Monday, February 26, 2007

Vale JD

John called today to tell me that JD was killed in a plane accident on Friday evening. At about the time I was to head off to Youth Group. How blithely we continue on while something erupts unseen and unheard over the horizon, but which will impact us in due course. How blithely we continue on, assuming every day will be the same and we all be in our appointed places to do business with each other, to answer the phone, share a joke, reminisce about good old times. How blithely we take each other for granted. How rudely our comfort is disrupted.

JD was one of the co founding team of entrepreneurs who got our company off the ground and in 1998 was one of three who went to extraordinary lengths to help us secure the technology on which we built our business. It was the beginning of an infection in him that saw him leave a very successful career in government and establish himself in various small businesses, with some of them turning into modestly successful enterprises.

There are lots of things I remember about JD and this is a good place to record them. One incident stands out. He had a final interview, by phone, for a job in a government agency. He borrowed an office and wallpapered A3 sheets across the walls and ceiling with information he might be expected to know about. From his high back swivel seat he was able to check his answers on every wall and even on the ceiling while carrying out the conversation by phone. The interview went for more than three hours. He walked out and said he had missed the job but had been offered another. It was an SES position, far in excess of the sergeant rank that he wore at the time. He went on to that appointment where he was most successful and was promoted beyond that in the end, to the position he originally sought. He had no sense that there was anything out there that limited him. I loved that about him.

He loved toys and boys games. Hand guns. Bikes. Scuba diving. Rock climbing. In the end his love of extreme toys and behaviour appears to have been his undoing and a small plane in which he was travelling broke up and crashed on Friday evening.

His friendship was unconditional. He gave with no expectation in return. He weighed in with enthusiasm, for the sheer pleasure of a new experience and the ability to help. Whether that was unloading ten tonnes of ceramics from Mexico (he came down with heat stroke in the oven of a 40 foot steel container) or negotiating how best to secure a software license from a US company. To hear from a mutual friend today how it was that he turned up in a NBC suit to the hospital bed of an ill colleague not only made me laugh at the absurdity of that gesture but it delighted me as well. For it rang true to the sort of character he was – free and ready to lift someone’s spirits, even at his own expense.

JD was an atypical Army sergeant Рpart of the Sydney latte set, dating a girl from the Australian Ballet, wearing cufflinks, expensive cotton shirts, and able to give sound advice on red wines Рand I loved that about him too. In many ways he was his own man and own character. And there was always something about the little boy in him that never grew up. An effervescence and naivet̩ that in our heart of hearts we all envied. Well, part of me envied that part of him at times.

The news is so new that it is only online. Nothing in the printed press yet. But already I resent the detachment of the press reporting so hollowly the facts when I know the person behind them. Yet that is how it is. How often we read that someone has died in a car accident then move on to the next piece of news without considering the person behind the event. We don’t connect with it – unless we are forced to.

The afternoon is a little hollow for the news. Hollow too for the introspection that has me wonder if I could not have been a better friend, confidant or mate. Best to see how that feeling might fuel my relationships with those still alive. In the meantime I think of JD and remember a roguish glint in the eye of a mid 30s boy and understand he was one of those whose passing in a violent way is somehow appropriate. He would have been chewed up by a Great White, or crushed to death by an anaconda, fallen off K2 or frozen to death in a submarine lost under Arctic ice if he had not been destroyed in a plane crash.

Later in the afternoon The Age Melbourne newspaper shows the first image of the crash site. I am stirred by the two plastic sheets slightly out of focus in the background - as if the most important, or least offensive thing is the wreckage - under one of which will be JD. Vital, energetic, adventurous. Now a lump of charred meat lying in a paddock and, for the rest of the world at least, with no name. I want to tell every reader that I know one of those mounds, that he has a name, an identity, a personality, character. That he is my friend. My friend so blithely lost.


Anonymous said...

My tears run freely while writing this.....

I can't get more than a few words out and I have to stop...

In 1998, Jonathan asked me to be his mentor and would regularly seek my advice about the commercial world.

Since my first meeting with him, I loved Jonathan as if he were my own son.....

Crying every day has become a ritual; my brain cannot imagine him not being here with all of us.

Cynthia and I feel like we have lost one of our own family.

My favorite quote and one that personifies Jonathan is by Johann (Jonathan) Wolfgang Von Goethe:

If we take people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat them as if they were what they ought to be, we help them to become what they are capable of becoming.

Jonathan helped people become what they are capable of becoming.


Jasmin said...


I don't think we met at the funeral, but i am Jasmin, Jono's niece. you may have seen me singing the parting glass song towards the end.
Anyway, i happened upon your blog and it makes me feel so special to know that Jono was a part in so many peoples lives. He and Steve together was a tragedy, but knowing they made a difference to so many people helps ease the pain.
much love,
from Jasmin

Pickled Eel said...

Hello Jasmin, thanks for the comments. He and Steve together were "trouble" :) but none of us would have wanted it any other way. We didn't meet at the funeral unfortunately. Hopefully you caught the two other blogs here and Celcilia has another ten pages on Jono from me - too much for a blog! - if you care for some more reading!

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