Aaron died on Saturday, August 26, 2017, at 10:15 AM. His death was peaceful, and his family was with him.
Aaron lived a life of authentic gentle kindness, sprinkled liberally with a quick wit and a side of joy. While he had struggled with cancer for many months, it was appropriate that the final phase of his journey began during the solar eclipse and ended during a hurricane — which speaks volumes about his smart relationship with humor and his appreciation of the wonders of nature.
Aaron is survived by the love of his life, Alison, his 15-month-old son, Finn, his sister, Sarah, his mother, Barbara, and his father, Peter.
Aaron was a communicator and a storyteller. He used his many talents to make the world a better place.
One of his passions was helping Austin’s not-for-profit organizations tell their stories. Among the groups he worked with was Hospice Austin, the people who took care of him for the last two weeks of his life. During that time, he was visited by many Hospice Austin personnel to thank him for his work.
Aaron founded Lights.Camera.Help,, a nonprofit organization that helps other nonprofits tell their story through video. It celebrates these efforts with an annual film festival that pairs organizations with volunteer videographers to produce communication tools.
He was also instrumental in the founding of the Texas Freelance Association, an organization dedicated to the education and support or freelance professionals.
In his “day job,” Aaron served as Director of Digital Media for Ridgewood Interactive Communications, where he helped many human services agencies tell their stories through social media and videography.
Aaron’s hobbies included flying drones, camping and hiking, exploring new cities, cooking new foods and trying out new restaurants, swimming, playing bocce, drinking beer with friends, learning about new technology tools and toys, riding bikes, flying kites, going to the beach, photography, reading science fiction, chess, gardening, home-brewing, and tending to his pet chickens.
Above all, Aaron’s main love was being with his family, and his most fervent wish was to take care of them. The last project Aaron launched is a fundraising effort for Finn’s 529 Educational Opportunities Account. That action has been successful beyond Aaron’s expectations. He was comforted by the support of his family, friends, and community, as well as the kind words and stories shared by so many.
Aaron was one of the founders of TFA, and was the board president when then co-founder and executive director Emily Leach and I discussed her desire to focus on her other passion, The Freelance Conference. She was searching for someone to take over as executive director of TFA. Emily had I had previously worked on TEDx conferences and she knew my background building membership based non-profits and freelancing. She asked me to speak to Aaron to be sure that we “fit” since it was a very collaborative situation and she wanted to be sure she could step away. Aaron and I spoke for over three hours on the very first call.
It was, indeed, a fit.
Aaron was a unicorn. One of those mythical creatures that anyone that works in the non-profit world would be astonished to know existed. He was a clear visionary and wanted big things for TFA. We talked about going national. We talked about education. We talked about health insurance. At the end of that first phone call we were talking about specifics and timelines as if I was already onboard. I knew that Emily could breathe and step away. I could do this, and I knew Aaron and the rest of the board were there to give me whatever I needed – (Sidenote: they still are). This wasn’t a vanity project to pad Aaron’s resume. Helping people was his passion, and he connected with so many of them that TFA was a natural extension of his drive to help as many people as he could.
TFA went national today, and I’m sad that he didn’t get to celebrate with us. It was his vision that started the team on the path to create more. More community, more educational opportunities, more benefits, and more access to freelance gigs and jobs. We’ve worked toward that for a year, and today is bittersweet, I won’t lie.
Aaron made the difficult and selfless decision to step away as the board president to battle cancer, but he didn’t stop supporting the TFA staff, volunteers, and members. After one bout of chemo, he came to a happy hour just to hang out for a little while. Leah and I got to show off the travel club, health insurance plans, and executive educator programs. I hope that made him happy.
On a personal note, he meant a great deal to me as a friend. I was coming back to freelancing after trying out a steady paycheck and 9-5 job. Aaron and I talked about the joy of freelancing in general conversation and I was reminded of why I loved it again. It buoyed me at a time I really needed buoying. I didn’t tell him that at the time, and I regret that. He was like that, though. Quietly inspirational.
TFA was founded by an extraordinary group of people, and Aaron would say he was just one of them. To me, though, he was the guy that gave the team and me carte blanche to build and grow TFA into something that could help as many people as possible – just like he and all the other founders wanted. To say he’ll be missed is an understatement, and to say I’m sad that he won’t see what we’re doing every day forward is unfathomable, but Leah said something to his father Peter that I think sums it all up.
He works through us now. He will be missed but never forgotten.
Aaron, Alison, and their families request that instead of flowers, friends honor Aaron’s life by making a contribution to Finn’s Education Opportunities Fund or to any charity close to their hearts. (https://www.gofundme.com/finns-educational-opportunities)