The best-selling author and Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow died in a car accident Friday morning. He was 53, and is survived by his wife, Sherry Margolis, and three daughters.
A co-author of the best-selling book “The Last Lecture,” based on a speech delivered by a professor with terminal cancer, Mr. Zaslow wrote about inspirational figures and life’s transitions. He was on his way home to Detroit from a book reading in northern Michigan when he lost control of his car on a snow-covered road and collided with a semi-trailer truck, according to the Antrim County Sheriff’s Department.
I worked with Jeff at The Wall Street Journal, and just as he had millions of readers who found inspiration and comfort in his books, articles and columns, there were legions of young journalists who hoped that one day they could be just a little bit like him.
We admired Jeff for his knack for stretching the restraints of financial journalism in the most delightful ways, even when he was writing about futures markets as a cub reporter in the 1980s. His subjects’ humanity, and his, of course, would shine through.
After writing a Page 1 article about the competition to replace Ann Landers, Jeff ended up winning the contest, beating out 12,000 applicants. He wrote the column, syndicated in The Chicago Sun-Times, from 1987 to 2001.
Many people will remember Jeff for his best-selling books, most notably “The Last Lecture,” which chronicled a speech delivered by Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon professor with terminal cancer. (Sadly, Jeff’s death in a crash allowed no summing up of his life.) But I think of a 2002 A-hed (as The Journal calls its quirky Page 1 column) titled “If TiVo Thinks You Are Gay, Here’s How to Set It Straight,” and another that explored a beauty pageant for women with developmental disabilities (“At Miss Cass Pageant, Disabled Contestants Bask in the Spotlight — Knock-Knock Jokes, Songs and a Tiara in Detroit”).
Robert Thomson, the managing editor of The Journal, wrote in an e-mail to staff: “There is no doubt that Jeff’s words will echo poignantly for generations to come and his body of work will be a living testimony to his professionalism, creativity and dedication.”
I heard a story about Jeff that describes his personality better than any adjective. When Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona and her husband, Mark Kelly, were talking to authors about co-writing her memoir, Jeff was the only author who opened the conversation by asking Ms. Giffords, who was shot in the head by a gunman near Tucson last year, how she was feeling. …