The Day I met Michael O’Connor Clarke
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Some of you will recall that a long while ago I said that I would begin a series on my blog called “The Day I Met.” The purpose of that category here was supposed to be a retrospective and an update about some of the amazing people I’ve met in my life. But as things go, priorities competed with priorities, and i never got around to it: until today. Why today? Because I want to tell you about my friend and colleague, Michael O’Connor Clarke.
I wonder if Felix Baumgartner caught a glimpse of an angel rising into the heavens as he was about to begin his descent. If he had, I bet that Angel, Michael O’Connor Clarke, would have smiled at him, waved, and paused a moment to make sure Felix was alright.
That’s the Michael O’Connor Clarke I knew over the last 3 years. No matter how busy he was, or how big a fish he had to fry, he was always there to help out when asked. Michael was one of the most generous people I have ever met.
The day we met:
I met Michael right at the first HOHOTO that he helped organize. My first memory of him was seeing him on stage sincerely thanking everyone for their support of the Daily Bread Food Bank. The stage lights were flashing and we was joined on stage by a sizeable entourage of his co-organizers and fundraisers. There I was at an event that seemed to have everyone in Toronto’s tech scene under one roof, and at the centre of this circus was Michael. I was in awe of this man. I was still new to Toronto’s tech scene myself and I had no idea if I would ever see him again.
Over the Years
As I continued to build my first start up (SKZ), Michael and I kept running into each other at events like Democamp and found that we saw eye to eye on a lot of things that were good and bad about the digital space. As fellow strategists we would celebrate and commiserate. Soon I found myself at the centre of big community events like Movember Canada and Social Media Day, not knowing that Mike was watching all along.
As fate would have it, one day I found myself at his doorstep at Media Profile. He interviewed me for a job there, and although the position never materialized, we kept in touch right through my subsequent career in the ad game and further into the very early beginnings of Epilogger. I’ll never forget the hard questions he asked me at that interview. I must have been sweating bullets as I sat in front of him realizing more with every second how brilliant he was. It was humbling and I remember thinking that no matter what qualifications I thought I possessed, I could learn lifetimes more from Mike.
As we stayed in touch, I did just that. There has never been an instance when Mike and I got together where I didn’t come away smarter. But, even though I always saw him as a teacher he made me feel like what I had to say was just as important as what he did.
I was honoured to have have him as a keynote speaker at Social Media Day last year where he told the crowd his now famous line: “social media is like Soylent Green; it’s made of people.” When he needed help with last year’s HOHOTO, I was only too eager to help with the sponsorship push. When he helped me get my consulting gig at CTV/BNN by telling them that “Michael Nus is the kind of guy that makes things happen,” I was once again humbled. Isn’t that pot calling the kettle black, Mike.
As of this morning, October 14th, 2012, I am overcome with sadness to write that Michael has passed away. He is survived by his loving family and legions of friends and colleagues.
Michael and I were equal in our respect and admiration for each other, but Michael had no equal in personal generosity. Although I helped Shannon and Tamera with his fundraiser a short time ago, 1,000 fundraisers could not even begin to tip the scales when compared to his lifetime of being a good friend to everyone he knew, a wonderful husband and father and, above all else, an angel in the the very truest sense of the word.
The name “Michael” is Hebrew for “He who is like God.” I know that wherever he is, Michael is showing the same godly generosity and compassion he showed me and all of us. This post (and forthcoming posts) naturally has caused me to reminisce about every experience I have had with Mike. Not one of my memories of him carries with it even the slightest tinge of negativity – that says it all, I think.
I will miss you, Michael. We all will.