Michael Maddalena

On April 3, Michael Maddalena passed away unexpectedly.

Michael began working at Sassafras almost 30 years ago as our first full-time support person, and is an important reason we’ve had a strong reputation for customer support going back to our early days. Always friendly and patient on the phone, Michael took the time to make sure anyone who contacted us had all their questions answered thoroughly. Many customers came to know him personally and experienced what a genuinely kind, good-natured, and witty person he was.

Although Michael moved to Vermont with his wife Rebecca “only” 30 years ago, he was a quintessential Vermonter — modest, self-reliant, curious about people and how things work, and a lover of the outdoors. He wore shorts on the coldest of Winter days. Their old farm house is heated by wood stove. The family’s pet goats were milked to make goat cheese, and Michael kept bees to harvest honey.

The whole family — Michael, Rebecca, and their daughter Hyla — are great cooks and discerning foodies. On New Year’s Eves of years past they would invite friends over and serve up a huge assortment of food, usually with a loose theme, always accompanied by fireworks and a bonfire. Michael would keep the party going with his subtle and sophisticated sense of humor, but without becoming the center of attention.

Everyone at Sassafras will miss Michael. We know many customers will miss him too.

If you were ever helped by Michael and inspired by his broad knowledge and even-keeled good humor, please take a moment in his honor. Play some music from 1974 (the best year for music by his measure), raise a glass, eat some smoked meat, and join us in remembering him. Should you wish to send your thoughts or condolences, please e-mail to sassafras@sassafras.com. We will collect and post messages on this page, with your permission.

Michael was a wonderful and kind soul who brought so much heart and dedication to Sassafras. I will greatly miss him and our early morning chats before everyone else got to the office.

Nicole Wardwell

Michael was one of the warmest and most caring people I’ve known. The ideal support person: patient, calm, understanding, and dedicated.

Jason Schackai

From book, game & movie recommendations to life advice, anything and everything Michael suggested was thoughtful and illuminating. I will greatly miss his council.

Quinn Valence

It was a great pleasure to have worked with someone for the last 5 years who had supported me brilliantly as a customer for 15 years. Michael’s dedication to customer support with a smile was the very fabric of what Sassafras strives for that brought me here. He was a wonderfully esoteric and diverse person to talk with, from goats to bees to kimchi and of days gone by. We are left with a gap that can never be filled quite the same.

Yadin Flammer

Michael was kind hearted and wise, and possessed absolute dedication to everything he did. I was always amazed at his wide ranging knowledge, and with the enthusiasm he had for so many topics. I will miss his witty observations, our bantering about sports, culture, technology and, most of all, our shared passion for music. In that area, there are few who matched Michael’s depth and breadth.

Hopefully, he’s up there enjoying a jam between Tom Petty, Walter Becker and Prince. RIP Michael, who was loved by so many. Mine and Patty’s thoughts are with Rebecca and Hyla for their incalculable loss.

Mike Witthaus

For almost the whole history of our company, Michael has been there — over many years but also consistently day in and day out. He was always ready to spring to assistance for a customer, and always interested in coworker’s passions. He usually had some insight to share on any topic, but never needed to become the center of conversation. Although he was usually working in his office, there is a palpable quietness in the office this morning. Our hearts go out to Rebecca and Hyla.

Julian Devlin

The last time I ran into Michael he lit up and gave me a huge bear hug, then immediately wanted updates about my family. He glowed when he shared what Rebecca and Hyla had been up to. Michael simply radiated kindness, warmth and caring. What a light he was to so many. I am deeply grateful to have known him. All of my love to Rebecca, Hyla and all who are missing him.

Jo Knowles

The message I received in my inbox today about Michael Maddalena passing away on 3. april was both shocking and unexpected.

With the exception of probably one other person, I’ve never really had any personal relationship to a software support guy in my career.

Michael was different. Not only was he always very keen to find out about what the real problem was, he was also very funny and friendly. In 2014 when he found out that I was living in Bergen / Norway, he had to tell me that he got married here. We talked about the places here in Bergen, and he remembered everything. He and his wife got married here at the “Tinghuset”, had their dinner at Munkestuen Cafe and their wedding night at hotel Augustin.

The last e-mail I got from him is from 2. april, and ends:

Thanks very much and have a good evening.

A great loss that I won’t get any reply to my answer.

Andreas Zieritz

I’m so sorry to hear of Michael Maddelena’s passing. I worked with him many times over the years and, like everyone at Sassafras, he always patiently and kindly guided me to the answers that I needed.

I’ll be listening to plenty of 1970’s music today – I’m not convinced that 1974 was the absolute BEST year for music, but I’ll agree that he’s not too far off, 70’s music overall is the best!

Pat Washburn

I am writing this as I wished to express my sincerest condolences regarding Michael’s passing. He was one of the most genuine, and nicest, men that I have ever had the pleasure of speaking to and to hear of his passing has been very upsetting. My thoughts are with all of you at Sassafras, especially Yadin, and his family at this most difficult of times.

RIP Michael, you will be most sorely missed.

Gary Kelly

Michael was my housemate in Brighton when he was working at Lotus Software in Cambridge and pursuing his master’s degree at Boston College. We met when I answered a Roommate Wanted ad in the Phoenix. I think back at how lucky I was that he became my friend.

Michael was great to have as a friend because his sense of humor and creativity would turn mundane tasks or errands into shenanigan filled adventures. You could run to the grocery store with him and have stories to tell about the trip for weeks. We had fun racing bikes in the backyard (Tour de Champney Street!) and filming a cooking show in the kitchen.

Although I saw Michael less frequently as time passed, when I did hear from him, he was always so genuinely interested in how my family was doing. Others have mentioned how caring he was, and how unselfish he was with his time. And it has always been so clear to me how Michael loved Rebecca, Hyla, and the life he built in Vermont.

I am sad and yet know that the world is a better place for his time with us.

Dave LeBlanc

My heartfelt condolences go out to Michael’s family and all of you at Sassafras. As I’m sure Lynna feels, we were fortunate to have had such a recent opportunity to be supported by Michael on a call and share our sentiments regarding how he and Sassafras have uniquely provided us with comfort, reassurance, and direction with their most excellent product. We will remember Michael for his knowledge and ability to share it consistently, willingly, politely, and calmly.

Paul Smernoff

When I think of Michael I think of warmth and hospitality. His family’s gatherings for New Year’s Eve and Passover are all dear memories for me. When I picture him, he is laughing. Michael was both interested in what other people had to say and an interesting person himself, full of humor and good stories. I will miss him, and send love to Rebecca and Hyla.

Thea Valence

What a shock to learn of Michael’s untimely passing. He leaves such a void, as husband, as father, as valued employee, and as friend to many. He was a great help to me when I worked at Sassafras. I shall always remember him fondly. My heart goes out to Rebecca, Hyla, his friends, coworkers — and his customers.

Muriel Farrington

I was shocked and heartbroken to hear of Mike’s passing from Hyla on Thursday. Mike was one of my best friends for close to 50 years and I will miss him deeply.

I was very lucky to have Michael and our mutual friend Brian accept me into their group of friends when I transferred into Lumen Christi High School my Junior year. I still have a bucketful of stories about those days. Mike was the inspiration for us to perform a Monte Python sketch our Senior year for the talent show — which we inexplicably won.

We kept in touch through college but then kind of lost touch for several years except for the annual Christmas card update. Once we all started using email we reconnected and talked/emailed/texted regularly. We traded music and shared a love of the Detroit Tigers. I received a text from him about those Tigers the morning that he passed.

Before my son’s Senior year in high school we met up with Michael for an epic week hiking the white mountains with friends. That was close to 15 years ago but we still talk about it. Mike and I also paddled the South Carolina barrier islands one summer with Brian and my brother, Kevin, met for a joint family vacation at Cape Cod several years ago and all met up at my niece Kelsey’s wedding in Chicago. Mike also made the trip from Vermont to Michigan just for my Dad’s funeral several years ago — that’s just the kind of guy that Mike was; always there for the good times and the hard ones as well.

Even though we would go 5 years or more between seeing each other we never missed a beat when we managed to meet up. Michael was the most caring, attentive and interesting person that I have ever known and the world is a darker place without him.

Jeff Nelson

Words can’t begin to express how sad I am to hear of Michael’s passing. We became fast friends in the early 1990s when he picked up the customer support phone at Sassafras and we met for the first time. He was by far the kindest and most patient voice of a tech company I had ever experienced! Our friendship grew both over the phone and through support emails that were 5% work related and 95% family & life related. He was a terrific relationship coach to me in my 30s when most in my family had given up on me ever marrying. He talked about his love for Rebecca and the great comfort he had knowing that in a roomful of people, their connection to each other was constant and protective and one. He loved Rebecca with every cell in his body. I remember the sheer joy he experienced as a new father to Hyla and so many sweet stories about raising her together with Rebecca their Weimaraner dog and goats. I had the pleasure of visiting them in their home several years ago and spending some face-to-face time with my dear friend allowed me to notice just how much his eyes sparkled and how much he smiled while he talked. He was a loving, tender and forever friend, who I could easily talk even years after not seeing each other as if no time had passed at all. When my own husband passed away tragically last year, Michael was one of the first to reach out to me like I knew my old friend would. I am so sad I couldn’t talk to him at the time. I was in too much pain and couldn’t handle the emotions I knew would come with a heartfelt and loving conversation with him. I miss you Michael. Please look for my Mark up there in heaven and the two of you look over us. You were a blessing to us all and will be forever loved!!

Jill Hartley Yokota

I was deeply saddened to hear the news of Michael Maddalena’s passing. Mike was more than just a support representative to us; he was a crucial part of successfully implementing the software interlocks and facing many technical challenges. I had the privilege of working closely with him on various projects. His professionalism, expertise, and kindness will be missed. Please extend Wayne State University’s heartfelt condolences to the entire Sassafras team and to his family during this difficult time.

Maurice Clark

Michael was one of the first people that I spoke to at Sassafras probably over 15 years ago at the very early start of my career. Michael was eminently patient with the many questions I had both then and now and I will miss his humour greatly. I just read back a recent email from him, and it did make me chuckle. Michael exemplified a commitment to support, and customer service and I am very grateful to him for everything over the years.

My condolences are with his family, friends, and colleagues.

Anthony Traher

His family and you his co-workers have been in my thoughts since I got the announcement about Michael’s passing. Such loss is a universal part of the human experience, for nothing and no one is forever. Yet, it is always heart breaking none-the-less.

Thank you for sending out the announcement email about Michael. While certainly not fun news for anyone, it was good to hear it from his close co-workers at Sassafras. That along with the memorial page you setup says a lot both about Michael and the role he played in your lives, and in the nature of Sassafras as a company. It is really good to see.

I clearly didn’t know him as well as you folks who worked with him constantly for decades, but I’ll miss him in my own small way. In the days when others in our group were the main Keyserver person, whenever we had a problem it would be “I contacted Sassafras. Michael got it take care of” and that was all that the rest of us needed to know that we were in good hands. Similar with his ASCII character conservation signature: M – that was all that was needed. Just last winter he and I traded winter pictures of our respective rural abodes: his the mountains of Vermont, mine the *flat* lands of western Indiana.

We are long term users of Keyserver/AllSight for our computer labs going back to the 1980’s. At conferences those of us who worked with it have promoted it as a really useful and flexible tool and Sassafras as being an amazing company to work with. Michael was a huge part of that – having helped us out of an unnumbered count of problems and complicated messes. Always patient and kind, while being very knowledgable and an ability to clearly ask for the information he needed to help you while also clearly and completely providing the information you needed to know. I may have had follow-up questions after his answers, but I was never confused and never frustrated.

Tom “Macintosh Doctor” Johnson

I’m still stunned by Mike’s passing and don’t know what to say. Paul and I had such a great meeting with Mike just the week before. Like everyone at Sassafras, Mike was so very helpful and provided such a great recap of that meeting. I can’t imagine what Mike’s loss has caused in ripple effects for your team. Please know that I, and I am sure many others, are sending you all virtual hugs and well wishes.

Lynna Jackson

Head codemonkey at Sassafras, Mark enjoys hiking during Summer in New Hampshire and Vermont, and during the other Summer in New Zealand. The rest of the time he spends writing bugs and trying to fix them.

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