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Arne – grandfather, dad, husband, gentleman, friend, mentor, teacher, role model, businessman, man behind the scenes, American, Estonian – there are hundreds of beautiful words to describe Arne and his impact on the world.

The first time I learned about Mr Kalm was when our Estonia just became independent again in the early 1990s and as an 18-year-old boy, opening my first business I heard about a great gentleman from California, who has come to build up Estonia, how he helps Americans in Estonia and has invested in many companies. Mr Kalm was not a public person and did not look for fame, he did not give many interviews, but people like me, entrepreneurs, we all knew about him and we admired and watched him from far away and tried to learn from his American business experiences. For us, he was a bigger influence and teacher then many other American Estonians who returned to Estonia to build up a new country. He was more important to us then the future Estonian President, who also came from the United States.


I was very excited and honored to meet Mr Kalm in real life. We first met at the Los Angeles Estonian House at the Estonian Independence Day Celebration in the early 2010s. But interestingly enough our friendship really started in 2017 during and after the West Coast Estonian Days in Los Angeles. Before that we saw each other only twice a year at the Estonian Independence Day Celebrations and at the Estonian Society of Los Angeles annual meetings. He was also the one who asked and suggested that I run for the President of the Estonian Society of Los Angeles. With his encouragement I have proudly served as president these last 5 years.
Life is a journey which comes in cycles and our friendship cycle started in 2017, after the West Coast Estonian Days 100 year celebration. I met with Arne regularly, we tried to meet every month if we both were available until now. Unfortunately we did not meet in 2019 since Arne's health was not very good, but we talked. Just a few weeks ago he called and apologized that we have not met this year, but as soon as he felt better he will call me and we will have our traditional lunch at "The Athenaeum", CalTech's private club. Unfortunately this was our last talk...


Arne was a graduate of CalTech and also a former President of the Caltech Alumni Association. He showed me CalTech and told me about his time studying there as a 15-year-old boy. Arne shared his knowledge about America, Democrats, Republicans, history, Estonians in America after the Second World War and many other interesting stories. Arne always shared books and lessons about the history, which was very fascinating. He was a true gentleman, he never wanted to say a bad word about anything and anybody. When I asked too many questions about something or someone, he smiled quietly and said "You will find out yourself once you meet them" and next time when we met, Arne had this same smile and asked "I guess you met them and understand why I didn't want to talk about them". After the first time I already knew, if I asked personal questions and I saw that smile, I knew what the story was.


One of the many important lessons Arne shared was that life cycles come and go and come back. And if you look how he was involved with Estonians in America you can clearly see it. He also told me that there are times, where there is nothing you can do to help because your help is not wanted and then you need to step back and come back to it when you see that you can make the change or you might even be invited back to come and help. Sometimes the time comes and sometimes it does not - it is just the way life is. I have learned Arne is 100% absolutely right about this.
Early in 2018 another good friend Aavo Reinfeldt invited me to come to the Baltic American Freedom League annual meeting. Once I arrived at the meeting I was surprised to see Arne there. He was not an active member with BAFL anymore, but he had come to the annual meeting. As the meeting developed I understood that Arne came to support me and to endorse my candidacy to become a Vice President of the BAFL.


I was speechless, what an honor – I appreciated it very much. The most interesting thing was the way he introduced me to the members of Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian heritage. He was direct and without blinking he said some of the best and worst parts about my personality that I was not even aware of. When he started his speech I thought he was trying to put me down and not support me...."Renee is an Estonian who does not behave as an Estonian at all and it is hard to believe he is an Estonian..." Some of the words were hard to hear, but it was honest, direct and I was elected.
The truth is I learned more about myself from him in 3 minutes than from many in my lifetime. That was his magic, his truth and how he built his life. Needless to say I was and am still very honored after those words.


My last meeting with Arne happened in the end of 2018 and it was the three of us Arne, Aavo and myself. The three musketeers as Arne said, and as you all know Arne's book was also called "BALTIC MUSKETEERS IN THE U.S. CONGRESS" - I always enjoyed his quotes from history.
We talked about the world, America, Estonia, the Baltic States – three different generations, three different backgrounds and stories, connected and worried about the small nation of Estonia and its place in the world.

Arne, we will continue your work.


I just called Aavo to have lunch with him at the "The Athenaeum" to celebrate and honor your life. I have no idea how we will get in since you are not with us and we are not members, but we will figure it out. As you always said if you didn't want to comment "You will figure it out yourself " and we will.

 

Thank you for everything!

 

Godspeed Arne,

 

Renee Meriste

 

Estonian American Business Alliance

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