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September | October 2019

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Donald “Donnie” Harrell, 1950–2019

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Photos by Tom Palm

Tribalism and “other-ism” are modern, internet-enabled and -encouraged behaviors that drive mistrust between people.

Online, it seems the choices are echo chambers where only certain viewpoints are allowed or anonymous verbal combat arenas where “everyone’s talkin’, but I don’t hear a word they’re sayin’ ” (’70s music reference for those in the know). Even those with the best intentions can easily slide into an us-versus-them mentality or, even worse, so afraid of reaction that they take no actions at all. Everyone knows these behaviors do not help us, our businesses or our industry, and we all struggle at different levels to avoid spiraling into depths of cynicism. The good news: There are people all around us who can help.

It is important to take the time to become friends, to get to know people. Enter Donald “Donnie” Harrell. The first time I met Donnie was in 1997. I’m sad to say I don’t remember the actual first time we met, but I’m sure he charmed me like he did everyone. He had the gift of walking into a room and lighting it up. I don’t think I ever saw this man without a smile on his face. Although Donnie started as an industry friend, he became a personal friend. When I was jobless in 2003 and focusing on the reasons not to act, Donnie was in Seattle on a business trip. He took me and my niece to dinner and encouraged me to step out on my own, to rationalize the risks but not let them overwhelm me. A few months after this meeting, I started Roast.

“Do something nice for someone else today.” That’s the phrase that Donnie told his kids every day when they left the house. It’s the attitude that made him and many of those around him successful, and it’s an attitude that can inoculate us all from cynicism.

Donnie joined Monin in 1994 as one of the first four employees in the United States. After 17 years building the Monin business in the United States, Donnie retired in 2011. Unfortunately, many of you never got the chance to meet one of the “great ones.” Donnie Harrell lost his fight against cancer on July 28, 2019. He will be missed, but he will continue to inspire.

Warmest wishes, with a touch of sadness,

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