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We’ve All Lost A Great Friend

UPDATE 4/1: A Memorial Service will be held for Jason on Saturday April 5 from 2-4PM at Redwood Covenant Church, 3175 Sebastopol Rd., Santa Rosa, CA 95407. The church phone is 707-528-8463.

Jason Presley, an inspirational and tireless advocate for a more sustainable world, passed away last week of complications from a liver disease. He was only 36. He leaves behind a wonderful family—his wife Michelle, and his two young daughters Aria and Lyra. He also leaves behind a legacy that no one will ever match here in Sacramento.

This is definitely the hardest article I’ve ever written. I’ve been avoiding writing it because his death has been consuming my thoughts and I thought it would be difficult to look at photos of him. I’m really glad that I did look through my photos, because it put a smile on my face to see that amazing things he accomplished.

I knew Jason through his work at the local development firm LJUrban. He served as their marketing and outreach guru and resident expert on eco-friendly building practices and communities. He used the term “eco-urban” to describe their developments in the urban cores of Sacramento and West Sacramento, a term that I absolutely love.

I first met Jason when he invited me to lunch last summer to chat about ideas. He had been following my website and other local blogging websites that discussed urban life in Sacramento. When we met for lunch, he was nothing like the person I expected him to be. He just had this glow about him and he exerted so much energy that you couldn’t help but absorb it yourself and be inspired to do anything you put your mind to. We were only supposed to meet for an hour or so, but we ended up talking for two hours and we dove into details about our personal lives. You just don’t meet many people like him. You felt like you were instant friends with him.

Jason and I kept in touch over the next few months—I went to some outreach and “smart growth” educational efforts that he organized. But, where I really got to work with him was organizing last year’s PARKing Day events here in Sacramento. There were about 7 of us that helped put the event together, but Jason was really the guy that made things happen. He did a fantastic job bringing the media to the event and answering difficult questions in interviews. He helped keep us energized and gave some incredibly inspirational speeches full of ideas for the park. As a result, the park we created (from what I witnessed on other websites) was the most beautiful park in all of dozens of cities that created parks last September. In fact, the event made such an impact in Sacramento that the Sacramento Bee mentioned the park in his obituary.

Aside from everything that Jason did for creating a more sustainable world, I think Jason reached far beyond that with his personal skills. There was never a time where I didn’t see Jason with a radiant smile on his face. You could also tell that he always had 1,000 brilliant ideas cooking in his brain at any given time. That is why it’s going to be so hard for everyone to pick up without him.

His death comes as a shock to me and everyone I knew that knew him… which is just about everyone I know in Sacramento! None of us knew that he had this liver disease, and it was not a long, drawn out illness. As my friend Jeffery Rosenhall pointed out in these comments, “I just read about Jason passing away this morning – what a blow to the gut. He was an amazing guy who could teach optimists about optimism.” I couldn’t say it better myself.

My heart goes out to Michelle and his daughters. It’s going to be tough going on without him. They had just purchased a beautiful house in Curtis Park last summer. It’s really tragic that Jason will not get to see his daughters grow up.

My heart also goes out to the rest of his family and LJUrban co-workers. LJUrban can’t possibly be the same without him and it’s going to leave a huge void. They were not only co-workers, they were like a family. Jason also did a lot to change the image of what developers could be like—and that they were not inherently evil. I’ve never had that feeling, but I would say the majority of people I know do… although many probably don’t now after meeting Jason.

Chris Morfas made a comment that we should continue the PARKing Day movement here in Sacramento and call the parks Presley Parks. I think that’s a wonderful idea. Though I know he will be on my mind the entire time we put the event together.

Jason’s visitation continues from 4-7 tonight (Monday) and tomorrow at Thompson Funeral Home, 3601 Fifth Avenue, in Oak Park, Sacramento.

Here are some more links and background about Jason:

LJUrban owner Levi Benkert’s article about Jason’s passing
SacBee: Obituary: Jason Presley was advocate of eco-friendly buildings
My photos of Jason
Photos from last year’s PARKing Day event
A blog post on Jason by his friend Jer.

Jason, you were amazing. You will be sorely missed.

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • connie June 16, 2008, 10:29 pm

    wow. I had no idea. you have done an amazing job of describing him. I met him a handful of times and I always felt a lot of positive energy from him and came away feeling inspired. What a tragedy for his family and for the eco-urban movement. we need more people like him, not for them to be taken away.

  • walkable June 17, 2008, 10:15 pm

    Yes, sometimes life just isn’t fair. I only knew one small part of Jason as well. He really had a truly remarkable life story. In fact, his younger brother was expected to pass away hundreds of times by now, but yet he has outlived Jason. His wife and daughters have relocated to Austin, TX to live with family. Hopefully they can help get things turned around for them.

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