Your industry colleagues tap into the courageous actions & decisions in their pasts

In order to respond to this question, our responders needed to first define for themselves what the word courage means to them and how it applies to the lives they’ve lived so far. Several indicated this was a tough question.

In this column, adopted from the familiar “Heard on the Street” format, we offer our responders a chance to answer the question posed in the title. These are their replies reported verbatim.

Life Decisions Take Courage

At the ripe old age of 17, I joined the United States Marine Corps and headed to boot camp some 1,800 miles from home. I knew I was in for it, but it didn’t sink in fully until I stepped off that bus and onto those yellow footsteps at the Marine Corp Recruit Depot in San Diego, California. Best decision of my life. That experience lives with me to this day!


Boyd H. McGathey
Energy Distribution Partners
Parkville, Missouri

My decision to enter the propane industry was not one that I made lightly; it was an act of courage. Eight years ago, I left a secure, comfortable and well-worn career to explore an entirely new world. I leapt completely out of my comfort zone! Knowing that there were new things to learn, new challenges and new opportunities ahead of me was not only exciting but scary. However, by trusting myself and having the courage to choose the path I did, I discovered new skills and talents within and have met some incredible people.

Jessica Johnson
Asheville, North Carolina

The one that comes to my mind is when I followed in the footsteps of my father knowing that I could not do what he did. He was an icon in the industry and had endless experience. We also had completely different management styles. I did it anyway, step by step, and with a lot of support from my sisters. Courage, to me, is when you are scared or fearful and you move ahead anyway!

Laurie Irish-Jones
Irish Propane
Buffalo, New York

I would have to say the most courageous thing I have ever done was during the period of time that Jimmy and I were going through the adoption process. The process itself is daunting; even if a child is placed in your home, most states give the birth parents six months to a year to change their minds. Imagine having an infant placed in your arms, caring for that child and falling in love with them in 0.2 seconds and then being told you have to give them back.

Our first experience was with a set of twins who ended up separated, one going home with the mother and the other into foster care. The second was with a mother whom, as I spoke with her, I could tell she wasn’t really sure she wanted to give up her child. I talked her into keeping her baby, and all the while my heart was breaking. The courageous part was, in spite of all of it, we pressed on!

Judy Taranovich
Proctor Gas
Proctor, Vermont

I have acrophobia — the fear of heights. I try not to let it restrict me. Little by little, I am making improvements on what I can tolerate. For example, I am fine in gondolas as long as I close my eyes. When I first started skiing, the green runs were perfect, and then I graduated to the blue runs. A few years ago, we got on a lift at Mammoth Chair 23. No problems on the ski lift; however, as we started down the hill, it was the most terrifying ski run I have ever attempted. I slid on my butt all the way down the hill while I was crying in panic. That was my first and last trip on Chair 23.

Julie Johnson
Ted Johnson Propane
Baldwin Park, California

While I don’t particularly consider myself to be a courageous person, there are many things I have done in my life that have really surprised me! There have been fun, exciting and entertaining things, such as going whitewater rafting, doing a “slingshot” ride on top of the Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas, and snorkeling, just to name a few. And at the opposite end of the spectrum, there were many tough decisions I never thought I would have to make in my lifetime.

Did all of these things take courage, or did I just overcome my fears? In recent years, probably the most courageous thing I have done is being chair of the National Propane Gas Scholarship Committee. So, for me, the bottom line is deciding to embrace my life experiences.

Rosie Buschur
McMahan’s Bottle Gas
Dayton, Ohio

Courage comes in many ways. It takes courage to tell someone something they don’t want to hear. Also, to take a risk when you don’t know what will happen. I have had many of these situations in life. Then, there are more situations that force us to act with courage.

A few years ago, I was grocery shopping at my local store. I said hello to the manager, who was a friend of mine. As I left the store, there was a large crowd at the entrance. Someone pointed out that there was a serious physical altercation going on in the parking lot between my manager friend and a customer.

I noticed that nobody was helping him but instead taking videos to show their friends. I immediately went to my friend’s aid. The person had stolen a bun (not high-end steaks), and was physically fighting with the manager.

They were in between cars. The person was half into the passenger side and trying to get away. I intervened and got into it with the person when my friend fell to the ground.

As we were exchanging punches, the car went into reverse, with me getting struck by the door. At this point, the driver tried to run me over. Another gentleman standing by pulled me out of the way.

The man was then arrested a few days later and turned out to be a serious convicted felon.

In retrospect, I would do it again. It takes courage to stand up to people like this and help your friends. Although this was a dangerous situation, it was the right thing to do.

Ed Varney
Top Line Management LLC
McKinney, Texas

The most courageous thing I ever did would be a business trip to New Zealand by myself. Our customer in New Zealand wanted to pay for a trainer on site for two weeks. The biggest challenge I had was to make the decision to go not long after the death of my husband, AND the two-week training time frame fell over my husband’s birthday. I’ve traveled a lot, but it was still scary. I was apprehensive traveling across the world by myself.

I was still a bit nervous on the flight over, but once landed and into the workflow, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. It set the tone for me being a widow, knowing I had accomplished the trip!

I had stepped outside my comfort box and was proud of that. And I celebrated my husband’s birthday with a New Zealand beer! (He loved beer; me, not so much!)

Susan Peterson
Rural Computer Consultants
Bird Island, Minnesota

I was courageous when I made the decision to go from 100-pound cylinder delivery service to delivering all size propane tanks. Obviously, it was a good decision. My grandfather, Walter, never wanted to go that way. You know, real
old school.

I was happy that my father and I got to make our company what it is today. Unfortunately, Walter never got to see this. I had to have courage to just do it to make it happen.

Richard Strycharz Jr.
Walter’s Propane
Sunderland, Massachusetts

How Do You Define Courage?

“Mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty,” comes up in a simple Google search for courage.

Our respondents certainly took these considerations to heart as they shared their courageous moments. It took some modicum of courage just to write about their experiences.

Thanks to each one.

Nancy Coop is an industry advocate. She is director of marketing at the M&A advisory firm Cetane Associates.
Contact her at


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