Sometimes corporate compliance officers need to cheer on one of their own, and this is one of those times: the touching (and amazing) story of Lesmore Willis, chief compliance officer at Westchester Cerebral Palsy in New York.
Willis and his family were reunited this past weekend with their dog Sinatra, which had disappeared 18 months ago from their home in Brooklyn. Sinatra turned up last week in Tampa, Fla. — more than 1,200 miles away.
The story is all the more touching because Sinatra had been the constant companion of Willis’ daughter Zion. She died in a gun accident in November 2015 at the age of 16. When Sinatra disappeared, that loss hit the Willis family all the harder. So the miracle of Sinatra’s return now is all the more heartwarming after such a difficult time.
As the Tampa Bay Tribune put it in a story about Sinatra and the Willis family:
“I didn’t believe it at first, but when I saw the picture, I broke down in tears,” said Lesmore Willis of Brooklyn, whose 16-year-old daughter Zion Willis died in the accident at a friend’s house in November 2015. The dog had been Zion’s constant companion…
Zion Willis was an avid dancer and an animal lover at heart, her father said. Only after her death did he learn the teenager had started a dog-walking business on her own.
“Sinatra was her 14th birthday present,” Willis said. “That was her dog and their bond was strong. She loved to take him on her walks to the store. The love was obvious. When he was gone, it was like losing a part of her.”
Exactly how did Sinatra disappear 18 months ago? Nobody knows. Willis and his wife spent months searching their neighborhood to no avail. Then, earlier this month, Sinatra wandered into the town of Seffner, a Tampa suburb, where he was found by 13-year-old Rose Verrill.
She and a friend took Sinatra to a local vet, who extracted an ID chip from Sinatra with a fragment of Willis’ name — “Willis Les.” Verrill and her friend then used that detail to track down Willis within a few days. (We’ll get to data privacy and social media risks some other day. Today is good news only.)
Willis has been chief compliance officer for Westchester Cerebral Palsy since 2013, doing all the usual things one would expect a CCO to do. He has been in the compliance field since in 2003 in a variety of social service organizations.
What does any of Sinatra’s tale have to do with running a compliance program? Nothing. Still, this profession is a rather small world, so when one compliance officer catches a bit of good fortune — especially after something so terrible as the loss of a child — that’s something for us all to celebrate.