John Rosendahl: 1955 – 9/1/2012

John Rosendahl, UCI

12/8/12: My Uncle’s Memorial

On September 1st, 2012, as I enjoyed a lazy Saturday morning in bed playing with my 4 month old daughter, we received news that my uncle had committed suicide, somewhere around 3:30 AM PT.

If you’ve received a call like this, you know the feeling of disbelief and numbness that sets in.  You know the games your mind begins to play.  It was a hard day for our family and close friends.

As you probably know, we’re not alone in our pain, as approximately 105 Americans take their own life daily.

Yesterday, on what would have been his 57th birthday, a few hundred friends, family, and faculty gathered at UCI.  A number of close friends and co-workers led us through a recollection of his life, work, and passions.  At least a dozen friends shared their memories of John.

What stood out to me was the number of people John impacted over the past 30+ years.

Climbing friends, students, and faculty all described a man with an intense passion for the pursuit of knowledge, a focused determination, and a unique ability to actively participate in the lives of the people around him.  Both tears and laughter were shared.

What struck me is that a man who was so loved, and who seemingly gave so much of himself to others, reached a point where life seemed to hold no further promise. How can this be?

Friends & family gather for John Rosendahl

Friends & family gather in memory of John

John leaves behind a tribe of people impacted, touched, and moved by both the magnitude of his life, and the circumstances of his death.

Through this experience, I’ve come to know people in my family I’ve never met, who are more similar to me than I would have expected.  I’ve come to hear stories of my uncle, and how he changed lives through his fierce intelligence and quiet ambition.

I’m sad that my daughter will never get to know her great uncle, his unique laugh, and his love for puns.  I can only wonder at what solace he may have found in her giggling, cooing, and loving embrace.

Suicide strikes families across the globe on an all too frequent basis.  According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, over 38,000 people in the United States die by suicide every year.  In the United States:

  • Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 18 and 65 years.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death.
  • A person dies by suicide about every 14 minutes.
  • Ninety percent of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.
  • There are four male suicides for every female suicide, but three times as many females as males attempt suicide.

This is real stuff, and happens to real people like you and me every day.

Our family is thankful for everyone who came to the memorial, and those who have supported us through the past few months.  Please continue to pray for my aunt (John’s wife), cousin (John’s son), mom (John’s sister), and grandma (John’s mom).

Here’s a slide show of pictures from the memorial.  Click on a photo to enlarge it and see the caption.

If you knew John, I’d love to hear from you and your memories of my uncle. Leave me a comment below.  If you’ve lost someone close to due to suicide, tell me how it has impacted you.  

I’ll miss John dearly.


Update December 21st, 2012: This post has suddenly jumped to the #1 spot, receiving most of its traffic from search engines.  I can clearly see there are a lot of you searching for information about John.  If you have a specific question, or are wrestling with emotions related to this situation, I’d love to hear from you.  Leave me a comment below or email me at  Don’t hold back.  I want to hear from you.

Update January 26th, 2013: This post continues to receive a lot of inbound traffic and correspondence.  I’ve updated it to include a photo gallery of John’s memorial.

About David Rosendahl
Husband, father of 4, co-founder of MindFireInc, two-time Inc500 software company. I love building things and helping you generate more leads and grow sales predictably.

28 Responses to John Rosendahl: 1955 – 9/1/2012

  1. Sally Sherman says:

    David……I felt like a blubbering fool speaking but I am so overwhelmed by the wonder of your family and my dearest friend your grandmother. Your uncle John was in every sense of the word EVERYTHING. you should be filled with pride at all that was expressed in that room about him yesterday. It will remain in my mind FOREVE. Love to Sarah and little Abby. Sally

    • Thank you Sally, it was very encouraging and heart-warming to see and hear from everyone. I know it meant a lot to my grandma and the rest of the family. Thank you for coming and being a part of it!

  2. Sally Sherman says:

    Please forgive the typos. You missed my cap and I meant FOREVER

  3. Tan Rezaei says:

    Saturday was incredible. Thank you David to you and your family for such an touching and intimate memorial for John. Hearing everyone share really touched us all. My wife, who had never met John was truly inspired by all the lives he has touched in such a significant way.

  4. Glenn Ardizzone says:

    David I am profoundly sorry for your loss. I wish I had known your uncle, he had so many accomplishments , it’s more than most people do in five lifetimes .Thank you for sharing that vauable information . There are people that are suffering close to us and most of us don’t even know the extent . My prayers go out to you and your family. Blessing , Glenn

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  9. Jacqueline Davis says:

    Aloha from Kauai David,
    My heart goes out to you.. An old friend of both mine and your Uncle’s, Diane Kyle, sent me this. You have no idea how many times I have tried to find John. I went to University High with him and we we’re good friends. We went surfing and drove many miles together to school events and cutting class (hehe), laughing all the way. I so wish I had re-connected with him. I think I recognize some faces in that crowd. My condolences.
    Jaye Davis or JJ

    • Hi JJ, wow, thank you for leaving me a note, and for sharing your memoirs of John. When did you last see him?

      I am going to write more on the blog about him, it’s just taking some time to be ready. Knowing that others miss him is reassuring. I see traffic coming to this page on a daily basis.

      Talk soon,

  10. Anonymous says:

    My thoughts and prayers go out to your family. My family has shared this experience with the loss of my Dad 20 years ago. I wish I could tell your family this will be an easy road. It also amazed me and my family how a fun, loving reputable man with so many friends and family members who adored them so much can get to the point they feel so alone. So much needs to happen in this world to help anyone who gets to this point. As one of your Mindfire partners and biggest fans of you, Joe and your entire team, I am saddened to hear your family will be traveling down this road. Thinking of your family and praying for peace and strength in the upcoming days. Shanna Wilson

    • Hi Shanna,

      How kind of you to stop by and offer those encouraging words. It has been hard to reconcile some of the memories I have of my uncle with the reality of how he choose to end his life — know what I mean?

      But through the support and prayers of those around us, I know we will make it through. As I mentioned above, continued prayer for the immediate family is appreciated.

      I’m currently in Las Vegas attending the PODi tradeshow. Are you here? If not, hope to see you soon at the next industry event.

      Take care,


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  12. Bob Feinberg says:

    I was shocked to hear about johns death. He was such a large part of my high school surfing years and then UCLA. My brother rich and I along with bill “surfer Simon. Steve lichtig danny atkins and John surfed together many times I remember his van and good times north and south surfing regards to his family and comfort for the mourners. Would like to connect with you by mail RIP.

  13. Francisco LePort says:

    I’m so surprised to find this. John was one of my favorite teachers during my time at UCI, from ’99 to ’03. His was the very first class I took. He took me under his wing, and I remember spending many hours in his office between classes. He was so happy, and his love of physics was so fun to experience. I will always remember him.

    • Hi Francisco,

      Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. It many ways it was a surprise to all of us — certainly not an easy thing to navigate. John really did love his work and his time interacting with his students. I think it was this passion and love that drew people to his classes, and to want to improve themselves in their studies. I’m glad you have great memories of him!

      Let’s keep in touch,

  14. William C. Stivelman, M.D. says:

    I met John the first day of 7th grade, and we kept in contact through even his rebellious years living in his yellow Chevy van, surfing and deciding how to pursue his educaiton. We were out of touch from 1973 until August, 2011, when I took a trip to San Diego for 4 days. We met at a microbrewery restaurant blocks from his work around noon, and spent the better part of 2 hours talking. He told me about his wife of whom he was enamored, his son, of whom he appeared proud, and Kai’s plans to apply to medical school. John told me how tight the tuition would make things, but he said he was prepared for Kai to proceed. We spoke about his multiple orthopedic problems, perhaps gleaned from rock climbing, his long term rock climbing goals, and the enkephalin high he enjoyed form rock climbing. We spoke little about 1973 and before other than to reference a few teachers and discuss the first few times we met. We spent considerable time talking about audio equipment we had in high school (he had bought a Sony 350 open reel tape deck from me, almost new, in 1972, with his step-dad’s help (principally driving to and from our house). We spoke about his sister, and we shared a discussion of our cultural similarities ethnically, how his surname became his name (a surprise to me), how his original parents spouse-swapped and how life went on in spite of the typical complexities of married life. None of these eccentricities appeared to impact him outwardly negatively. There was no notion to me as a physician that he was bipolar or depressed, nor that he had any negative thoughts—but then, we had simply reconnected after nearly 30 years of silence during which time we thought each other had fallen off the face of the earth. Through my work at UCLA I was able to glean that John was admired by faculty and staff in the Department of Physics and that he was a gifted demonstrator of physical phenomena on many levels. He had become an elegant speaker even in simple conversation between two people, far different than his somewhat withdrawn non-verbal years at Emerson and Uni. We spoke of our first crushes on the same woman, one of his grade school teachers, with whom my mom used to play tennis: Linda McCausland, who now would be in her late seventies. She lived in the Palisades at the time. We each were absolutely captivated by her beauty and her charm as preadolescent males, not remotely considering that we were dealing with a woman who was far closer to our respective mothers’ ages than our own. So it goes. I’m deeply saddened by John’s loss to his wife, his son, his extended family, students and friends.

  15. George M. says:

    Wow, Unfortunately I found out through Facebook. I knew John through climbing at Rockreation. He was great and somewhat took me under his wing to teach me how to climb better. I moved away from Irvine several years ago and think of him often. Tragic.

  16. steve swan says:

    John and I climbed lots in the mid 70s he was my climbing partner, we did not have much gear then. We would hip belay, tie the rope around our waist, run it out !, clip one carabiner to a bolt hanger and go, the rope drag made us stronger. Met John at pirates cove bouldering, we hit it off we made many trips to j-tree, Idyllwild in his v w van or my car. I would always hand the rope to John first so he could have the lead, back then John was sorta green and would fall so I ended up leading most all of our hard climbs. Little did I know that he would turn out to become one of the best climbers there is. Funny thing is that John and I split up for 20 years or so, I was at the climbing gym when I see this guy climbing ! I had to ask WHO is that guy ? John Rosendahl says a friend, wow he is really good, I used to climb with a guy by the same name that can’t be the same guy ? Well 6 months or so later Dean who worked at the climbing gym asked John if he ever climbed with a Steve Swan in the way past and drive a vw bus, when he said yes John and I looked at each other, wow its you ! it was great ! I had a great time with John he was a great part of my climbing history over 40 years. Miss you John,
    see you in the kingdom

  17. John Chang says:

    I didn’t know about John’s passing til this morning from an old neighbor. I’m in complete shock. I was a young teenager lived down the street from John. As a teenager without any direction, John took me under his wing taught me about rock climbing, helped me with school work. I heldon to a pair of rock climbing shoes John gave me. He was always so generous with his time and energy even when it was inconvenient for him. I’m so so sorry that my son didn’t get a chance to meet him. He will always live in my memory.

  18. David Graham says:

    I just got an email from the UCI department of Physics that mentioned a memorial fund for John Rosendahl. I googled “What happened to John Rosendahl” and found several links. I was startled to find he had chosen to take his own life, that makes no sense. John and I walked over the hills from UCI to the coast a couple of times when I was a graduate student in Physics at UCI in the mid ’80’s, and had dinner with him, Linda and Kai at their home a few times. I stopped by a after I graduated to visit with him in his office when I was in town. Now I know why I couldn’t find him when I stopped by a couple of years ago. We did not have a lot of contact, but I still feel my life diminished by his loss.

  19. Matt says:

    I can picture it in my mind like it were yesterday. Sitting on this circular planter bench outside this lecture hall across from the engineering department in 1995 at UCI. John was walking by and recognized me from his physics class and stopped and talked to me. I never felt good enough to be at UCI, never comfortable there, perhaps he saw that. He sat and talked to me and encouraged me and made me feel comfortable. I can’t say I enjoyed my time at UCI, but there was one guy there I have good memories of, and that was Rosendahl. I suffered many years of severe depression but managed to get a bachelors. John was the last person I would have thought to be depressed. On more than one occasion I thought of stopping by his old office and saying hi, but I was too embarassed. So John, hi, and bye for now. Til we meet again at the chalkboard in the sky my brother in physics. You did an amazing job while you were here, inspiring countless students. I still have a little more time here on earth to try to do my part making this world a better place, hopefully I can do it half as well as you did.

    • Matt, thank you for your beautiful comment. I’m glad John inspired you and that your time at UCI is made a bit better because of him. I hope you’re doing OK these days and that the fog of depression has lifted … even if just a bit.

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