During my 1999-2002 stint as a reporter/news manager/Associate News Director at ON24, I worked (sometimes 12-to-16-hour days) alongside a wonderful mix-and-match group of folks in a crummy older high-rise called the “Bong Building” on the edge of San Francisco’s financial district.
Clint Henderson and Kim Rondepierre at the August 2, 2002 ON24 News layoff party.
I’d show up for work between 3:30 and 4 a.m. pacific time to open the newsroom and start the day. Two people were close behind: Sue Mittleman and Kim Rondepierre. Sue was a producer; Kim was a website manager.
The three of us (along with a rotating group of voice talent) worked mostly independently from each other in those wee hours, but formed a very well-oiled machine of mutual trust and respect that got our news operation up and started each day as hours later, dozens of other bleary-eyed staffers poured into the Bong building long after daybreak.
Our interaction was golden. Sue and I are both from the relatively uptight Great Lakes: Sue from the north Chicago suburbs; I’m from Fort Wayne and its northern suburbs. The two of us could get spun up on scandals or technological haywire at the drop of a pin.
Kim, on the other hand, much to our consternation and amusement, was a tried-and-true “go with the flow” Pacific coast girl – born and raised in Hawaii and later moved as an adult to San Francisco.
A true turn-of-the-21st century honest-to-goodness hippie 2.0 living among us yuppie-wannabes, she’d talk at length about her adventures growing up in Hawaii or as a nothing-shocks-me adult among the modern counterculture and tales of Burning Man – before it went commercial.
In fact, when I asked for extra days off around Labor Day in 2001, Kim assumed I was going to Burning Man – and that’s how I learned about the whole event.
After the 2002 layoffs when ON24 decided to shutter its news department – saying there was no future in consumer-oriented streaming video (don’t tell that to YouTube or Hulu) – sadly, Kim was one of the ON24 folk I lost touch with.
Left to Right: Kim Rondepierre, me, Rich, and Sue Mittleman.
But last year when Barack Obama won the election, I emailed Kim – she’s the only person I knew who was from Hawaii and like Obama – she, too, spent a childhood on the islands.
Of course, it had been 6 years and I ended up writing a very long letter basically catching her up on my life. Kim was one of the first and biggest supporters of my starting to date Rich back when I was still unsure about him. Rich is now my husband.
I also asked about her life. I knew she was working for Wells Fargo doing something – but that is about it.
I never got a response from her; I found out today that I never will.
Kim had died on August 4, 2008 from stage IV esophageal cancer – three months before I wrote that email. She died exactly 6 years and 2 days since I had seen her last at the ON24 layoff party.
I found out today after Peter Shaplen, my former boss/mentor at ON24, sent out the sad news as an alert mass email to a list ironically called “ON24 Survivors.” It read:
I have just learned that our friend and colleague Kim Rondepierre passed away last August of cancer.
Sad indeed. I hold all of you in my thoughts and with many fond memories. I will add Kim to my prayers.
All my best to each of you.
She would have turned 50 at the end of March.
So, Kim, I guess this is a cathartic moment for me, my goodbye to a former work friend and an apology sent into cyberspce for letting our friendship lapse to the point that I was unaware you were sick and in pain.
I take solace in the knowledge that your friends (as partly documented in a discussion on Tribe.net) were there with you keeping you company until the end.
And thanks for the going away hug seven years ago.
At ON24 I was well-known as the Indiana boy who hated Californians' penchant for hugging at the drop of a hat. So, as the party was breaking up at the ON24 layoff party - an impromptu group hug sent me off on my way from San Francisco for the last time back to my home in the Silicon Valley. (Don't tell anyone but I secretly loved this hug.) Pictured clockwise from the upper left are: Ian Brown, me, Peter Shaplen, Kim Rondepierre, Sue Mittleman, Margaret Philpotts, and Susan Coss.