David DePaolo was an oversized personality packed into a thin and agile frame. He was passionate and robust, yet reflective and compassionate. He was both funny and deadly serious. He was one of a kind. David’s death is a tragic loss for his family, his company, and the industry he served.

David DePaolo, founder, president and CEO of WorkCompCentral, died Sunday while riding his motorcycle in Malibu Hills. He was 56 years old.

I saw David this past Friday, when we presented at the CCWC Conference in Anaheim. He was his usual jovial self, wearing his trademark wild sneakers designed by Dwight Johnson, an injured worker he often championed. I was supposed to have dinner with him Thursday, but a last minute schedule change prevented me from arriving in time. It is a lost opportunity I now deeply regret. My last communication with David was Saturday morning, when he responded to a Facebook post I made regarding troubles with my Friday flight home. He replied in his usual lighthearted and friendly manner, saying, “Bob – you should have just hung with me, take a trip to Catalina in 41Mike, and gone out Saturday…” 41Mike was his beloved airplane, and I would have been more than happy to oblige. I responded with “Now you tell me. Next time, you’re on! Good seeing you – albeit briefly.”

I am sad to know I will never have the opportunity to make good on that offer.

But the loss is much greater than the personal feelings for a competitor I grew to like and respect over the years. David DePaolo lived life to the fullest, and his robust character, brash honesty and unquestioned integrity have forever and indelibly influenced our industry for the better. His loss is a tremendous one for workers’ compensation.

Exemplifying David’s passion towards our industry, one needs look no further than the CompLaude Awards. CompLaude is an annual effort created by DePaolo to recognize top achievers in our industry. It recognizes people from all sectors of comp, including injured workers; people who have achieved beyond the expected results normally seen in the realm of workplace injuries. David felt strongly that the workers’ compensation industry needs to highlight the good things we accomplish, and fight the persistent negative image cast upon us by external forces and bad players within the industry. He was right to insist on that – and David DePaolo was one of the good things workers’ comp needs to celebrate.

David was unique among industry bloggers because he wrote with a special human interest; he invited us into his home and shared his family with us, all while gearing the overall message to one applicable in workers’ comp. We became acquainted with his parents, following the lives of both his father and mother, through the aging process and related ailments to their ultimate passing. We celebrated their love and suffered his loss, all because David willingly invited us in and made us feel at home.

David and I spoke occasionally about the odd series of coincidences that seemed to follow us as our online careers proceeded. We both launched information sites for the workers’ comp industry in 1999. We both started successful blogs around the same time. We both dealt with parents with dementia, and lost them in similar timelines. We both, unknown to one another, had special needs cats, and each blogged about them on the very same day. And we had a great time presenting on bloggers panels all over the country. I will miss him on those – and I’m not the only one.

I can’t help but wonder what our industry will do to remember this man and honor his many contributions. David was a passionate advocate of encouraging young people to join the industry, recognizing that they are needed desperately in our ranks. He interned law students and mentored them in this process. He was adamant that the industry should do more to entice and encourage young people to join the workers’ compensation industry.

And he was right in doing so. I suspect that resolve should be part of the foundation for his legacy. Perhaps a David DePaolo Scholarship Fund could be established to encourage young people to study, learn and fill the jobs we have available. Whether it is conducted through Kids’ Chance or some other appropriate organization, it would be a fitting and lasting tribute to a man who gave so much for the industry.

David, I can’t believe you are gone. The two of us have a long and interesting history, and I, like the industry, am better off for having known you in my life. You will be missed, my friend. Please know you shall not be forgotten, and your legacy will survive.

Yes, David Depaolo was something that was most definitely right for workers’ compensation.

Farewell, my friend.

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