Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Røssel Passes

Yesterday, I received a phone call from Denmark: Carl Johan Røssel, my former Dialogue International colleague and friend from the “old days,” passed away. He died of ALS. He was diagnosed with an aggressive form of this disease in 2004. You can read more about it here.

I went to Denmark 17 years ago to represent my shop at one of the first of the Dialogue International “Forums.” (This was before I became the official representative to Dialogue from The Quest Business Agency, Dialogue’s only US member in those days…and eventually its Chairman.) Copenhagen is one of the most beautiful cities I’d ever seen. We creative and management types stayed and met for three days in the Admiral Hotel, on the waterfront, just a pitch north of Nyhavn; I met so many people from so many countries.

The host agency was J+J, the business-to-business marcomms firm managed by Carl Johan. Through him, I got to know Copenhagen as a warm-hearted and cheerful city, filled with talented people. His first wife, Helene, took Barbara and Rachel on a tour of Denmark, something that could be accomplished in a day, more or less.

Carl Johan and Helene were among our first Danish friends. In subsequent visits, we met many more; one of J+J’s talented art directors, Tine Lysberg, came to Houston for a three-week “fellowship” at Quest. That phone call I got was from Tine.

Back in the day, Carl Johan was one of the staunchest of our original members and ran a high-quality B2B shop. We had further adventures at many Dialogue meetings throughout the years – I recall his laugh particularly.

The last time we saw each other was five years ago or so. Barbara and I came over from Houston on a trip that included a Dialogue meeting in Malmö, Sweden. Then we came back across the Sound to spend a few extra days with Tine and her husband John at their home in Humlebaek. It was a wonderful season. Part of my task, as I had become the Chairman of Dialogue International, was to interview a potential new member for Dialogue, a Danish agency…J+J had fallen by the wayside; Carl Johan had started his own firm, Rubicon, in Rosenvaengets Allé; he and his partner had sold up to become a business unit of Grey Worldwide. We hadn’t got a Danish member in several years.

Carl Johan and I met for lunch at Schoennemann’s near the Rose Garden, one of my favorite restaurants. We had a terrific time talking, eating herring and drinking aquavit. That restaurant had been there for a hundred years or more and it’s gone now. So is Carl Johan.

Jaakko Alanko, one of Dialogue’s founders and its first Chairman, wrote back to me:

This is unexpected and sad news. Carl Johan was always a sympathetic friend and cooperative colleague. I had the pleasure of appearing as a speaker a few times at his agency events and always experienced generous hospitality.

I once received a complete CD set of Nielsen’s symphonies from Carl Johan and will now re-dedicate this gift to his lasting memory. May his soul rest in peace.

The outgoing Dialogue Chairman, Leif Lindau of Navigator in Malmö, e-mailed our old gang with this:

Most of you knew Carl-Johan for a longer time than I did however the years that we worked together were very busy, especially in our region. The bridge between Malmö and Copenhagen was under construction and gave a lot of nourishment to the region. Rubicon and Navigator started to interact more and more to prepare for joint pitching on new clients.

Carl Johan always shared his know how, network and professionalism without asking for anything in return. Even in the pitch for the Öresund Bridge account when Rubicon couldn’t run together with Navigator because of Grey; he opened his network to us and introduced us to one of the best agencies in Copenhagen that we could cooperate with - even though he knew that we would pitch against each other for the account.

This is only one way to describe a true friend and a great man!

Charles de la Rochefoucauld is one more of our original Dialogue founders. He’s now Vice President and Managing Director at Corporate Factory, a Publicis business unit in Paris. He sent:

I have so many good memories from the “old days” and Carl Johan is very much part of it. (Richard, you forgot to mention that when we stayed at the Admiral Hotel, we had our meetings on a boat!!!!) Carl Johan was such a nice and friendly person. It is sad news.

Carl Johan’s death is sad news for all of us. I wish his family our warmth and sympathy – and for him, peace and rest.

1 comment:

Helene Røssel said...

Dear Richard

I made a google-search on my father's name - Carl Johan Røssel - and your blog came up. It was a very nice experience to read your warm description of my father. Thank you.

I remember Rachel and Barbara from your visit years ago. My mother Helen and I went on a tour of the country with them.

My father is still very much present in my mind, since I until recently worked on publishing his last book. He wrote two books during the time of his illness. One was an autobiography, the second a crime novel with inspiration from his life in advertisement. The latter was finished a mere couple of days before he died. Very well planned, I would say. But again, that was his force. He kept his mind busy and controlled the negative thoughts. He handled this awful disease with great dignity.

P.s. I wrote this email a couple of months ago, but could not reach your email address...It was bouncing from

Kind regards...