As I write this, Leslie Harpold has passed Britney Spears and Christmas to become the third-most searched term on Technorati. That should give you a pretty strong indication of what the 40-year-old web designer and online essayist, who died unexpectedly Dec. 8 with her well-bookmarked advent calendar halted in its count, meant to a lot of people on the web.
As someone who sort-of knew Leslie for years in the way you sort-of know a lot of people online, I didn't know she'd been touched by so many personal tragedies -- such as the death of her fiancé at age 29 and some medical malpractice that left her seriously injured -- or just how far her network of admirers extended. I just knew she was an incisive writer who was cool in a way you don't see often in web writers. Lauren Bacall lighting a cigarette in a black-and-white movie before the surgeon general warned anybody cool.
Harpold followed the sweet sentimentality of Possible Scenarios for Heaven with a raw letter to her late fiancé, written on his birthday:
As far as I know you never lied to me, except for one thing you said the morning after we met. I thought you were a dork, albeit a charming one, when you asked me if I liked you. I said "Of course," more to be polite than anything else. I mean, you seemed nice enough at the time. Then you said "Good, because I like you, and I'm never leaving."
But you did.
An anecdote from Mike Monteiro is a nice point of entry to Harpold for people just getting to know her through these lavish memorials:
I met Leslie Harpold six years ago when a large cardboard box showed up unexpectedly at my door. Inside was a large 32 gallon stainless steel trash can that I'd added to my Amazon wish list a few weeks before on a whim.
The gift note inside said (... and I'm paraphrasing) "I wanted to meet the sort of freak who'd put a 32 gallon stainless steel trash can on his wish list. —- Leslie Harpold"
I learned how to curse from roughnecks, leathernecks, and rednecks. Junkies seem to be especially skillful cursers for some reason, but educated women are the most inventive of them all.
I'll always be grateful to Leslie Harpold for the addition of "fuckwit" to my lexicon of swear words.
Thanks for this; you describe her beautifully.
She wasn't yet 41; she was a month away from her 41st birthday.
Thanks for the correction. I enjoyed your recollections as well and read around 100 of them last night from people she knew, a group that appears to number in five figures.
Whatever else can be said about her, she sends complete strangers very nice gifts.
I never met Leslie, but I became a big fan of her Hoopla 500 and have been repeatedly inspired by her web persona. I was quite taken aback by her daily accounts of life in NYC in the aftermath of 911, and became hooked on her unique style of writing that always offered an intelligent and fresh point of view. She put so much of herself into everything she did, and so by reading her writings, following her links, and exploring her web sites, I feel like I knew her even though we never met. I too had no idea of the pain and suffering she had experienced. I will always remember Leslie for her spunk and her ability to cut to the quick in any given situation to impose a sense of integrity. She wrote eloquently and beautifully giving depth and dimension to even the most mundane situations. Her writing was often very quirky and comical as well.
Leslie was an incredible idea person. She had strong opinions and ideas about everything, yet was always open to others opinions as well. In fact she seemed to thrive on new concepts and ideas. She was all about innovative thinking and turning ideas inside out until they struck the cord and made the connection she was looking for. I will greatly miss her and her unique point of view. Thanks for sharing your journey and for allowing us all to hop on board.
Rest in peace Leslie ...
'Came across", the way you do, many comments about Leslie Harpold today.
So I looked in Wikipedia to see more about her ... and found nothing.
Maybe those of you who 'knew' her could write a wiki page about her for those of us who didn't. Some sort of a final gift to/for her.
WOW! I just saw this today....
Leslie and I were friends in college when we volunteered as crisis counselors, worked in a bookstore together, and had to do term papers on IBM Selectrics. We had gotten back in touch in recent years and wer starting to form a new friendship...
Even back in college, before her internet days, you could tell Leslie was just about the brightest light in any room she entered. Energetic, interested in everything and everyone around her, and always the first to "get it" and give you her opinion on it.
She will be missed...
Wow............I'm so saddened to here about Leslie through a fellow elementry student here in Michigan where Leslie grew up. She went to Upton elementry and knowing her as my fellow class mate from 4th-12th grade. She was the only student to stare at and wonder...............I was very shy and did not have too much to ask or say anything to anyone. What really stands out in my memory of Leslie is staring at her in 4th grade and looking deep in her and admiring her as she was the only student that skipped a grade above her same aged friends. She was a year younger than me but in the same class. Teacher would ask a question and Leslie had her hand up to reply correctly every time. To see the 6th grade pic of Leslie, visit my Face Book Album.
God Bless you Leslie
So sad to hear this news she was a very smart person with alot of confidence. Leslie had helped me with homework in a few classes in high school and she will be missed.
May god be with you Leslie
I was so saddened & disappointed when I found this web sight two days ago. I grew up with Leslie and I was seeing if I could find her. Also to see what Lesile had been up to and how she was doing.
Leslie & I were class mate K - 2 grade at Upton Elementry School Royal Oak Michigan until she skipped a grade. But I still saw a lot of her threw 1983 (she went to College) because we only lived a few houses apart. Leslie was one of a kind and a very special person. Leslie always standed out in a room and it was not just for her outside but even more for her inside(so smart, easy going & so very nice) I always knew Leslie would leave her mark on the world. I know She did in my world I am just sorry we lost touch.
So until we meet again
Thanks & God Bless you Leslie
Many years have passed since Leslie left us but I still remember her fondly and frequently. I often wonder how the social web and other media forms may have evolved differently had her keen insight been a part of the process.
Like many, my relationship with Leslie was brief and limited to some project work we'd done together out of need or fun. She was generous with her time and always brought her full experience to the table.
Her last few years took her from the East coast to the West followed by a return to her midwest homeland. I had the impression that she was restless at the time but later came to believe that she followed her heart and went where she was needed.
I am grateful to have had her as a friend.