It is with a heavy heart that I take the helm ofStone World and write my first Stone Column. For nearly 18 years, I have worked closely with Mike, and usually I was the one proofing his words and making sure there weren’t any typos. He took writing the column seriously, and would always ask for my feedback.

We made a great team all of these years — once referred to as “Batman and Robin” by a former vice president in our corporate office. And Mike was Batman — always the problem solver. No matter if an architect only gave us vague details about a project or we didn’t receive the greatest photos for an article, Mike somehow was confident that we could make it work. At times, I have to say I would be skeptical, but in the end, he did make it come out okay. He was always the optimist, and sometimes it seemed like he even thrived on the challenge.

We were both very young when I started at Stone World in September of 1996. I thought this would be a “stepping stone” for me, and move on after a couple of years. But when I expressed to Mike that I was ready for more responsibility and I wasn’t sure there was much more room to grow here, he quickly reacted and convinced me to stay. Shortly after our conversation, I was promoted to the position of editor on Contemporary Stone & Tile Design, a sister publication of Stone World, which Mike had founded along with Alex Bachrach. Mike taught me how you should treat employees who are loyal to you.

Through the years, Mike and I were “ying” and “yang.” As he grew into his role as the voice of the fabricators, I concentrated more on the architectural and design side. Together we were able to cover all aspects of the stone industry and make each edition of Stone World the best it could be. We also collaborated on many projects through the years, including the book we wrote, Stone Style, and the most current, Building Stone Magazine, which both of us took great pride in.

From all of the messages and phone calls Alex and I have received since Mike’s passing, as well as endless postings on the SFA website, it is obvious that he touched so many people in our industry. I, too, have traveled the world with Mike and shared so many memorable times that are too many to count. There were always lots of laughs, and he would love to retell his adventures over and over — each time as if it was the first time he was telling it. He definitely was full of life, and he always would come home from a trade show or visit to a quarry or fabricator and say, “It was a good trip. I got a great story.”

Whether it was at the quarries in Italy, a fab shop in New Jersey or a machine demonstration at a trade show, Mike always had something to point out to me. Through the years, I have received many “Mike tips,” which I have kept with me and believe has helped me to become better at what I do today.

And while I often wrote more of the architectural features, I have also written numerous stories on fabrication shops and quarries. Even as my role has evolved here at BNP Media, including becoming the editor of TILE Magazine several years ago, I always stressed to Mike that I never want to leave the stone industry. This is where I got my start and so many of you have become such good friends over the years. I truly enjoy getting out in the field and visiting the stone operations.

So with that said, I am excited to lead this next chapter of Stone World. It won’t be easy, because it is hard to fathom that anyone can take Mike’s place — and I won’t pretend to try. He left a tremendous impression on this industry, and I can only hope to continue his legacy and report on the industry as thorough and with as much passion as he did. Mike was a great mentor and friend — and above all, a “Stone Master.” I hope I can make him proud and keep his spirit alive.