor: Although Wayne was not as active as I was in politics, he sometimes provided endorsement support and campaign checks. In 1970, I worked on a campaign for Ray Webb for state rep in an area where Wayne grew up. Wayne went through the voter lists and sent letters of support to people he knew. In 1972, I had no trouble getting him to write a check for Jack Schramm, a candidate for Lt. Governor – if Jack had won the election, he would have been the first Jewish person to win statewide office in Missouri. Below, a Schramm fundraiser at Alec Bratt’s home. From left, Bratt, Schramm, Steve Glorioso, Wayne, Lonnie and Mike White.

 In 1974, Mike White ran for county executive. I was his campaign manager and worked closely with veteran politico Ken Hill (more serendipity as you will see). When Ken and I needed analysis of the numbers from the voter lists and prior election results, we recruited the human computer – Wayne. Working with a pencil and his brain, he could provide info faster than whatever was being used for a calculator in that era.

Mike won his race and named Wayne as county assessor – a perfect match of position and skills. Both Mike and Wayne received favorable reviews during their four years in office. But as always, property tax assessment drew the attention of the press. One of the most interesting articles was in “The Squire” in December of 1977. The headline was “THE GRAVY TRAIN,” subtitled “A lot of money’s being made in appealing tax assessments in Jackson County.”

The article was about a new growth industry – property tax consulting. Four major firms were joined in competition for commercial clients seeking lower property taxes. What made it tough on Wayne was that many of the consultants were his former employees. As he lamented, “The assessor’s office is the world’s largest training ground for tax consulting firms.” He believed his office was fair to companies, and if they felt a change was needed, they could come to the county directly. “Some tax consulting firms are charging for a service that the property owner could do himself for free.” 

One of the four firms filing tax appeals was St. Louis-based Property Tax Research. Their KC representative was not one of Wayne’s former employees. It was Ken Hill.

Before following up on that, I’m going to take a break for rock ‘n’ roll, baseball and Derby Day.

Rock ‘n’ Roll: Wayne and I had a shared interest in rock ‘n’ roll music, a genre that kicked off in our high school days. In early 1975, when Wayne left private practice to become the county assessor, he asked that I take over the account of his rock ‘n’ roll client. It was Good Karma Productions, an artist management company and record producer owned by Stan Plesser and Paul Peterson. Their artists included Danny Cox, Brewer and Shipley and the Ozark Mountain Daredevils.

I often found myself in their office at the Good Karma house on Main, seeing interesting people in a creative business. There was some good buzz about the time I started – “Jackie Blue” by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils climbed to #3 on the Billboard chart and #1 on the Cash Box chart. Wayne had turned me over to a cool place.

Cowtown Ballroom ...Sweet Jesus - Home

Stan and Paul had also operated the Cowtown Ballroom from 1971 to 1974. Many national acts played there, and Wayne took credit for one of them. In 1971, he was in Washington DC on business and went to a Georgetown bar where Linda Ronstadt was performing – dressed in what was then her signature outfit, cut-off jean shorts. Wayne thought she was terrific and encouraged Stan to sign her up for Cowtown. Linda was not yet a big name, at least in Kansas City, and Stan’s first attempt was cancelled for lack of ticket sales. But Stan kept an option for when she next came through KC, and she played Cowtown in April of 1972.

When Stan’s wife Carole and I traded emails after Wayne died, she said Wayne helped out at the Cowtown concerts by counting ticket sales (always the numbers guy). Carole added, “Most likely, he enjoyed doing that so he could get a glimpse of some of the female entertainers, e.g. Linda Ronstadt.”

Wayne was not alone in appreciating Linda.

i'm with the music: Linda Ronstadt

When Linda played Cowtown, her opening act was Good Karma artist Danny Cox who posted this tribute to Wayne on Facebook:

 “Behind all the glamour of rock and roll, there is someone who holds it all together. For Brewer and Shipley, Ted Anderson and Chet Nichols, Ozark Mt. Dares, Cowtown Ballroom and myself, it was a lawyer. A man with a brilliant mind and an incredible sense of humor, Wayne Tenenbaum. Wayne was the rudder for all of us and he saved my ass a couple of times. Wayne passed away peacefully in his sleep. Our hearts and prayers go out to his wife Karen and family. RIP”

 For several years in the 1980s, Wayne and I and our wives took turns hosting golden oldies parties. The music for the evenings was provided by my 45-rpm record collection from high school. Below, Wayne arriving at our home for one of the parties. He is playing air guitar and doing his impression of Chuck Berry’s duckwalk.


 Baseball/Sports: Wayne was primarily a baseball fan, but followed all major sports. His passion for baseball may best be measured by the size (and value) of his baseball card collection. When Steve Roling worked at Traders Bank, he remembers that Wayne stored his valuable cards in several safe deposit boxes and often came to the bank when he was in the process of buying/selling cards. Steve visited with Wayne on these occasions because they both loved talking baseball.

Wayne and I participated in fantasy leagues for MLB and the NBA. We attended various sports events together, but the one that stands out is when he hosted Rita and me for the Midwest Regional in 1983 at Kemper Arena. One of the teams was Houston, the “Phi Slama Jama” team with superstars Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon and Clyde “The Glide” Drexler.

He was always a good source for tickets – both for concerts and sports. I was able to reciprocate in 1980 when he used our law firm’s seats for the Royals game on Sunday afternoon, August 17, 1980. The game was memorable because George Brett went 4-4 to raise his average to .401. Wayne repeatedly thanked me over the years for putting him in the crowd that thunderously roared for Brett who raised his hands in appreciation.

The Royals' George Brett goes 4-for-4 to raise his average to .401 |  Baseball Hall of Fame

Wayne also played a role in a major exhibit at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Geddy Lee, lead singer of the Canadian rock group Rush, was in town for a concert in 1990. He was staying at Crown Center and visited a memorabilia shop owned by J.W. Jones, a good friend of Wayne’s. Lee is a big baseball fan (Blue Jays) and asked the store manager to call J.W. about helping Lee start a collection of baseball memorabilia. J.W. recruited baseball savant Wayne to help cement the deal. They met with Lee over lunch at Bryant’s (Wayne, a food connoisseur, hosted many gatherings at Bryant’s). J.W. and Wayne also took Lee for his first visit to the NLBM. Lee loved the museum, and was delighted with the opportunity to meet with president Bob Kendrick and curator Ray Doswell.

Shortly after that meeting at the museum, J.W. found a group of 600 baseballs signed by Negro Leaguers, divided into three lots. J.W. suggested to Lee that he consider buying them and donating them to the museum. They ended up with two of the lots, and 400 baseballs are now exhibited in the museum as the Geddy Lee collection.

Brewers Visit Negro Leagues Baseball Museum | by Caitlin Moyer | Medium

J.W. continued working with Lee for some 25 years, and when Lee was in town for concerts, Wayne would take him to Royals games and to the golf course. Which brings me to another Wayne obsession – golf. With Wayne’s physique, he was mostly into spectator sports. Walking more than a block counted as a spectator sport. But he took up golf (and golf carts), spending a fair amount of time and money in an attempt to master the game. He went to golf schools. He read all about the tech of golf. Spent a lot of time on the driving range. He brought in Bob Rotella, a well-known golf guru, and invited about 15 friends for a day at Oakwood of teaching and playing with a pro. I was there that day. It didn’t take. Wayne nor I came close to mastering the game. But we had a lot fun.

Derby Day: Wayne and I both became sponsors of an annual Kentucky Derby Day party that started small in a back yard in 1965 and grew to hundreds of people at various bigger venues. There was betting of course. As the party expanded each year, the $2 bets became a handle of thousands of dollars. Since our crowd had a different betting pattern than at the track, we had to do our own odds for win, place and show. So the need arose for a human pari-mutuel betting machine – Wayne Tenenbaum.

Wayne devised an intricate scheme of envelopes and tickets that he somehow kept straight. I was one of his helpers taking in bets and handing out tickets, but he did not let me near his envelopes. After the race, those with winning tickets gathered around and patiently waited while Wayne calculated the house odds and payouts, withholding 10% to contribute to party expenses. It was poetry in motion.

The 1973 party was especially memorable (invitation above). It was held at the horse auction barn near Swope Park. Hundreds of people mingled. Eating. Drinking. Betting. I was working with Wayne taking bets at the auctioneer’s booth alongside the auction ring. As with most of the parties, our guests included city and county judges and prosecutors. And then we got word…we were being raided by the Kansas City Vice Squad. Booze and gambling, two vices not to be mixed. Maybe an illegal lottery going on at the auction booth where Lonnie and Wayne paused their work. Rational justice prevailed and we got off with a warning. Betting resumed. But the next year we picked a venue outside of Kansas City.

Tenenbaum-Hill: Mike White did not run for a second term, and this would affect both Wayne and me as 1979 got underway. I left my firm and joined Mike and four of our Phi Alpha Delta fraternity brothers at the Polsinelli firm on the Plaza. Wayne left his position as assessor and joined Ken Hill at Property Tax Research. Yes, Wayne went to work for his nemesis.

Wayne and Ken were not destined to work for someone else. The next year, they left Property Tax Research and formed their own company, Tenenbaum-Hill. It was a perfect match. Ken was a natural salesman who brought in clients, and Wayne had the technical assessment skills and a unique force of personality for negotiating and presenting his cases.

It was also good for me. My close political friend (Ken) and close law school friend (Wayne) were starting a business and hiring me as their lawyer. It was a small business to start with, and employee #5 was my 18-year-old son Brian who started as the office boy and moved up the ladder to help set up the computer system and develop programming skills to handle the property information on the thousands of appeals that would be coming in.

The business was a huge success from the start. Revenues doubled each year for the first five years. They were operating in 14 cities by 1985. The staff increased from 5 to 60. Negotiations for sale of a minority interest in the company began when Ken Hill happened to sit next to William Grant on an airplane. Grant was chairman and CEO of BMA, one of Kansas City’s major companies. BMA funded millions of dollars, partially to pay Ken and Wayne for a minority interest, and the rest to feed the exponential growth of the company. On a personal level for me, Wayne and Ken asked that I go on the board of the restructured company.

The BMA deal closed at the end of 1985. In February of 1986, the two were on the cover of Corporate Report/Kansas City.

One of Ken Hill’s big selling points to clients was Wayne’s reputation as a nationwide expert. I had two engineering degrees, but Wayne ran circles around me on the math of property values and the geometry of land and buildings. And he had another skill that was just as important. He was a great teacher and was in demand for speeches and classes around the nation – he knew his subject and could deliver it with humor. Much of his work outside the company business was with the International Association of Assessment Officers (IAAO), creating good relationships around the country. Below, from a company brochure.

But Wayne was not all business.

1987 – Around the World: Wayne knew that Rita and I had gone around the world in 1983, and asked if we would do it again with him and Kay. We would repeat some of our stops and add some new ones. It was quite the tour.

Rita and I met them in Paris, and Wayne took us to lunch in the Eiffel Tower. We flew from Paris to New Delhi, India, and took a car down to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. Then to Bangkok and Singapore. A 4-day break in Bali. Then to Hong Kong and Beijing. Three of us walked a stretch of the Great Wall of China.

Agra, India. The Taj Mahal.

Bali. When we went to catch an early plane to leave Bali, the cab let us off at the wrong terminal. An almost deserted domestic terminal. There were no cabs to get us to the international terminal, so we had a very long walk to take. Not Wayne. He rallied some luggage handlers and their cart and was wheeled over to catch our flight. He tipped them heavily, standard operating procedure for the generous Wayne.

Hong Kong. Wayne was not built for off-the-rack suits. In Kansas City, he was lucky to have Michael’s to take care of him. Since we were in Hong Kong, the home of tailoring expertise, we both purchased suits there.

1988 – Israel: In 1988, Rita and I went to Israel with Wayne and Kay. Wayne retained a superb guide who led us through an extensive (forced-march) 6-day tour around the country. The tourist stops and the hidden parts of Jerusalem. The Masada (three of us took the walk up the mountain; one went by car). The West Bank. Bethlehem. The Sea of Galilee where we ate St. Peter’s Fish at a restaurant at the foot of the Golan Heights. The Dead Sea Scrolls at the Shrine of the Book. The Holocaust Museum. Jericho. And more. We were immersed in the history of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Below, at the Dead Sea, next to the monument of the lowest place on earth. Also, probably lowest weight by Wayne while I knew him.

1991 – Wayne Roasts Lonnie: When we were in law school, the fraternity had a dinner where second-year students roasted the soon-to-graduate third-year students. I took on the role of roasting Wayne and wish I remember what I said. He got to return the favor in 1991 when Rita threw me a 50th birthday party. Below, Rita watching Wayne roast me.

Wayne’s Jukebox Of Collecting and Games: Wayne was an obsessive collector and games player. He was a “completist.” He wanted to complete his collections (say baseball cards). On games, he learned the intricate details of how they were structured and used his computer brain to excel at playing.

We overlapped in a couple of areas. I collected baseball cards as a kid. They disappeared when I went away to college. Wayne probably collected cards as a kid, but he never stopped and ended up with thousands as an adult and was considered an expert in the field.

Another overlap was that we both liked to collect records, but my only real “collection” was a set of about 200 45-rpm records from high school – most from the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll. My records were organized by artists and neatly filed in cases. This gave Wayne an opening on a night at the movies. I was at a Plaza movie theater with a bunch of my partners and our wives. Wayne was sitting close by. The movie was “Diner” and a character in the movie is a big record collector who explains to his friends how he has meticulously organized his collection. Wayne, in a stage whisper everyone can hear, says “It’s Lonnie, it’s Lonnie.”

When CDs started becoming the primary format for music in the early ’80s, Wayne built up a substantial collection. He always kept up with technical progress on gadgets, and he was an early user of the iPod, a handy way to store some of his favorite CDs. I got some benefit of this in 2005 when Rita threw me a “When I’m 64” birthday party. Wayne’s present to me was an iPod preloaded with 700 songs he had curated from his massive CD collection, ranging from jazz to soul to country to rock. As evidence of how far behind Wayne I was in tech, I never got around to adding a single song to the iPod. But I still have it…

We both read a fair amount of books and often made recommendations to each other. I specifically remember one that he recommended decades ago – “The Catcher Was a Spy” about Moe Berg, a Jewish major league catcher who was a spy for the CIA. Our favorite line from the book was how Moe could speak eight languages, but could not hit in any of them.

There was no way I could keep up with his volume of reading. And as always, he was ahead on the technology. The Kindle came out in 2007, and he soon had one. He brought it to lunch one day and informed me that he had loaded over 100 books! Since he could read a book in a day, he likely got to all of them.

And the games. Crossword puzzles and other word games. Gin rummy. Bridge. Poker. Board games of all kinds. When backgammon had a burst of popularity, he of course became an expert player. I remember meeting him for lunch at the New Stanley in Westport and staying on long enough for him to teach me the basics. 

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Wayne loved Pac-Man and pinball machines. My son Brian has a typical story on this. Soon after Brian started at Tenenbaum-Hill, he and some friends were playing Pac-Man at an arcade. He was surprised to see Wayne playing Pac-Man nearby. Wayne came over and proceeded to teach them the details of getting through the early levels of Pac-Man. Wayne never stopped being a teacher. He also had very high scores in arcade games.

This is only a partial list of interests of this man of eclectic tastes. I should mention one word that did not apply to Wayne: Frugal. Hollis Hanover reminded me of a good example. Wayne became enamored with Harley-Davidson motorcycles. He learned all about them and what accessories he should have. He would always want the improved version each year, and so as Hollis relates, Wayne bought a new Harley each spring (when they were the most expensive) and sold it each fall (when the price was lowest). Not frugal.

Angel Karen: By 1995, Wayne’s life had some big changes. He had been single since about 1990. Tenenbaum-Hill was sold to Ernst and Young in 1995, and Wayne returned to private practice specializing in property tax advice and litigation. He remained active in the International Association of Assessment Officers. But Wayne’s years of smoking and carrying so much weight were taking a toll on his health.

Fortunately, an angel had entered his life. Wayne was requiring daily treatments from a therapist – he had an ongoing tracheotomy issue. The therapist’s name was Karen. They fell in love. They married in 1996, and Wayne was devoted to her. And vice-versa, including Karen’s family who embraced Wayne.

Bishop Sullivan Center: In a nice coincidence, Karen and I developed an interest in the same charity. Her brothers had gone to high school with Tom Turner who in 1993 became the Director and President of Bishop Sullivan Center. Wayne and Karen became major supporters, especially in helping obtain items for the annual auction fundraiser. Some of those items included large-size autographed prints of star athletes from Wayne’s personal collection.

I was introduced to Bishop Sullivan in 2012 when it was the designated charity for gifts at the retirement party for Albert Riederer. Tom Turner spoke at the event and I was very impressed with him and the mission of the center (helping those in need in many ways).

So it was only natural for us to join forces to help. At a lunch with Tom Turner, Wayne asked if there were any “big item” priorities that would improve the delivery of services. Tom gave us two: a walk-in freezer for the pantry and new computers for the jobs program. In addition to helping on transportation options and clothing for jobs, the Center provides staff volunteers and computers to assist applicants responding to online job postings. But the computer system had become outdated.

Tom set a goal of $20,000 for the two projects, and Wayne and I went to work seeking donations. My email pitch ended like this: “I hope you will join this lapsed Catholic and his Jewish friend Wayne to enhance the mission of Bishop Sullivan.”

We met the goal (with a little boost from a third contributor).

Please note that Wayne’s obituary suggests contributions to Bishop Sullivan Center.

Lunch at Princess Garden: For many years, Wayne and I have been meeting for lunch. To execute our plan, we only needed to establish the date. The time and place were always the same – noon at Princess Garden. He loved the place, and the owners and staff loved him. Wayne had his favorite dishes and ordered for both of us.

Chinese Restaurants Open on Christmas Face the Busiest Service of the Year  - Eater

Most of the lunches were just the two of us. But I can recall some good exceptions.

In 2011, we met with our old client Stan Plesser whose fertile mind had produced a new idea. Mike White joined us for the lunch. Stan believed that there were a lot of new acts that needed an opportunity to break out. He envisioned a format with entrants from around the country going through a playoff system followed by the finals in K.C., i.e., “Goin’ To Kansas City.” Stan was very persuasive, but he died a few months later, leaving behind quite a legacy as a rock ‘n’ roll impresario. 

We caught up with J.W. Jones who kept us apprised of the baseball memorabilia market.

Some of our Bishop Sullivan projects were hatched at Princess Garden with Tom Turner and Karen.

We of course had to slow down with Covid, but we squeezed in a couple between the peaks of the pandemic. At one of them, I returned a baseball card that Wayne had mailed to me. I had been in a conversation with some baseball pals, and the subject of Billy Ripken’s baseball card came up. Fleer had issued the card in 1989 without noticing the writing on the knob of the bat (“F—k Face”). I asked Wayne if he had the card. Of course he did.

1989 Fleer Bill Ripken Error Card Refrigerator Magnet Baltimore Orioles  F**K FAC | eBay

Wayne and Hot Stove: For the last six years, my baseball newsletter (Hot Stove) prompted many email conversations with Wayne. His name appeared in several posts, including this past October when Wayne the baseball analyst summarized the 2021 Royals season in a succinct paragraph. I gave him the title of Chief Hot Stove Statistician and quoted his year-end report:

“Has there ever been a year when so many Royals led the League or were in the top ten in offensive categories – of course, Salvy led the majors, tied with that pesky Blue Jay, in home runs and also led in RBIs; Merrifield led the Majors in AB, tied for the Major League lead in doubles, led the American League in steals, was fourth in the Majors in hits; Lopez and Dozier tied for 8th in the Major Leagues in triples; and Santana tied for 8th in walks. Lopez is the first Royals shortstop to finish a season batting .300 or higher.”

Hot Stove #181 (12/28/21): This post included a section listing friends of mine who joined me in turning 80 in 2021. Wayne was one of them and responded, “Lonnie, thanks for remembering me. I finished [Joe Posnanski’s] The Baseball 100. An instant classic. I also liked Joe’s blog posting this morning about the Hall of Fame and PED. Happy New Year. Wayne.”

I spoke with Wayne by phone, and he told me his physical condition was keeping him homebound and lunch at Princess Garden was out. We discussed eating lunch at his house.

Hot Stove #182 (1/11/22): Wayne responded to my annual Martin Luther King Jr. message, “Great post, Lonnie. So much solid information. Wayne.” I emailed him back, “I have not forgotten lunch at your house, but with the surge of Covid, will likely keep a low profile until after (I hope) the peak.” Wayne back, “Got it.”

Although Wayne’s body was failing him, his brilliant mind was intact. That book he had recently finished, The Baseball 100, is over 800 pages. Karen tells me that Wayne was actively working on property tax cases the week before he died.

I’m going to miss our lunches, calls and emails. But I have a treasure trove of wonderful memories from our 57-year ongoing conversation.

Thank you Wayne. RIP.