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.
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.
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.