Happiness in the Sadness of Losing a Special Friend

Daniel J. Rourke passed away last week, but his life and his spirit did not. They will be everlasting.

You see, to know Dan was to recognize that he was a contagious carrier of  the sprit of life as it should be experienced. He infected nearly everyone he touched in a way that will live on in their lives for as long as they live. Once infected by Dan, there was no cure. You became a willing host for his vision to expect the best and see the best in people.

I was lucky enough to be one of those infected by Dan’s spirit of life and like all others, I was the better for it. Those who knew Dan well – and I like to think that I did – soon learned that he had a secret mission in life. Dan was like the highly talented sports figure who becomes a true super star; not because of how successful he is himself, but because he makes those around him better than they imagined that they could be. Dan wanted to be friends with everyone, but more than that, he was on a mission to help everyone he met be better than they thought they could be. A relationship with Dan was based on a simple exchange: If you would be his friend he would do all he could to make your life better.

Everyone who knew Dan has a large catalog of “Dan stories” to explain how they were better for knowing him. Like the others, my experiences with Dan are too numerous to list in this short space, but please understand and indulge me as I offer just a few thoughts from my memories of Dan. I am sure that those who knew Dan will nod in knowing agreement as they read these memories.

I first met Dan Rourke on Tuesday, September 11, 1984. I remember that date, because it was a day that had the single largest impact on my business life, from that time forward. At the time, I was president of ITT Life. One of the ITT Life marketing executives came to me that morning with a spur-of- the-moment request for me to have lunch with a guy he was attempting to recruit to build an independent marketing organization for ITT Life in Arkansas.

It was unusual for me to meet with someone who was in the very early stages of building a marketing organization. But, the guy recruiting Dan told me “he was something special” and asked me to help in the recruiting. Little did I know that by the end of the lunch, I would be the one who was recruited. By about half-way through the lunch I was smitten and had decided that Dan was not the one to build a marketing company in Arkansas. Dan did not know it and was not looking for it, but when I walked away from that first meeting, I was determined that Dan should be the one to lead the entire marketing efforts of ITT. And – as they say – the rest is history.

I like to tell the story that even though the Hartford (the company that ITT Life reported to) executives told me not to hire Dan, because at 56 they felt he was too old, I hired him anyway. Then selfishly, as I began to make plans that would eventually evolve into LifeUSA, I did all I could to “hide” Dan from the Hartford. Concerned that even the dolts at Hartford could not help but recognize the depth of Dan’s talent, I was convinced that if I left ITT to start LifeUSA, they would hire him to replace me. And, the last thing I wanted or needed was compete against Dan.

To understand the type of man Dan was, you only have to know that when I approached him to help me form LifeUSA, he agreed to do so before I could finish the question. Here was a man who – through no fault of his own – had suffered through career turmoil and upheaval. And even though his career had stabilized, he was willing to chuck it all and follow me to a new venture fraught with risk and where the potential for success was doubtful at best. Yet, despite the peril (and knowing that he probably would be too old to get a new job if we failed), he did not hesitate to step up and be counted. As was typical of Dan, he did not take this action for his benefit, but for mine. He actually believed he “owed” it to me.

Of course, like all of us, Dan’s strengths were sometimes his weaknesses. Without fail, Dan always saw the best in people and was often blinded to their faults. It was legend at LifeUSA that when Dan returned from a recruiting trip he would burst into the office and announce that he had just met and recruited the guy who would be “the number one FMO for LifeUSA!” You see, in Dan’s mind every one had the potential to be number one. It is how he saw people.

Unfortunately, Dan’s always-positive attitude toward people made him susceptible to those who lacked the talent and integrity he possessed. Such people could and did take advantage of Dan’s desire to be friends with everyone and his penchant to always think the best of people.

In later years, there were those who lacked the talent and integrity of Dan and they, despicably, appealed to Dan’s need to be friends with everyone. They used him to cash in on his credibility and respect, the admirable qualities they could never earn for themselves.

There was no doubt that I and others were disappointed when Dan succumbed to the insincere and deceitful effort of others who blatently exploited Dan’s total (if sometimes naive) belief in people. But, we knew Dan and while we could not condone, we could understand. This did not lessen our respect, appreciation and gratitude for Dan. We knew the fault was not with Dan. After all, Dan was only being Dan. He was trying to help people. No, the fault falls to those who used Dan because they could never be to anyone what Dan was to everyone.

No matter the uneasiness created by these issues, they pale in comparison to what Dan meant to me and always will. I could go on and on about what Dan did to make my life better, but of all that Dan did for me, the most important thing he did was to make me want to “be like Dan.”

We have every right to feel sadness at the loss of Dan in our lives. However, the reality is how happy we should be that we were allowed to be friends with him. He would wish for no more as a legacy. The world would be a better place if all of us would honor the memory of Dan Rourke by making the effort to be more like Dan.

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16 responses to “Happiness in the Sadness of Losing a Special Friend

  1. Friend of Dan's

    Thank you very much for writing this. It was very well written and summed up exactly what many of us who know dan feel about him. God Bless you Dan we all miss you already.

  2. Jay Akerstein

    The memory of Dan always taking the time to say hello, ask how I was doing, and genuinely care about me as a person, will always remain with me. He truly had an impact on my life and will be missed. God bless you Dan.

  3. Former LifeUSA Owner

    RIP Dan. One of the ‘Five Old Guys” who made LifeUSA the best place to work. Nothing since has even come close.

  4. Past follower of Mac

    Really enjoyed the first ten paragraphs. Too bad the bitter old man inside of you needed to come again.

  5. Never Drank The Kool-Aid

    “Unfortunately, Dan’s always-positive attitude toward people made him susceptible to those who lacked the talent and integrity he possessed”.

    I can only presume you are talking about yourself here Mac. The sheer audacity you possess to get on your soap box and immortalize Dan after what YOU put him through in the last few years of his life is dispicable! How do you look yourself in the mirror without immense shame and humiliation at what a failure of a man you turned out to be! For Dan’s sake, please do NOT show your hypocritical face at his Celebration of Life as you didn’t have the decency to even speak to the man after he reached out to those whom he had been associated with for years but whom you deemed as your enemies. You are a vile human being Mac!

  6. Never Drank The Kool-Aid – maybe you should have and you would not be so bitter. FOG made a big difference in a lot of lives. To bad you could not have enjoyed it. You are not following the FOG way of being nice to people and forgiving – you need to change your ways and I hope all of FOG will be there to Celebrate Dan’s life. They all played a big part in it.

  7. I drank the Kool-Aid

    Hey – Never Drank the Kool-Aid – how can you judge anyone. Dan drank the Kool-Aid and passed it out to all his friends. Since you did not drink maybe you should stay home. We only want people there that believe in Dan and his work!

  8. Never Drank The Kool Aid

    To Wondering & I Drank the Kool Aid…please go back and read my original post again. The first paragraph is a direct quote from Mac’s blog. I didn’t write that about Dan, Mac did!

    I’m not bitter, I just can’t stand Mac and his hypocrocisy! I loved Dan just as much as everyone else who knew him loved him. But for Mac to pretend that he was so close to Dan is an absolute outrage! Yes, in the early years, Dan was the only one who could get through to Mac, not every time, but most times. But because Dan had the guts to remain close to people who he and Mac had known for years but who chose not to follow Mac on his new adventure, Mac shut him out of his life completely. And so did Don and others who were more afraid of pissing off Mac than being a friend to Dan and telling Mac what a jerk he was being. How can anyone forgive Mac for treating Dan that way? I can’t and I won’t apologize for it! My God, if he wanted to tell Dan how he felt, he could have flown to Arizona to see him like others did. He could have called him too, but he didn’t. No, rather than admit he was wrong and reach out to Dan as his life wained, Mac chose to write about the man he once called a friend but treated him like a mortal enemy! I enjoyed Dan immensely and I loved his enthusiasm for life and making people better. I believed in his work and I drank lots of his kool aid! I just think it’s a shame that Mac hurt Dan in the last years of his life by shutting out the man that meant so much to him early on. It’s disgraceful!

  9. I drank the Kool-Aid

    How do you know the details of Mac’s life? Maybe they did make up. Maybe there was a visit. Maybe there were phone calls. Maybe there were emails. Maybe there were letters. We don’t know we can only trust and you really need to let your anger go…..people do forgive and I think you need to forgive!

  10. Never Drank The Kool Aid

    I Drank….Maybe you should read all the messages left on Dan’s Caring Bridge site and you’ll see exactly what Mac did and didn’t do! I’m not going to let this injustice to Dan just slide. Mac treated him like a bully and I’m angry about it!

  11. I drank the Kool-Aid

    Again how do you know. I don’t think a caring bridge site entry tells the whole story. You should get the whole story before going off – again you need to let it go and forgive like Dan would want. Maybe go out and do some volunteer work and let them know that Dan sent you. Maybe pick up garbage it may make you feel better!

  12. Hey their – never drank the kool-aid – lots of big words when you can’t even use your name. Sounds like you are hiding. Why don’t you send Mac a email so he can put it in his blog and be sure to SIGN your real name!! Stop hiding and be a man or woman!

  13. Never Drank The Kool Aid

    I drank…..writing my original post released a lot of anger I felt about the situation. I appreciate your concern for my well being! It does make me sad, however, that there are still some people who will defend Mac to the end, even if it means condoning his actions toward a friend. Dan deserved so much more than that from Mac. I wish you could see and focus on that rather than on my need to stick up for Dan. You are entitled to your opinion and I’m entitled to mine.

  14. I Was There Too

    TO DRINK AND DIDN’T DRINK. PLEASE STOP. The fact is no one will really know what happened other than Mac and Dan. Unfortunately sometimes life creates circumstances that force people to make choices. Sometimes those people are friends and sometimes those friendships are affected as a result of those choices. It is that simple. One thing I am sure about. No two people would have felt more hurt about what happened than Mac and Dan in spite of the fact they both may have thought they were right about their choices. Please leave it there and leave it between these two great friends. It is really none of our business.

  15. I drank…..writing my original post released a lot of anger I felt about the situation. I appreciate your concern for my well being! It does make me sad, however, that there are still some people who will defend Mac to the end, even if it means condoning his actions toward a friend. Dan deserved so much more than that from Mac. I wish you could see and focus on that rather than on my need to stick up for Dan. You are entitled to your opinion and I’m entitled to mine.

  16. Hey – Never Drank the Kool-Aid – how can you judge anyone. Dan drank the Kool-Aid and passed it out to all his friends. Since you did not drink maybe you should stay home. We only want people there that believe in Dan and his work!

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