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A Few Words about Ron May

A Few Words about Ron May

June 24, 2013 3:02 pmComments are Disabled

I have to say a few words about Ron May, the legendary tech blogger on the Chicago scene who passed away today at the age of 57.

Ron, for anyone who knew him, was a chore. He was annoying, abrasive, irreverent, and sometimes downright mean. But he was also persistent, tenacious, had a sense of humor, and believed above all in a mission: to document the successes and failings of the Chicago tech scene.

ronmayI got to know Ron as the cofounder of midVentures (now TechWeek), in 2009 when we were holding our first conferences in Chicago. Ron was of an earlier tech generation. As the writer/blogger/chief journalist of The May Report, he had seen and documented the rise and fall of Chicago tech once already in the 1990’s. By the time I came around with my cohort, it was a whole new ball game, and Ron was our unofficial umpire.

Ron covered midVentures and the work we were trying to do before anyone else did. He was one of our earlier supporters, and even when we were hit by “scandal” (if you could call our temporary hiccups scandals), he was an embodiment of that aphorism that Any Press is Good Press. We would search every May Report for mentions of our company–and many times it would be there, if even in the business card section. People found us because of the May Report. And we knew that if Ron wasn’t talking about us, we were doing something wrong. We needed Ron as much as Ron needed us. Though I can’t speak for them, the rest of Chicago tech must have felt the same way.

That the Chicago tech scene is thriving today is no small part thanks to Ron. He was the one uniting force for all of us: someone who had seen the old generation rise and fall and a new one rise to take its place. He was someone who was never to be missed at industry events, except during his bouts of bad health. His report had a rumored distribution of tens of thousands. There was no one in the industry who didn’t subscribe. It was our Yellow Journalism, our Industry Rag, our Hacker News. All reported and distributed by one man.

The quirks of everybody’s favorite “gadfly” were legendary. He would wheel or limp into events loudly and proudly–with absolutely no misgivings about heckling, prodding, yelling, or enthusing about any topic whatsoever. There was always that moment at any tech meetup or event where you would hear an unmistakable voice somewhere behind you yell, “DO I HAVE YOUR BUSINESS CARD?” and you knew that it was only a matter of time before he made it over to you with the same question. His presence was so loud and hard to ignore–but give him your business card you must, lest you not be listed in that week’s Report. He was kicked out of more than a few events for his rambunctiousness, including ours. I’ll never forget the one time he yelled across a crowded room to me, “Hey Brian, I heard you’re the only other kike in Chicago!” Despite the awkward pejorative, it was nice of him to try to bond with me. I appreciated it at the time and still do.

Of course, above all, he was a journalist. An unconventional journalist, to be sure, but one who was dogged in his pursuit of The Story. He called and emailed, followed up and pestered, never to be deterred by what other people thought of him and certainly not to be deterred by rejection. There was never a story he picked up that he didn’t pursue. The last time I spoke with him, he was trying to chase down why I had left midVentures. I didn’t feel a need to give him the scoop, but he got the information he needed elsewhere. Of course he did. If there be any doubt that he was deeply passionate about journalism and took his responsibility as seriously as any other reporter, one only need read his final published words:

And until we meet again Jerry, Dave, Jeff (both of you), Steve, Terry, Gary, Nik, Bob, Fred, Brian, Chris, Flip, Phil, Paul, and the rest of you, your secrets are safe with me, I have carried them to the grave.

We always knew Ron was sick for a long time, so his passing comes as no surprise. But his life shows how someone with quite a few disadvantages–some personal, some physical–can make an impact. How people who work hard can have their own success, despite naysayers and bad wishers. How even assholes can have the last laugh. And we know that Ron got to have the last laugh many times.

Thanks Ron.

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