Friday, November 19, 2004


Ron Plesser, a tribute

I just received word that Ron died of a heart attack yesterday. He was one of the leading privacy lawyers and experts in the world, and a friend.

I didn't see him often. I would run into him at conferences, in airports and whenever I had time on a trip to DC. He was always generous with him time and expertise. He was one of the first people I asked to the advisory board for Wired Kids, the non-profit I run that protects kids online. And even hosted a television shoot with 15 of my Teenangels in his office.

It was unusual that I saw him twice in one month. But I saw him at a dinner in NJ for a privacy advocate and one of Ron's mentors in late October, and again last week at a going away party for a mutual friend in DC. Last week Ron wouldn't hug me, afraid of giving me his cold/flu. I had to settle for a squeeze of his hand.

The discussion started out as we usually did. Who was losing or gaining weight, health and work. Then for some reason, I asked him how he was doing personally. We stood in a crowded room and talked. He shared some of his family issues, and told me that he was looking forward to enjoying a house he and his wife had just purchased on the Cape. He said after many years of family obligations, they were finally seeing the light at the end ofthe tunnel and he couldn't wait to spend time there. We talked about the old Cape Codders and how I would have to buy him a subscription to Yankee. We talked about my old salt grandfather and life on the Cape after Thanksgiving. He told me about how he dreamed that he and his wife could sit back and relax, and enjoy this little house.

He complained a bit about real estate prices, wishing he had purchased a house years before. When we both laughed, wondering how he could ever had hoped he would be able to spend any time at a second home, knowing how committed he was to work and his clients.

This time he surprised me. When I said he'd have to work even harder to carry two mortgages, he sighed and said that if he had to, someday he would just sell the DC-area house and he and his wife would live in Cape Cod happily. He said he was tired and looked forward to enjoying these years and spending more time with his wife and building a more restful life. He saw himself living his days out near the surf, in a quaint and charming world.

I was touched that he had shared so much with me. And a bit surprised. I flew home thinking about how I needed to think about what's next one of these days. I envied him his spouse and his carefully planned future.

Then, a week after he told me he was looking forward to slowing down and smelling the roses (or at least the salty air), he had a fatal heart attack at an airport, running off to a meeting.

I cried when I received an e-mail telling me of his passing. I am crying still. I called his office to find out the details of any memorial service (3100 Military Roda, DC, at Temple Sinai, November 21st at 2pm EST) and broke down on the phone. The secretary I spoke with offered to e-mail me the details.

I admired Ron. I was always happy to see him. I cared for him. But I have cried more for him than for others I knew better, and for longer periods of time. I think I am crying for the promise lost. For the time he gave to business instead of himself. For the years he spent providing for his family's needs, instead of being selfish. For the dream he had and the life his widow must now face without him. I cried for the decisions I will have to make without his firm and reliable guidance, and his laughter and his keen wit. For the loss of all he knows and his unique way of problem solving. For the loss to the practical approach to privacy and public policy.

I will miss this kind, gentle giant.

I have created this blog in tribute to Ron as a place where all who loved him, admired him and miss him can come together to pay him tribute and celebrate his life.


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