I was saddened to hear the news today that Ron May, the founder of The May Report, a Chicago tech watchdog newsletter, passed away at the age of 57. The May Report grew a following covering the dot-com boom in the 1990′s and continued up till this month. Ron May sent his last newsletter on June 12th and then his team sent his truly final newsletter today sharing the details of his death, which involved complications that stemmed from battling diabetes for years as confirmed by the Chicago Tribune report.
I first met Ron May about seven years ago when he attended our first Tech Cocktail event in Chicago in early July 2006. He was surprised at the rising enthusiasm in the Chicago tech scene after covering the scene for so long. Since 2006 we have hosted many Tech Cocktail events in Chicago and Ron attended all but one event (due to his health), even showing up in his wheelchair in past years, sometimes including an oxygen tank. Though his health was degrading, his spirits where still filled with energy as he used the opportunity to ask everyone he interacted with for a business card so they he could be added to his report newsletter while getting them to say something into his tape recorder. Ron was a character like no other I’ve met before. He was loved and hated, but all in all, he was smart and always looking for a story to report.
Here are a few of my favorite Ron May moments:
1.) First Tech Cocktail event ever in Chicago: Ron May attended and made it on the highlight reel (around the 4:54 mark) as was surprised by the new young crowd. He was excited about the fact that they didn’t know who he was and overall vibe of the crowd.
2.) Tech Cocktail Conference in May 2008 in Chicago: Ron May sat in the front row (shown below, photo by David Armano) and was filled with energy and questions for the speakers, particularly Gary Vaynerchuk who got Ron to smile when he replied to a Ron May question by saying:
“Ron you are doing a great job being the best darn curmudgeon you could possibly be!”
It brought a laugh by the crowd and even a chuckle from Ron himself for the verification of his work.
3.) Riding in style to Tech Cocktail’s event in Wrigleyville with Jeff Willinger on the back of a scooter (shown below in a photo by Julian Pretto of ChicagoMicro).
4.) Storming into a quiet Lincoln Theater, where we were hosting our Startup Mixology Conference in October 2010 (while Brad Feld and David Cohen from TechStars where on the stage) screaming:
“Where’s Gruber! I need to talk to Frank Gruber!”
A classic Ron May entry – Brad and David didn’t know Ron so didn’t know what to make of it.
5.) Fixing his AOL Mail: Ron was a loyal AOL Mail user and at one point had some issues with his account. I was working at AOL at the time so he made sure to let me know about the issues and I connected him with help.
6.) Ron May on Twitter: Looking to help Ron stay on top of the changing new media landscape, I created a Twitter account for him and The May Report. He was excited to try it out but quickly learned it was a fast moving medium and decided to stick with what he was most comfortable with, newsletters.
7.) The Ron May Show: Facilitated by Phil Tadros and his team, they shot a few video shows staring Ron.
8) Being removed from an event: After Ron got carried away with colorful remarks towards some event attendees, Tech Cocktail COO Jen Consalvo stealthily wheeled Ron to the elevator, suggesting he take a break and tone it down a bit. Apologies ensued.
Ron was a fierce voice in the search of truth, a challenging personality for many, and a Chicago tech blogger before bloggers even existed. While he sometimes razzed Tech Cocktail, we knew he respected our efforts and showed his support along the way, even up to his report this past May congratulating us for our funding announcement. Rest in peace, Ron. It goes without saying, you are probably already collecting business cards on the other side for your 2.0 version of The May Report.
Please share you favorite Ron May moment, memory or story in the comments below as we pay our respects to the infamous Ron May.