I first met John on my very first work day at Amazon, back in June, 1999. In fact, line 1 on page 1 of my notebook says, "John Gehlen 6-2880", which was his company phone number. His email was easy to remember since he was simply email@example.com. I was assigned to take over his Out-Of-Print system that John had written for Amazon. I immediately noticed that John was an exceptionally nice person. Whenever I needed anything at all from John, he'd drop whatever he was doing and help me out. I really grew to like John. John was also very well liked by the other "OOP" (Out Of Print) team members (Leah Melvoin, Fred Eiden, Sam MacDonald, etc), who had known him from the earlier years of Amazon.
As the years started to pass, John and I would hang out and do some fun stuff. We were all working in the Supply Chain group. The projects and managers would change, but a lot of the core team would stay intact. In fact, most people who left Amazon would still keep in touch with John and go to his parties and stuff.
Speaking of parties, John was known for having a good time! A bunch of us can remember his 5-year bash at Andy MacDonalds as well as numberous get-togethers at John's house and elsewhere. John really knew how to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
Carol (my wife) and I got even more involved with John when we got into the boating and island life style. John had purchased a plot of land at Orcas earlier. And he had learned how to fly. But he still hadn't really gotten into the island thing. That all started to change when Carol and I took him to the Boat Show in Seattle in January 2003. I showed John some of the boats I liked, and he took an immediate liking to the Seasport. A while later, Carol and John and I took a trip up to Boondocks in Bellingham to take one of those Seasports on a test drive. It was love at first sight, and John handed over a downpayment on a 22-foot model. He got it all decked out with fancy electronics, a Volvo turbo-diesel engine, etc. He wanted that thing to last 20 or 30 years.
Shortly thereafter, Carol and I purchased a house at Sandy Point - on the mainline right north of Bellingham and right east of Orcas. We also got a decent boat - although not up to John's level. Now, we were in full gear. John selected an architect and a builder and got going with "Project Gehlen". He'd always talked passionately about his Orcas property and now he was making it happen. As you can see from this photo album, John and Carol and I had some good times on the water. John also met my long time friend from back in Norway, Inge Stølan. First, John and Inge met in the San Juans. Later John (and his father) would meet up with Inge in Oslo, Norway. Inge was crushed by John's accident, commenting "why does this happen to the best people?"
It was also devastating to Carol and myself. John was a keeper. It was clear that we were going to have a lifetime-lasting friendship. We had so many plans for things to do. John kept showing me the guest room in his new house, saying "that's the room where you and Carol will be staying". We were planning a trip up the inside passage to Alaska. We were going to sign up for some finishing outings with an old timer that John had discovered. It was not to be.
The one thing that was missing from John's life was a woman to share his life with. John and I talked about this many times. He was so happy when he met Julia this year and started up a deep relationship. I didn't have much of a chance to share time with John and Julia, but it was obvious that he seemed happy and more at ease. Our final conversation took place in my Amazon office as John had just returned from Bora Bora and told me about what a great time he and Julia had and how they did a lot of the things that Carol and did earlier. He was going to show my his photos on Monday -- instead I got the worst possible new on Sunday afternoon as I learned of his tragic accident.
John was simply one of the kindest and warmest human beings that I ever met. He was always there to help whenever he was needed. He would never hesitate to be a good friend. The other thing about John was him love for the basic and simple things in life. He didn't throw his wealth around or live an ostentatious life style. He only wanted to apply his resources in order to further enjoy the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Therefore, he was willing to buy a boat, an airplane, and build his dream house on the perfect spot in the perfect part of the country. Carol and I shared his love for nature and animals. We had a great frienship.
I will remember John for the good times that we had together. Although too short, he lived a good and happy life. I will never be able to go out on my boat or into the San Juans without thinking of what we had and what we should have had in the years to come. John, you will be missed.
Jacob - December 11th, 2004.