Return Path

Remembering J.D.

Posted by Matt Blumberg on

This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write in 12 years as Return Path’s CEO. I hope it never has an equal.

One of our long-time employees, J.D. Falk, passed away last night after a year-long struggle with cancer. J.D., which most people don’t know was short for Jesse David, was only 37 years old. Although I cannot claim to be a close friend of J.D.’s, I have known him fairly well in the industry going back about eight years, and he has been a trusted member of our team here for the last four+ years.

J.D. did great work for us at Return Path, but my admiration for him goes beyond that. I admire him first for his willingness to work for the common good as much as, or even more than, his own good. J.D.’s tireless pro-bono work with anti-abuse non-profits MAAWG, CAUCE, and the IETF complemented the work he did here for a salary. And although he had a very positive and enduring impact on us at Return Path in terms of how we run our business and think about the delicate balance between email senders and receivers, he had an even bigger, broader impact through his standards work, papers, and tireless work on event programming and committee chairmanship. He did all that work not for money, not for thanks, but because it was, he felt, the right thing to do.

I also admire J.D. tremendously for his extremely principled, but thoughtfully considered, approach to life. His principles around internet users are well known and very “Cluetrain.” And yet, in a world increasingly filled with people whose opinions are intransigent, he was always open-minded and willing to engage in productive dialog with people who had different points of view than his own, sometimes changing his own thoughts and actions as a result of those conversations. That quality is all-too-rare in today’s society.

J.D.’s wife Hope told me a great story that sums up the fiber of J.D.’s being earlier this week. Just last weekend, from his hospital bed, J.D. realized that he and Hope had concert tickets they would be unable to use because of his illness, so he wanted to give them to friends. However, the tickets were only in electronic form on J.D.’s work laptop. Hope said, “J.D., just give me your password, and I’ll go home and print them out so we can give them away.” His response? “I can’t give you my password – that’s against company policy, but bring the laptop here to the hospital, and I can log in myself and forward you the tickets.”

Today is a sad day for me and for all 300 of us at Return Path as we lose a friend and colleague for the first time in our company’s history. And of course today is a sad day for the anti-abuse community that J.D. has been such an integral part of for his entire career. But more than that, today is a sad day for the internet and for the billions of humans that use it – sadder in some ways because they don’t even know that one of the people integrally involved in keeping it safe for them has left us.

I will post again as soon as I can with details of the memorial service for J.D. as well as details of where to make some kind of donation or contribution in his honor. In the meantime, I encourage J.D.’s many friends and colleagues around the world to post their memories to this memorial site.

J.D. Falk

About Matt Blumberg

Matt Blumberg founded Return Path in 1999 because he believed the world needed email to work better. Matt is passionate about enhancing the online relationship between email subscribers and marketers so that both sides of the equation benefit. It is with great pride that he has watched this initial creation grow to a company of more than 400 employees with the market leading brand, innovative products, and the email industry’s most renowned experts. Before Return Path, Matt ran marketing, product management, and the internet group for MovieFone, Inc. (later acquired by AOL). Prior to that he served as an associate with private equity firm General Atlantic Partners and was a consultant with Mercer Management Consulting. He holds a B.A. from Princeton University. You can learn much more about Matt by reading his email marketing and entrepreneurship blog Only Once – one of the first CEO blogs on the Internet. Last year he wrote a book, Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business.

Read more from this author

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  • Cathy

    This is a very sad day, and my thoughts are with Hope.   One memory I have of JD is when he told me of meeting Hope, and planning to marry.  He was such a happy man, and had such clarity of vision that he & Hope would marry, and then move to California to start their life together. 

    I admired JD's convictions, and was always touched by his gentle spirit.

  • Cathy

    This is a very sad day, and my thoughts are with Hope.   One memory I have of JD is when he told me of meeting Hope, and planning to marry.  He was such a happy man, and had such clarity of vision that he & Hope would marry, and then move to California to start their life together. 

    I admired JD's convictions, and was always touched by his gentle spirit.

  • Kdhunt

    Too soon the whit and passion lost
    too soon the tides of wisdom tossed
    stone clad legacy echo long
    in dominion weak and strong
    was lived outloud, with great revere
    none will forget, J.D. was here.

  • Kdhunt

    Too soon the whit and passion lost
    too soon the tides of wisdom tossed
    stone clad legacy echo long
    in dominion weak and strong
    was lived outloud, with great revere
    none will forget, J.D. was here.

  • mrisher

    The loss of JD is a sad moment for all of us. Our community has lost a friend, advocate, and ally whose shoes cannot be filled. Our thoughts and sympathies are with JD's family, friends, and community.

  • mrisher

    The loss of JD is a sad moment for all of us. Our community has lost a friend, advocate, and ally whose shoes cannot be filled. Our thoughts and sympathies are with JD's family, friends, and community.

  • Guest

    Sad.  Tragic.

  • Guest

    Sad.  Tragic.

  • Al Iverson

    Great post, Matt. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Al Iverson

    Great post, Matt. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Jack and Lottie Robins

     

    Nov, 17/11

     

    Today has been the saddest day of our lives , losing our
    brilliant and loving and wonderful grandson JD., our daughter’s son. Reading
    all the comments about him makes it even sadder for us because JD was so
    private about his life, living so far for the past 25 yrs. When he visited us
    last and we asked him questions about his work he had few words to say and
    share with us, making light of all he was doing and involved in. He was so
    bright. At l8 mos. he  knew the alphabet
    and at three taught himself to read. We knew him as Jesse, and his name JD came
    about when he was about six and passed a store on which the name of the company
    was followed by the words: INC. He asked his father what it meant and then said
    he wanted business cards printed with the name J.D. Inc. on it. He was home
    schooled  through the 7th
    grade and then said he wanted to go to public school. When he applied for the
    Magnet program he had already missed a year, but tested so high he was admitted
    and majored in journalism and computer science. When he graduated from High School
    some company came to the school looking for bright kids to sponsor and they
    told J.D. not to bother going to college as he knew more than the professors
    about computers. We were already aware of that because I, his grandfather, was
    a computer consultant for my company and JD knew more than I did. Our lives
    will always be empty without  JD, our
    beloved grandson.

     

    Dr. Jack and Lottie Robins.

  • Jack and Lottie Robins

     

    Nov, 17/11

     

    Today has been the saddest day of our lives , losing our
    brilliant and loving and wonderful grandson JD., our daughter’s son. Reading
    all the comments about him makes it even sadder for us because JD was so
    private about his life, living so far for the past 25 yrs. When he visited us
    last and we asked him questions about his work he had few words to say and
    share with us, making light of all he was doing and involved in. He was so
    bright. At l8 mos. he  knew the alphabet
    and at three taught himself to read. We knew him as Jesse, and his name JD came
    about when he was about six and passed a store on which the name of the company
    was followed by the words: INC. He asked his father what it meant and then said
    he wanted business cards printed with the name J.D. Inc. on it. He was home
    schooled  through the 7th
    grade and then said he wanted to go to public school. When he applied for the
    Magnet program he had already missed a year, but tested so high he was admitted
    and majored in journalism and computer science. When he graduated from High School
    some company came to the school looking for bright kids to sponsor and they
    told J.D. not to bother going to college as he knew more than the professors
    about computers. We were already aware of that because I, his grandfather, was
    a computer consultant for my company and JD knew more than I did. Our lives
    will always be empty without  JD, our
    beloved grandson.

     

    Dr. Jack and Lottie Robins.

  • Lohrainne Janell

    J.D. was a very creative and intelligent child.  He knew the alphabet
    when he was 18 months old.  He couldn't talk, but he could point to the
    right letter.  He was reading by age 4.  Regular schooling didn't work
    too well for him, so I homeschooled him at age 7.  We were in IL where
    it was illegal to homeschool, so we stayed inside until school was over,
    and then went out. We had enrolled him in a “school” for homeschooled
    kids just in case anyone questioned us. 
    We did not do school at
    home.  We did unschooling so that he could learn as much as he wanted
    when he wanted.  He went to public school for junior high and most of
    high school.  However, in high school, he loved to learn and did
    extremely well in class discussions and on tests, but he never wanted to
    turn in any homework – too boring.  He loved reading, especially
    science fiction and fantasy.  He hated exercise of any kind.  In PE,
    they wanted him to at least walk around the track if not run.  He wanted
    to sit and read.  He didn't exactly pass PE. We got him into an
    apprenticeship program in TV and Video which he loved.  He did it all
    day for a whole semester getting credit for it.  After that semester was
    over, he didn't want to go back.  I enrolled him in The Learning
    Community Network again for homeschool where they gave him PE credit for
    walking 1 1/2 miles back and forth to school each way when he had gone
    to school.  Instant PE credit.  He graduated from high school a semester
    early just from getting credit for all of the interesting things he was
    into and learning about on his own, including the Video internship
    which he was able to do a 2nd semester through homeschooling.  He
    learned computer stuff during the early stages of computers all on his
    own, including early computer languages.

    He traveled a different path than the average kid, but it worked for him.  He accomplished a lot in his short life.

    Love you J.D.
    Your mom, Lohrainne Janell

  • Lohrainne Janell

    J.D. was a very creative and intelligent child.  He knew the alphabet
    when he was 18 months old.  He couldn't talk, but he could point to the
    right letter.  He was reading by age 4.  Regular schooling didn't work
    too well for him, so I homeschooled him at age 7.  We were in IL where
    it was illegal to homeschool, so we stayed inside until school was over,
    and then went out. We had enrolled him in a “school” for homeschooled
    kids just in case anyone questioned us. 
    We did not do school at
    home.  We did unschooling so that he could learn as much as he wanted
    when he wanted.  He went to public school for junior high and most of
    high school.  However, in high school, he loved to learn and did
    extremely well in class discussions and on tests, but he never wanted to
    turn in any homework – too boring.  He loved reading, especially
    science fiction and fantasy.  He hated exercise of any kind.  In PE,
    they wanted him to at least walk around the track if not run.  He wanted
    to sit and read.  He didn't exactly pass PE. We got him into an
    apprenticeship program in TV and Video which he loved.  He did it all
    day for a whole semester getting credit for it.  After that semester was
    over, he didn't want to go back.  I enrolled him in The Learning
    Community Network again for homeschool where they gave him PE credit for
    walking 1 1/2 miles back and forth to school each way when he had gone
    to school.  Instant PE credit.  He graduated from high school a semester
    early just from getting credit for all of the interesting things he was
    into and learning about on his own, including the Video internship
    which he was able to do a 2nd semester through homeschooling.  He
    learned computer stuff during the early stages of computers all on his
    own, including early computer languages.

    He traveled a different path than the average kid, but it worked for him.  He accomplished a lot in his short life.

    Love you J.D.
    Your mom, Lohrainne Janell

  • http://marathontelecom.net/about-m2m/marathon-telecom.aspx Marathon Telecom

    ohh very sad…

  • http://marathontelecom.net/about-m2m/marathon-telecom.aspx Marathon Telecom

    ohh very sad…

  • http://www.jatheon.com/email_archiving/index.php email archiving system

    Sad, sad story, but as I can see from your post and comments below, he will be remembered.

  • http://www.jatheon.com/email_archiving/index.php email archiving system

    Sad, sad story, but as I can see from your post and comments below, he will be remembered.