Toran was my first real best friend. Yes, I used to play with neighbor Tommy, but that wasn’t much of a long lasting friendship. Toran, on the other hand, is someone I consider a lifelong friend. We’ve had some very long intervals between seeing each other, but it is always as if we never missed a beat whenever we see each other. Unfortunately, since moving to Maryland, we’ve had an excessively long time between visits.

I first met Toran at Desnoyer Park. We started hanging around together in the 3rd Grade, but I think it was in the 4th Grade that we really became the best of friends. Both of us were “newcomers” at Longfellow school because Desnoyer capped out at 3rd Grade. Many of our classmates went on to other schools. Toran and I became fast friends.

Toran was, and is, one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He had a very interesting family and ALL of them were wicked smart. I believe that both his parents worked at the University of Minnesota. His mom was a scientist with the U of M heart program. I’m not sure of what his dad did. She was from Finland and had a calm Scandinavian accent that was familiar to me (more on that in a later story). Toran’s dad was from Turkey. Both were extremely hard working. Toran had two older brothers and a younger sister.

I remember doing math tables in 4th Grade. No one could even come close to matching Toran in the competitions we had. He could do complex multiplications in his head faster than I could add two numbers. I guess coming from a family of scientists helps! Despite both parents being immigrants, ALL of the kids spoke perfectly English with no accent besides the Twin Cities version of Minnesotan.

It was from Toran and his family that I learned about setting sights high. There was absolutely no doubt that Toran and his siblings could achieve anything that they wanted to do. Their family was exceptionally generous to me. I remember Toran’s dad telling me that I would be a high achiever as well. It was important for me to hear this from someone besides family, and it made a very positive impact on me. I can still hear Toran’s dad encouraging me.

I have no idea how much money Toran’s parents had, but as professionals, I’m sure they made a decent living. Despite this, they lived in many ways as if they were poor. Their house was rather small, but Toran’s dad, together with Toran and his brothers, expanded the home to a very nice and comfortable size. They did ALL the work themselves – and did it to a professional standard. I was amazed. My dad could hardly pound a nail straight, yet they built a wonderful home. It was heated mostly by a wooden stove. The kids learned from a young age that they had a responsibility for their family. I recall many cold mornings heading outside to haul logs in for the day’s heat.

As an adult, Toran went on to build himself a magnificent home along a river. Not only did he perform the work himself, but he had the forethought to purchase the pricey land well before it was highly sought. Toran accomplished this using both his head and his hands. I could not compete with Toran’s skills, but I was able to learn much about fending for one’s self using wits and technical skills.

Thought it has been years since I’ve seen Toran, there is no doubt in my mind that he is still successful, comfortable, and perhaps more importantly, satisfied with his accomplishments and his lot in life. In short, Toran is a winner in life. Thanks for the many life lessons from Toran and his family!

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