Friend to GMP Jeffrey Zaslow Dies in Car Accident

Jeffrey Zaslow was the co-author of “The Last Lecture” and of memoirs with Gabrielle Giffords, the congresswoman from Arizona who was recovering from a gunshot wound to the head, and Chesley B. Sullenberger III, the pilot who safely ditched a damaged airliner on the Hudson River in 2009. His current best-seller is“The Girls From Ames.”

He passed away last weekend in a car accident on snowy roads on his way to his Detroit-area home, returning from a book-signing event in northern Michigan.

He and I emailed periodically and he was always supportive of what The Good Men Project was attempting to do because he was the father of three daughters.  As the NYT writer and close friend to Zaslow TARA PARKER-POPE wrote in her recollection:

Despite his success as a memoir co-author, Jeff’s true labor of love was his latest book, “The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters.” Dedicated to his daughters, the book focused on a bridal shop in Fowler, Mich., as a way to tell a story of parents’ hopes and dreams.

Mr. Zaslow’s role as a father was a common theme in his work, one he loved to talk about. Once when a boy canceled plans to take his daughter to a homecoming dance, Mr. Zaslow said he thought to himself, “What can I do for my sad daughter?” He decided to embarrass the boy in front of millions by writing a Wall Street Journal column about the lessons parents should be teaching their sons.

“The lesson of the story — and of that night — is to teach your sons to be chivalrous, and your daughters not to take it,” he said in a 2009 interview. “My daughter was not thrilled. And the boy was not thrilled. But you know what? The next time you want to take my daughter to the dance, follow through.”

Below is the interview I did with Zaslow just as the GPM was getting started.

1.) Who taught you about manhood?
The usual suspects: my dad, my older brother, the movies, seeing what girls thought was manly and trying to fit the bill.

2.) Has romantic love shaped you as a man?
Sure. I wouldn’t say I’m overly demonstrative, but I’m not afraid to say, “I love you.” I live in a home with four women–my wife and three daughters –and they’ve taught me about romance, affection, etc.

3.) What two words describe your dad?
Renaissance man.

4.) How are you most unlike him?
My dad could spend a full year in a museum, spending hours at each exhibit. I could walk through a whole museum in 10 minutes.

5.) From which of your mistakes did you learn the most? 
I didn’t always think of other people first. But I learned that when you do that, at least a lot of the time, things seem better all around.

6.) What word would the women in your life use to describe you, and is it accurate? 
Busy. And yes, it’s accurate.

7.) Who is the best dad you know, and how does he earn that distinction? 
Having worked with Randy Pausch on the book The Last Lecture, I watched him prepare his young children for a life without him. It was a brave, selfless, and extremely inspirational act. Randy died of pancreatic cancer in July 2008.

8.) Have you been more successful in public or private life?
I’d like to think I’ve been successful in both. But, of course, I recognize that public acclaim isn’t worth much if your private life is in shambles. So I’ve tried to find that balance. My kids seem to like me, so I’m grateful for that.

9.) When was the last time you cried?
I’m not big on tears. But I’ve choked up a bit in movies…even at the end of The Blind Side!

10.) What advice would you give teenage boys trying to figure out what it means to be a good man? 
Follow your instincts. Study your father and grandfathers. Don’t let the media define you.


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About Tom Matlack

Tom Matlack is the co-founder of The Good Men Project. He has a 18-year-old daughter and 16- and 7-year-old sons. His wife, Elena, is the love of his life. Follow him on Twitter @TMatlack.

Comments

  1. Elizabeth Jackson @ElizJacksonSays says:

    Tom,
    You’ve written an excellent, touching tribute to Jeffrey Zaslow. You were very fortunate to have known him.
    I like the way you wove Tara Parker-Pope’s recollections of Jeffrey into your article.
    In your interview, you asked Jeffrey a lot of interesting questions which revealed much about him.
    I only knew Jeffrey Zaslow’s work, through his WSJ columns and books, but now I know much more about him as a person. He sounds like he was extraordinary in many ways. I know you and so many others will miss him greatly.
    I think his wife and daughters would very much appreciate your article. Perhaps you could send a copy of it to them?
    Congratulations on doing such a great job under deadline.
    Elizabeth Jackson
    (American journalist living in Canada)

  2. Sorry for your loss, Tom.

    I read his Wall Street Journal article. He has 3 daughters and a wife…he understands his daughters and girls everywhere well — they’re looking for romance, not hook-ups. It’s no wonder Twilight movies are hugely popular with teen girls. Girls and women ache for true romance – love.

    I was talking to a fan of Twilight the other day — apparently 5 of these movies have been produced or 5 books have been written, and because of the success of this franchise, the author is looking to come out with a sixth novel, which will also have a movie version. I think teen girls are in love with romance and the Twilight storyline. It’s a “grown-up” fairytale.

  3. Tom, you’ve written a touching and heartfelt tribute to Jeff, who I also knew over the past few
    years as a far away email correspondent, and he was a good good man, one of the best, and what a tragedy this is! For his family, and friends, and his fans and readers. This was not meant to be, and it should never have happened. Your interview with him above is also very good, thanks for reposting. One thing I have been blogging about is my POV sincere and heartfelt also, that Jeff did not have be doing 200 plus book events a year, away from home, as he did in 2011, and that he might have been pushing himself too hard, with the best of intentions of course, but still overworking himself, and I have met with great resistance online everywhere I have posted my concern and compassion and personal thoughts for a good man gone too soon. He should have lived, by all rights, well into the 2040s.

    A friend of Jeff’s in Michigan does agree with my outspokenness on this issue and tells me: “daer Dan ,I suppose you will come in for some criticism for the Open Salon piece titled “I do not accept Jeffrey Zaslow’s death” but it’s exactly what one wonders, me too: what was Jeff thinking? all those public appearances away from home, away from the very wife and kids he loved! WHY? as I said in my own post, it chills me so because I AM like him, or I used to be until I got so I just couldn’t drive the way I used to. I can’t tell you how helpful it is for me to see where this ***overfunctioning*** can end — in the graveyard. ”

    Tom the keyword here tio explore later, after the grief and mourning period is over, however long that takes, is this: overfunctioning. Among males. Yes or no? Am i bringing up a good point? see my salon piece here:
    http://open.salon.com/blog/danbloom/2012/02/15/i_do_not_accept_jeffrey_zaslows_death

  4. And Tom, just to show you how the media, MSM and BGS (= BloGoSphere) has been reacting to my outspokenness on this issue of JZ’s senseless and meaningless death that did HAVE TO BE, and should NOT have occured, Tara Parker-Pope deleted by comments in the NYT blog, as did the Times MediaDecoder blog, as the HuffPot blog of Andrew S. Doctoroff. See? People don’t want to talk about the 999 pound gorilla in the room, and what do they do when along comes a friend of Jeff’s …ME! ….with some words of caution? They censor me, they delete me, they don’t want to talk about it. I understand it’s too early for many people, it;s time now to grieve and mourn, but why censor and delete the bringer of truthy ideas? It’s not a good way to show respect to Jeff, for the media to delete my comments. i am trying to help prevent the next senseless and meaingless death of a male that does not have to happen. See my point? I am on Jeff’s side. And yet media tries to gag me. Why? Well, we know why. I know why. Sigh.

  5. Tom, can we chat re the Jeff Zaslow stuff, or are you going to stonewall me too, as men who afraid to face facts are prone to do? email me, mate. danbloom AT gmail…….dont’ be a coward here!

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