Monday, July 18, 2016

We've Lost a Leader and a Friend - Rest in Peace David DePaolo

I was at the Florida Association of Self-Insureds (FASI) on Monday. It was a hectic trip, exacerbated by an excruciatingly early departure, a delayed flight, a malfunctioning GPS, and an arrival at the podium literally two minutes before my time to speak. It is always fun to speak at FASI, though and well worth the effort.

Afterwards, I stepped out of the room to share a few words with a fellow attendee, and noticed a couple of messages on my phone. I returned the calls as I headed back north, and I was kicked in the gut by the news that David DePaolo had passed. I have known David for about ten years. He was a fellow techy and we have spent hours discussing electronic filing, legal process, procedure, and workers’ compensation generally.

I've always admired David's entrepreneurial spirit. His enthusiasm for the law generally, and for Worker's Compensation specifically, were inspiring. He was the driving force behind WorkCompCentral. He instigated the CompLaude awards. He was a fellow blogger, an enthusiastic student of the law, and a consistent cheerleader for everyone trying to make a difference in the market.

David had an amazing way of cutting to the chase, with great precision and frank bluntness. One of my lasting impressions of him will be from the National Conversation Summit in Dallas last May. Due to other commitments, David was late. He appeared only on the second day. Here he was at a business meeting among luminaries of workers’ compensation, wearing some of the loudest colored running shoes I've ever seen. He explained them to me on a break, but did not have to. His Depaolo’s World blog was one of my regular stops. 

Having missed day one of the Summit, and I suspect some sleep to get there, David was behind the curve. He worked hard to catch up. More than once he defused a tense moment with one of his quips. David could always make people laugh. Sometimes with what he said, but often just by the way he said things. 

At one point, in classic DePaolo style, he redirected our efforts. I was trying to put some notes on the overhead screen to discuss and he looked at me and said "I guess I really just don't know what we're doing here." He then succinctly described his frustration with that moment’s process, and suggested some other routes to our end goal. He was good at that, pointing out incongruity, suggesting alternate methodology; analyzing without being critical or harsh. I had seen that modus operandi before, it was typical DePaolo.

I'm told that he passed while riding his motorcycle. I find some solace in that. In all of the time that I have known him, I believe he was never happier than when he was writing, flying his airplane, riding his bicycle, or enjoying his motorcycle. Last year he rode motorcycles through Italy with his son.

I envied him his passion, his focus and his joy in life. He had a certain joie de vivre that was hard to describe, but which was infectious. You could not spend time with him without being inspired, motivated, invigorated to the task of making a better industry. Every time I spoke with him he was enthused about something, brainstorming a new idea, questioning the status quo.

It is hard to lose a colleague. It is difficult to lose a kindred spirit. It is hard for an industry like ours to lose anyone with the kind of passion and intellect the David DePaolo brought to the table. But as I headed north on I-75 from FASI, I selfishly lamented losing a friend. In the end, that is how I will remember him.

Rest in peace David, and peace be on your family through this time.

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