Jonathon David Wood

Born prematurely, doctors named him Mighty Mouse. He thrived as a salesman and by making others happy.

by Vidya Kauri

Illustration by Team Macho

Jonathon David Wood was born in Lacombe, Alta., on May 22, 1980, to Roger Wood, a crane operator, and Lori Church, the owner of a marketing communications firm. Although he was born three weeks early, and weighed only four pounds, 13 ounces, he thrived so well that doctors nicknamed him “Mighty Mouse.”

Jon, as everybody knew him, was a precocious child. When he was four, Elton John’s ballad Daniel made him bawl because, as he explained to his mother, the lyrics made him think about the possibility of losing his own brother, Daniel, two at the time. Jon’s parents had divorced about a year earlier, and he grew up with his mother, brother and sister. After the divorce, each of his parents had two more children with new spouses, and Jon often played the father figure to his younger siblings. When he was in Grade 9, he insisted on taking his newborn baby brother, Eric, to show him off to his classmates.

In school, Jon was constantly misplacing and losing his assignments. He loved playing hockey, baseball and soccer. When he was 18, he won a sports scholarship to study marketing at Red Deer College. However, his entrepreneurial spirit took over and he quit part-way through his studies to learn about the restaurant industry. He went from being a dishwasher at a local restaurant to a server and finally, a manager. “He wanted to learn everything about the business,” says his mother.

Jon was always reading books about business, investing and real estate. He eventually went to work at his mother’s company, where he helped do the books for about 10 months. He also started investing in real estate and built an online poker site. His friend and business associate, Doug Beatty, says Jon once played 20,000 hands of poker in one month, playing multiple games simultaneously on two screens.

At 27, Jon began working with his uncle, Travis Gangl, at a financing company. “His best skill set was selling,” says Travis. “When you looked into his eyes, you believed he was honest and genuine.” Despite his love of doing business, Jon had his limits. He once declined to meet with a Calgary businessman who insisted on having drinks during their meeting because Jon did not want to drive back home from Calgary with alcohol in his system.

And while he loved to socialize with friends, he was conscientious about alcohol and the problems it could cause, says Lori. One night when, after imbibing too much, he kissed a girl who was not his girlfriend; he felt so guilty he attended a couple of counselling sessions at an addictions centre, although his mother says Jon did not have a drinking problem.

Kristin Fraser, a former girlfriend and close friend, says Jon was always going out of his way to make people happy. One morning, he happened upon a man whose car had broken down on the way to his first day at a new job. The man asked Jon if he could get a ride to the highway, hoping to hitchhike from there to Stettler, an hour east of where he was stranded. Jon volunteered to drive the stranger all the way to Stettler and ended up being two hours late to work himself. Kristin recalls another time when they were at a bar and Jon overheard two men talking about their career options. Jon joined the conversation, and at the end of the evening picked up their tab.

Jon’s tendency to try and be there for everybody sometimes meant he stretched himself too thin. His friends joked that Jon seemed to operate as if there were 40 hours in a day, and that the only thing he was ever early for was his birth.

Jon’s latest hobby was squash. He had started learning the sport from his uncle four years ago and was soon playing in tournaments across the province. On Nov. 1 he was playing in a local tournament he had helped organize. After he lost three games in a best-of-five, he spent the rest of the evening refereeing other matches and socializing with other players over a few drinks. Ever the stickler about not drinking and driving, after the courts closed he gladly accepted a ride with a sober player to join friends for pizza at a local pub.

After dinner, the group headed to a nightclub. Jon was the last to leave among his friends, at around 3 a.m. Tired and inebriated, he hailed a taxi and clambered into the back seat to go home. When the cab stopped at an intersection, a pick-up truck collided with it from behind. Jon died at the scene. He was 33. Police charged an 18-year-old man with impaired driving causing death.




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Jonathon David Wood

  1. Jon was a businessman, entrepreneur and a mentor to his friends and family. He was – very simply – an exceptional person. He was always kind. This article fails to communicate that this is about making the right choices in life. Two people each made a choice that night. Jon made the right choice because he had passion (not a hobby) for life (sports, people, business) and compassion for others. We need more Jon Wood’s in this world and it’s unfortunate the irony of making the right choice, only to receive the worst consequence, was missed.

  2. Anyone that knows Jon, will find this article is a total disservice to his memory. In addition to numerous factual errors, the article picks up on minor details which pale in comparison to his many accomplishments. Readers who want to know the real Jon should go to http://www.facebook.com/celebratejon. I agree with “for_jon” above. The article missed the irony of how Jon, who benefited his community, colleagues, friends and family immensely, very characteristically put himself before others, even up to his his last decision, had his life taken by someone’s selfish and careless decision. The article missed an incredible opportunity to inspire others to be more like Jon.

  3. While I think it’s great that Jon’s story is catching national recognition, I have to say, this article is very poorly written. I’m not sure that the journalist did the proper research or went through the proper channels. I agree that anyone who knew Jon would say that this is not a true representation of his life and the way that he touched the more that 700 people that attended the celebration if his short life. Again. Great that it’s catching national attention, but sad to say that this does not represent the true Jon Wood or the message his family and friends are trying to get across due to this very unfortunate accident.

  4. I was truly disappointed when I read this article. It failed to capture the true essence of what Jon’s story was about. This seemed to be written in haste with a lack of respect for the facts. Jon was a caring young man, who earned the love, trust, and respect of many people, for making the right decisions in life. For me, a real opportunity missed to inspire others.

  5. What a shame. While reading this article I was waiting for the writer to get to the point. The shame is, if you didn’t know Jon you would read this article and think well that was stupid! Yes, that was for anyone who really knew Jon. I call for a redo on this article, this was not the Jon Wood I knew.

  6. First of all, let me say rest in peace, Jon. Now, to the critics of this article: most of you seem to have known Jon during his life. You clearly loved him, and that is wonderful; I am so glad he was loved, and I can see he is missed. However, there is nothing wrong with this article, and in fact, it is very well-written. I doubt if the author knew Jon, but he is telling a story — and of course, he cannot write Jon’s entire life, so he chose to focus on a thread — the thread of Jon’s kindness to others, and his strong sense of responsibility throughout his life, especially his choices around drinking. I do not know Jon, but I appreciate this story about him. And I think for this man to be reported on and eulogized in this way in national media is a fantastic way to honour his memory. Perhaps you are grieving; perhaps you don’t understand that the author has to tell a story that all readers can relate to — but your judgement of this story is crass and out of line, and if I may be so bold to say so — you are losing site of just what a tribute this memorial article is to Jon’s memory to we Canadians who never knew him, but now can make something of his gentle and short life that is relevant to our own. I do not mean to pick on you, but try to read this again through a lens of appreciation for the author, who has done a lovely job giving us a glimpse of Jon’s life.

    • Thank you, patchouli, for your comments. It is important to see both sides of any argument and we who knew Jon, appreciate that you are looking for the good in this (that’s something Jon would encourage us all to do). But in this case, the comments regarding the article are fair and well measured. The writer of the article had great access to the people closest to Jon, and indeed had lengthy conversations with not only Jon’s mom, but also with Jon’s uncle – two people who knew him best and had the most intimate relationships with him. Lori and Travis shared many insights into Jon’s life with the author. The author also spoke to several other people close to Jon. The issue is the accuracy – or sad lack thereof – in the finished product. The Jon that this publication presented to its readers is empirically not the Jon who lost his life in this senseless tragedy. While I appreciate your point of view, you must also appreciate the collective points of view of those who were robbed of Jon. This is a large group of people who are coming to terms with lives that will never be the same. Then, add in to the mix a factually inaccurate story that paints a picture of a different person. How can the author assert that Jon was inebriated? She wasn’t there. That line alone is editorially reckless. Therefore, to state such as fact is to be journalistically irresponsible; something that one should not expect from such an august publication. Ms. Kauri was given a wealth of useful, positive information and likely got a strong sense of just how powerful Jon’s effect was on the people in his life. That information did not make the final article. That appears to be the main issue taken by those who have commented on the article. In the simplest terms: it missed the point. Badly. The irony and poignancy of Jon’s death is buried under incorrect assumptions. Jon made the right choice on the last night of his life. For reasons only he knows, he elected to take a cab home. Someone else made a choice to drive, someone who was, incidentally, impaired. The person who made the right choice – who lived a life of striving to always make the right choice – died suddenly and violently at the hands of someone who made a poor choice. Doesn’t get much more ironic or poignant than that. There is nothing crass or out of line in the responses to the article. I only wish you had the privilege of knowing Jon. Then you would better understand the spirit of these comments. We are not losing sight of the tribute. The tribute isn’t there.

      • I appreciate your measured response, and I am sorry for your loss. I didn’t realize this was not factually represented. Or that the reporter had access to others, as you have stated. The irony and poignancy of Jon’s death is represented here, though, and I rather think the writer approached it this way on purpose. I have lost friends, and I know that no short written tribute could match those people’s true spirit; I hope you can understand how hard it would be to satisfy those who are truly feeling his loss. But I don’t want to make people who are grieving feel any worse, so let me thank you again for addressing me — I intended to be respectful to all of you who knew and loved Jon, but also to the writer — and I, who never knew of Jon, have read about a life lost too soon, from a man who lived his life to a high standard. Best regards to you.

  7. R.I.P Jon, you will truly be missed…

  8. I happen to know Jon very well, and the person who wrote this article obviously had no idea who Jon was or what he was about. I would recommend that Macleans remove this journalist faux pas from it’s site as this mess is a disgusting description of nobody I know.

  9. I was excited and proud when I heard this article was coming, and then I read it and was left feeling like….thats it?? Very poorly written indeed. It missed the whole point. It does not exemplify who Jon was…at all. This article deserves a re-write. Jon deserves better than that.

  10. I tried to be sensitive and truthful in my approach. If there are factual inaccuracies, please get in touch with me preferably via email or phone. You have my number and my email is vidya.kauri@macleans.rogers.com. Thanks!

  11. There are few that have that ability to truly affect you after a short encounter. Jon was one of the few. Inevitably, friends of mine that met Jon in a fleeting moment always commented along the lines that he was so respectful and kind. He had an ability to appeal to the best of people as he genuinely took interest in their lives. Many of us had the privilege of knowing Jon for his entire 33 years. He made us laugh with his delicious wit. He inspired us and our children. He gained tremendous respect as a business leader. It was devastating when we lost Jon to such a senseless tragedy. He had so much more to share and accomplish. We want to ensure that the loss of a beautiful life under such ironic circumstances will somehow make a difference, and it will, through the efforts of family and friends. It was just heart wrenching again for a grieving family to have Jon’s life misrepresented in the article above and seemingly weigh down these efforts. It was a beautiful opportunity that was missed by Macleans, but Jon’s true memory lives strong within those that knew him.

  12. I took a quick look at some of the other articles in The End. The discussions in the comments section were either about the person in the article or about how well it was written.
    What a shame it is when nearly 100% of the comments on this article are focused on how poorly it’s written. That is not what we, his family, should have to be discussing here.
    It’s unfortunate to wait and wait for this article to come out only to watch it crash and burn. It completely missed the mark and I believe Jon either deserves a rewrite or a different writer to take on this task.

  13. Jonathon Wood is my son. Jon was so many things in his life, I could never have imagined I would have to be telling people what he wasn’t. I wish to apologize to all who knew and loved him for this article, as you must all be scratching your heads and wondering who this person was. I cannot convey my ever-deepening sadness that Canadians will read this and assume that this is Jon Wood. This was not Jon and while those of us who knew him still grieve, we are standing heads up, hearts strong, faced with a most difficult road ahead dealing with the loss of our beloved son, brother, friend, grandson, nephew, cousin, uncle, colleague who was so violently ripped from our lives. Jon didn’t have a chance to fight for his life and certainly, he cannot defend himself now. The author chose words like ‘inebriated’ when other credible news media reported he had a few beers with friends. The author chose words like ‘clambored’ into the taxi which implies the author had either seen or had witnesses who saw him crawl into a taxi – neither is true. Jon was a contender in the game of squash. He played in Alberta’s top three cities, almost weekly. It was a passion, not a hobby, and he had much more to accomplish – just as he had in business and he did not work as a salesman. For those who are interested in learning more about Jon, please visit the public page, facebook.com/celebratejon, where you can connect with the thousands who have already visited. Please speak with those who knew Jon. They have the real story. While there is much more I could say or attempt to clarify, I can hear Jon giving one of his investment tips, “Don’t throw good money after bad.”

  14. I didn’t know Jon; but the words “honest and genuine” and some other facts described him to me as someone who showed respect for others. That’s good enough in my books. Obviously Jon was as quality human being and his family and friends must certainly have loved him. Any errors in the article are meaningless to me and probably to others. I was touched by the tragedy of his death and wrote the following to MacLeans immediately upon reading the article ……

    Immediately after I read about Jonathon David Wood, I felt that I had to respond. All too often I read news about a fatal accident in which a young driver is guilty of impaired driving and my heart goes out to both the victims and the young offending drivers. I’m reminded of how many close calls I had as a young driver. I was just lucky; some of my friends were not. It took me a long time to learn that I don’t have any right to risk the life of someone else. Jonathon, by his own behaviour showed respect for others. Driving under the influence of alcohol is not socially acceptable, but the act is often tolerated. That’s the problem and that’s wrong.
    Many wonderful young people sometimes just commit a really stupid act that results in tragedy. They didn’t intend to behave like a criminal by committing a federal offence, but they did. It’s the law. Impaired driving is a serious crime punishable under multiple offenses in the Criminal Code of Canada. The conviction of a serious federal offence stays with you forever. The young 18 year old man charged with impaired driving causing death unfortunately ruined the lives of many.
    When will people learn that they don’t have the right to risk the life of someone else?

    Gord Binnington
    Kingston, Ontario

  15. The article claims Jon was “inebriated” and clambered into the back seat of the cab. Where is the proof for this? This sounds like pure speculation here. Even if that was the case, it takes away from the ultimate tragedy here, that SOMEONE decided to drink and drive, and that resulted in the murder (for lack of a better word) of an innocent person. My heartfelt sympathies to Jon’s family and friends. What a terrible tragedy.

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