Remembering Jon Blum by Elizabeth Killough
Jon was an extrovert’s extrovert and worked with me to find, examine, invest in, and support awesome entrepreneurs with world enhancing businesses. We often disagreed – more often than not actually! – which was part of the fun with Jon. He loved a good debate, and respected his opponents.
Jon was a retired businessman – and social activist – turned asset manager opening Merrill Lynch’s first office for socially responsible investing. He spotted Hal on the cover of the Philadelphia Inquirer, in a rare cover story of old news: a featured article about Hal giving his money away years before. Jon was one of hundreds to call our office that day wanting to thank Hal, speak with Hal, and/or take him to lunch. Hal wanted nothing to do with the callers, so I thanked and sent them all away. But then there was Jon, who called once a week for several months. Couldn’t he just have lunch with Hal?! Even Hal started feeling sorry for – and was impressed by – this tenacious man. So lunch we did.
Half way through that famous lunch, Jon pitched why he should manage the foundation’s endowment at Merrill Lynch. He expounded on the socially responsible options available. When he finished, Hal explained that he didn’t want his endowment managed AND that there were no funds available to manage anyway. All funds were “out on the street” already invested in important businesses. When those funds were repaid, they would go to other businesses. In what we would later learn was a rare moment, Jon was completely quiet – and still. And then he said, “You mean I’ve been calling you weekly for months and there was no opportunity for me?!” More quiet. Then, Jon burst out laughing……..and laughed away. He loved this moment. And it was so Jon through and through.
What Jon soon added at that lunch was that when he retired, he would come work with us, and that he did: volunteering serious hours and talents to us and to our entrepreneurs. He saved several businesses from going bankrupt and helped many others survive and thrive. He had an amazing talent of identifying what was needed and finding solutions. He was magical!
As Jon’s family said so perfectly about him at his memorial service, he “showed up for life every day.” When he went to Parents’ Day in recent years at a grandson’s camp, he went off the high dive to help his grandson and others not be afraid of the height. That was our Jon! Lead by example. As his wife Fran said, “He inspired others and wanted us to do the same.” True that!
Thank you, Jon! You did lots of heavy lifting for us and gave us many laughs. You are so missed.