Life

Remembering a Friend — Joel Connable: 1973-2012

As much good as social media can do, there are certain things that it doesn’t do well. One of those things is bracing you for really bad news.

Last night, I learned that a friend of mine passed away suddenly on Tuesday. He was far too young, just months away from his 40th birthday. His name was Joel Connable.

Joel was an incredible young man. I first met him when I was working in Columbia. I knew it was his first job in broadcasting, at least until I saw him do his first live shot. I immediately doubted his resume — or, more appropriately, his lack of resume.

If there were anyone who belonged in front of a television camera doing news, it was Joel. He talked to the camera as if it were a close friend; he didn’t get nervous, he didn’t stammer. He never once got that deer-in-the-headlights look that even I got the first time I had to do a live shot. He was so smooth on the air that you just wanted to watch him.

I remember watching him feed the station a standup, the industry name for the portion of a news story in which the reporter is shown on camera while telling the story, during a flood in the area. This particular standup was more in the form of a “sit-down.” Joel had arranged with a man who lived in the flooded neighborhood to paddle him past a few houses on his street in a canoe. Because of the threat of more severe weather, Joel had only one chance to get this done, so it was essentially a live shot that would air about a half-hour later. We radioed Joel to tell him that we were rolling. And he started talking.

He went on for about 45 seconds or so, which is a very long time to talk live into a television camera when you know you only have one chance to get it right. He referenced things he saw as he passed them in the canoe. He didn’t make the first mistake. It would have been annoying as hell if it hadn’t been so amazing watching this “rookie” tell a story as if he’d been in the business for twenty years.

To give you an idea of how good he was, just so you’ll know I’m not exaggerating, his second job in television was working for KCAL-TV in Los Angeles. Quite a jump from Columbia, South Carolina, which was then the nation’s 88th-largest television market to Los Angeles, which is the 2nd largest (behind New York City).

Joel liked telling stories. And he liked helping people. His work on consumer stories immediately earned him a reputation as a problem solver, and the viewers really responded to him. It wasn’t unusual at all for them to wrap their arms around him and give him big bear hugs for accomplishing with a phone call (and TV camera) what they’d been trying unsuccessfully to solve on their own for months. He was joined in his problem solving efforts by another reporter named Adam Murphy. Adam and Joel became close friends and they remained so. I talked to Adam earlier tonight; we both found out at about the same time and via Facebook mentions. Like me, he said he stumbled across the news when he saw mentions of Joel on the Facebook feed. Like me, he says he can’t imagine that this is really happening.

Before his first broadcasting job, he worked as a Paramedic for the New York City Police Department. He liked people. You have to care about people to brave a job like that.

Joel started his own business, Travel News and Deals, a few years ago, and appeared as a guest on television newscasts across the country to talk about how to find great deals on travel. On his website, he reviewed cruise ships, hotels and resorts around the globe. You can watch videos of his reviews on that site, and you’ll see how good he was. Here’s a sample from last year featuring his therapy dog, Lola:

Just recently, he accepted a job in Seattle, and had only been on the job for a couple of days when he passed away. I last talked to him on Facebook about a month ago, when I congratulated him on the Seattle gig. It was a short conversation. Now I wish I’d have said more. Or called him on his cell.

Isn’t that always the way it is? We regret the things we didn’t take the time to do or say after assuming there’d always be time to do it later.

Joel suffered from Type 1 Diabetes, also known as Juvenile Diabetes. He wore an insulin pump, an incredible piece of technology about the size of an iPhone that could give him doses of insulin he needed to stay alive. According to a statement I saw attributed to his parents, there was a malfunction with the pump: the lead had become disconnected and Joel must not have realized it. They believe he must have had some sort of seizure.

He was never shy about his condition, and in fact, he helped raise awareness for Juvenile Diabetes by participating in fund-raising events for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The JDRF named him Volunteer of the Year  in 2005 for his diligent work to find a cure for the condition. The next time you hear about that organization doing some kind of event in your area, if you think about it, donate to them. That would mean a lot to Joel, and it’d mean a lot to me, too.

When he passed away on Tuesday, he was only 39 years old. There’s never a good age to leave this earth: I think almost everyone wants more time than they have. But 39 is entirely too young. Particularly for a good guy like Joel.

If you didn’t know him, then I thank you for caring enough to read this far. I wish you could have known him: he was just a sweet man.

Joel was an encourager. If he knew a friend needed him, he’d be there. He’d listen. And he’d try to help you talk out what needed to be done to make the situation better. I’ll miss that, but I’ll miss him a lot more.

If you’re willing, I hope you’ll say a prayer for his wife, his family and the many people who were blessed enough to be able to call him a friend.

Joel would end his Travel videos with the line, “Wish you were here.” Those of us who knew him wish he were still here.

24 Comments

  1. too sad will pray for Lola who probably is grieving the loss of her master and for his wife and family who are grieving

  2. I met Joel in 2003 when he was a reporter at KCAL-TV Ch. 9/KCBS-TV Ch.2 News stations in Los Angeles, and I was the director of public affairs for the American Red Cross in Pasadena, Calif. We immediately bonded (it helped we were both USC graduates) and I helped him with many stories, one of which won him an Emmy Award for best feature story. In fact, we joked just the other day when I tried to reach him and he said, “Who is this?,” and I replied, “The PR guy who helped you win an Emmy.” He just thought it was so funny and we both laughed. I just sent him a message via FB on Nov. 3 on a funny picture he had posted about how anchors get ready for their news shows, and it was him and a female anchoring with a mirror and doing their hair. That’s just the kind of guy he was. Lighthearted, warm, genuine, so much fun. I can’t imagine a world without Joel Connable. He sure didn’t deserve to leave this world in the manner he did. God Bless you, Joel.

    1. DereckAndrade Thanks for the comment, Dereck. Like you, I immediately felt a bond with Joel the moment I met him. I’m also a USC grad — but in my case, that’s the University of South Carolina — so Joel and I kidded each other about how much of a difference initials can make. I had a very brief Facebook chat with him about three weeks ago or so to congratulate him on the move to KOMO. I still can’t believe he’s gone.

  3. What a wonderful tribute to my friend, Joel. I got to meet him in 2003 when I was director of public relations for the American Red Cross in Pasadena, Calif., and he was a reporter with KCAL-TV Ch.9 and KCBS-TV Ch. 2. From earthquake simulations to covering typical Red Cross survival relief stories, Joel always thought of ways to really present a vivid package to his viewers. One night he was live and he needed me and my assistant to rock the earthquake simulator camper near Caltech in Pasadena, and me being 6-3, 220, and my PR assistant being a former high school football player, we nearly rocked the camper off its foundation right on live television with Joel inside! Joel just laughed and laughed and said his producers loved the live-shot. I remember when he left for Miami and his friends held a huge going-away party for him in West Los Angeles. None of us wanted for him to leave L.A. I remained friends with Joel and we just chatted via Facebook as recetnly as Nov. 3 about his new position at KOMO in Seattle. He was just so excited, and we wrote back and forth about his new marriage. He seemed so happy and at peace. Learning of his passing this afternoon has been just a complete and utter shock. My deepest condolences to his wife, his parents, his family, and all of this friends. He was one-of-a-kind. God Bless you, Joel Connable.

  4. Patrick,
    I feel so blessed that through you and Chip I got to know Joel if only for a little while. I remember so well belly laughs with all of you (and Adam too) over things you’d gotten into or conversations y’all had had. He was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met – when I hear his name spoken, I immediately think of his radiant smile – something it was rare to see NOT on his face. I remember, prior to meeting him, Chip excitedly telling me about this new guy who not only shared his live of television, but also his love of EMS. People like Joel and Chip AND YOU are a rare find in life. I am so blessed to have had all three of you in mine.
    I know we will all be heavy hearted for a while, but I also know that Joel – his zest for life and his HUGE heart – will live on as long as we all do, through stories and memories. His brilliantly large light has been extinguished far, far too soon. I am keeping Angela, his family, his friends and especially Lola who must be feeling incredibly lost right now – and there is no way to explain it to her – in my prayers.
    I love you much, brother of my heart.
    Take care…
    Erin

  5. I think what mommyslp3 was trying to say is that this line “He wore an insulin pump, an incredible piece of technology about the size of an iPhone that could give him a dose of insulin any time it detected that he needed it.” is incorrect. A medical device such as you described simply does not exist. Being a Type I Diabetic requires diligence 24/7 and it is a painful disease to manage, and everything about the disease is manually controlled. How many of us have to prick our fingers to draw blood up to a dozen times a day (or more!) to test our blood sugar? How many of us have to worry about our blood sugar levels before we eat, take a nap, exercise, get through a long meeting at work, play sports, walk the dog, go on a road trip, fly somewhere, get groceries or before we go to bed at night? It can be an all-consuming and very stressful disease, both for the person who suffers from it and for everyone who loves them. And while I agree that the insulin pump is an “incredible piece of technology”, the inset has to be changed and moved every few days. A new inset is attached to the body by an “injector” type of device with a big needle on it. ALL of the maintenance for this disease requires pricking and poking, and it is painful and invasive. Most of us can’t fathom doing these things for one week, so just imagine having to deal with this for a lifetime and never ever getting a break from it. So while I am saddened by your loss and I think Joel sounds like a truly remarkable human being, I have to correct your statements to promote responsible awareness of this disease. It is a disservice to everyone who suffers from it otherwise, which I understand, of course, was clearly not your intent.
    This man should not have had to suffer alone and it is tragic that he passed away…especially being so young. My heart goes out to his wife and his family!

    1. @Diabetic Educator Thanks for the clarification. I have adjusted the line to which you objected.
      I know Joel did regularly test his blood sugar. Obviously, he wouldn’t have made it 26 years without doing so. Joel told me that his delivered insulin at designated times, but that he could increase or lower that frequency or infuse a dose outside of the designated times if he detected he needed more of it. 
      Joel would have certainly wanted the facts made clear, so I hope I’ve not caused any unnecessary confusion.

      1. patricksplace  Thanks so much for adjusting.  I don’t believe for one minute that Joel made a mistake in programming his insulin pump.  That is why this disease is so damn hard.  When a an infusion set fails they fail.  They can fail in 4 hours or in 3 days.  Diabetes is cruel and unforgiving.  Unfortunately, Joel is not the first to die from Type 1 and even sadder he won’t be the last.  Every couple hours we check my son at night to catch these terrible things from happening.  One day he will be a grown man and won’t have his parents to check for him.  It will be the scariest time of my life because Type 1 Diabetic’s gamble with their lives every time they close their eyes 🙁

    2. @Diabetic Educator Thank you for further clarifying my response.  It is so challenging to explain to those not living or directly associated with this disease.  I have a lot of friends who think just because my son wears an insulin pump it takes care of everything……Greatly appreciate you taking the time to explain because any Type 1 Diabetic will know that Joel didn’t make an error in his diabetes care. It just this disease 🙁

  6. Very nice tribute, it was spot on.  I have a lot of great footage of Joel from all the videos Ive shot with him over the years.  Great out takes as well, I’m going to try to put together a little video tribute to him.

  7. Great tribute, Patrick.  I only spoke with Joel once, yet somehow I miss him.  Must be the News19 brotherhood bond we share.  Thanks for sharing your memories of him.

  8. How sad to lose such a great friend, Patrick. I’m so sorry for your loss. You’ve written a great tribute to his talent and good nature.

  9. Thanks for posting this and raising awareness for Type 1 Diabetes a very misunderstood autoimmunie disease.  My 6 year old is also a Type 1 Diabetic from age 1.  So I am compelled to fix one piece of information in your article.  The insulin pump can’t detect when your body needs insulin nor can it deliver insulin without you programming it.  Thanks again for posting.

    1. mommyslp3 It would mean a lot to Joel to have awareness raised about Type 1 Diabetes. He’d worn the insulin pump for at least the 13 or 14 years I’d known him, so I know he knew how to program it properly.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.