A Tribute to Jon Taffler

jon-2It doesn’t matter how much warning you have to prepare. All of us at Spitfire are mourning the death of Jon Taffler with great sorrow. Even though Jon sometimes granted me the title of “official company philosopher,” I am not sufficiently gifted with words to coax them to convey the magnitude of emptiness that results from losing a friend far too soon.  Our hearts ache in sympathy for his family and children at this terrible loss.

Jon had many gifts and a mind that seemed to retain everything, despite overflowing with trivia on topics from airplanes to modern music history and dozens of others.  Did you know that Stevie Ray Vaughn was influenced by Muddy Waters?  I do, thanks to Jon. Although he would fill in the when, why and how.

Jon was a great decision maker.  He was never afraid to say no, nor was he paralyzed by what others might think of his choice, or from fear of making the wrong call.  He was fond of saying he only needed to get a B or a B+…so he was entitled to at least 1 wrong turn in every 10.  I am quite certain he maintained a better average. No matter what, he liked to gather the details and make decisions quickly.  He was one of the few folks for whom I felt I couldn’t deliver information quite fast enough.

Until this last year or so, I might hear from Jon anytime between 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. …six days a week.  Oh, he teased me for a few years about my wasting time going to church on Sundays, but I noticed he never called on a Sunday until mid-afternoon.

You see, even though most would chuckle if I called Jon a people person, he had a way of treating people with respect and doing his best to enable them.  Hence no phone calls on Sunday mornings.  Yet, I knew I could count on at least one phone call from Jon during the “windshield time” while I was off on vacation. I never asked, but I am pretty sure he would claim that those calls were to make it clear to me how much he valued my time–not intended as unwanted interruptions, but rather to boost my ego. And, yes, Jon would freely offer his advice on where, and what, we should eat while on this particular trip.  He had been pretty much everywhere.

Jon had a big thing for fairness.   His dealings were always shaped by what he would think was fair if the shoe were on the other foot.  My friends at church might call that “doing unto others as you would have them do to you”.  And for the record, he was much better at that fairness than most of us.

It should have been no surprise, but Jon was “all-in” when it came to being a dad too. Many with type-A personalities seem to basically ignore their kids — but not Jon. They were his top priority and we knew it. He shared plenty of stories about many of the adventures he undertook with his kids and how amazed he was by them. He saw particular, unique strengths in each of them, and it thrilled him. His pride, awe and love for his kids was a wonderful thing.

Of course, Spitfire was also a big part of Jon’s life until recently.  Fortunately, another of Jon’s talents was for attracting a great team with which to work. For example, Dennis, our other co-founder, is actually a veteran of more successful ventures than Jon, and so Spitfire will be just fine for leadership.  As for vision, I have Jon’s development queue with over 220 prioritized system enhancements. So, gee,  I’d better get back to work.

Be all in.  Be willing to make mistakes and say no, and most of all move forward, while treating people with fairness and respect.  Darn great example. Thanks, Jon.

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About Stan York

Stan York (VP of Development at Spitfire) has been developing software for decades. Which means he's old enough to remember when punched cards where the state of the art UI. Stan makes no secret about the fact he often prefers data to people, so it should come as no surprise that he is an expert in databases and SQL server. If asked, he might admit he is an MCP, because he knows this is important to some people, particularly at Microsoft. The postings on this site are his own and don’t necessarily represent Spitfire's positions, strategies or opinions.

9 thoughts on “A Tribute to Jon Taffler

  1. That was a great tribute, Stan. We were very sad to hear of Jon’s passing. Our condolences to the Spitfire Team and Jon’s family.

    • You nailed it, Stan. After being his personal/executive assistant for 12 years, at the end of the day, fairness is what I walk away with when I think of Jon. And his unwavering devotion to his girls. Love the SRV trivia. Jon was working on “Pride and Joy” (not an easy piece) with his guitar teacher some years ago…I’m certain he mastered it. Thanks for allowing others a glimpse into the mind and actions of the great JT. My heart breaks for his family and his friends. Huge loss.

  2. Jon studied guitar with me for 12 years. He was my last student on Tuesday eves and rarely left before 11pm. His lessons were 2 hours and I Ioved getting to know him and developing our friendship.
    He was fair and that came through in his conversations. Confrontational but not mean. To me he was always after the truth whether someone was prepared to look at it or not. I respected that about him. I learned a lot from him. Our evenings usually began with his latest pictures and music trivia which we both loved. I have to say I loved seeing him think through a question and use deductive reasoning to often reach the right answer. Amazing.
    Of course Jon loved to laugh and try to get you to laugh. One night he was telling me about a trip to Iceland he had made and I asked him what life was like there. At that point the conversation started to unravel into all out laughter. He said they go clubbing and they look at seals and some of the people even go “clubbing for seals”. You had to be there but by the time we were done we were laughing so hard we were crying and in serious pain! When one would beg the other to stop there was no mercy. I can still see his face laughing. “Clubbing for seals” became a funny catch phrase for us from that time forward! I’m glad I knew him, I miss him and will always remember him.

  3. I had the pleasure and honor of working for Jon at PSI in the late 90’s. If it were not for the opportunity he (and Ben) gave me, I would not be where I am today. Stan, you really put into words a perfect description of him.

    I wish he had he started playing guitar when I knew him, although we may never had gotten any work done…

    My condolences to his family and loved ones

  4. So, so sorry to hear (just yesterday!) of Jon’s passing. He was amazing!
    We were clients in early 1990. His impact on us that long ago prompted us to request in 2004 that he serve as advisor or mediator for our company, which he accepted. We never had to call on him, but it was good to have that reassurance.
    I’ve always marveled at Jon’s capacity and truly respected him.
    Condolences to his family, friends and coworkers. I will miss his presence too.

  5. John had a zest and excitement for life and business that is not easily matched and will be missed. Be he right or wrong … he was never indifferent.

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