See you next time, James

October 12th, 2018 by Karen

A beautiful soul has been missing from the world for two weeks. It was swift, sudden, and a shock. We are all deeply aware that we are never promised tomorrow, but for some reason, our psyches always expect the status quo to remain.

But that never happens.

I first met James at a party. I don’t recall if it was at Affiliate Summit or the Affiliate Marketers Alliance networking dinner that Ian Lee hosted in Vancouver years and years ago. Some details are lost to time, however I can tell you that I was leaning against a hall table at the top of the stairs in a room that was trying to give the impression of an Italian villa with its decorative yellow stucco and fake ficus trees. As a pretty introverted person, I was uncomfortable and considering leaving as I felt like a total impostor as everyone networked around me. I decided to leave and as I turned to go down the stairs, I was greeted by Colin McDougall who I had just met briefly earlier in the day and he said “Oh hey! There’s someone I wanted to introduce you to. This is James.”

A long conversation about affiliate topics and his Shelby Cobra naturally ensued and somewhere I still have a million dollar bill with his face on it that he used as a business card at the time, but during that long conversation, I learned the most important thing about James when I asked him a simple question. I asked him if he was married.

James lit up like the sun. That was when I discovered that there was nothing on this earth that he loved more than Arlene.

Over the years, I saw James frequently at conventions, sometimes with Arlene and sometimes without. We would discuss the occasional industry items, who he was mentoring at the time, my newest clients, but invariably our conversations inexorably turned to family. What their kids were doing, what ours were up to, summer trips, concerns about school. He always asked about Joel, I always asked about Arlene. He invariably lit up, beaming when talking about her. Our conversations always ended the same way. A huge hug and a directive to “take care of the kids, say hi to Joel, and I’ll see you next time.”

James kindly had me on his podcasts numerous times over the years to talk about programs I managed and changes in the industry, and the last two years we had started a kind of tradition where we would discuss Q4 during October. When I spoke with him last, he mentioned that we should be sure to do it again this year. It’s a conversation I’m sad we never got the chance to have.

I will forever appreciate that whenever James wanted to introduce me to someone new at a conference, he did it the same way every time: “This is Karen. She’s awesome.” No preamble, no qualifiers. No matter what sort of self doubt or insecurity I possessed and struggled with, James thought I was awesome and that meant a ton.

My most favorite memory of James occurred on the escalators at Caesar’s Palace during an Affiliate Summit. He was going up, I was going down. Since he was a recent first time grandpa, I asked him how he was enjoying that and he excitedly broke out the pictures. Luckily, the escalators were empty as we both proceeded to walk the wrong direction on our respective escalators for a bit until he finally laughed and told me to meet him at the bottom. He was literally giddy and over the moon. He was always fiercely proud of his grandchildren and children.

I will miss James’ boisterous “Hello!” that seemed to cut through any crowd. I’ll miss his larger than life personality. I’ll miss discussing our families and his parenting advice. I’ll miss his bear hugs and his enormous laugh.

But most of all, I’ll miss watching his face light up whenever he mentioned Arlene.

Because that my friends, at the end of everything, that is the first, the last, and the very best thing I ever learned from James Martell.

He truly loved Arlene.

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