Last night my colleague and friend J.D. Falk died after a year-long battle with cancer. My company’s CEO wrote a post on our company’s site that gives more insight into J.D. and his work in the email industry. This is my personal memory of him.
I think it’s appropriate that my first real interaction with J.D. was over email. We were trading emails in the weeks leading up to him leaving Yahoo! to join Return Path about how we were going to announce his appointment. In one of his emails I noticed a line of type at the top of the email that said MY FROGS ARE ON FIRE. It struck me as very odd because it was in a place that I had never noticed any text before. I was so fascinated that I spent several minutes figuring out how he’d done it. (It was the “flag” field in Outlook which can, as I learned, be customized.)
I was so proud of myself for figuring it out that I replied to his email and changed the custom text to say AND MY SNAKES ARE DROWNING. I can’t remember his exact response but I do recall that I got his trademark *grin*.
In in the spring of 2010 he and I embarked on a large project to launch a second company blog at Return Path called Received:. It was a project that he was very passionate about. We had already solidified our collaborative relationship through my editing of his writing, but this took us to a new level. He was moving from being simply a writer (though that was a very important contribution) to becoming an editor as well. Over the course of that summer, through to launch and for several months after we had bi-weekly “editorial chats” via phone or, when technology cooperated, Skype. In many ways those chats were like recess for me — a half hour to just talk to someone smart about the things were both passionate about. What an absolute treat.
It was also a treat to serve, as humbly as I often felt I did, as his editor. J.D. was an amazing writer (he confessed to me once that if it paid a decent living he’d have become a professional writer — and he certainly had the talent to do so) and he always wanted to be better. He enjoyed the collaboration of the editing process. I am a better editor today because of my work with him.
I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to work with J.D. and I will miss him terribly.
You can read much more about J.D. on the memorial site that has been set up to celebrate his life and record the amazing impact he had on the world.