In Memory of Darren Barefoot
Will it come like this, the moment of my death? Will You open a door upon the great forest and set my feet upon a ladder under the moon, and take me out among the stars?
“Fire Watch, July 4, 1952”
– Thomas Merton
Darren Kyle Barefoot died on February 20, 2023 following complications from metastatic cancer.
Darren was a firm believer in mentorship, education, advocacy and environmental protection. You can remember Darren and his legacy by donating to the Darren Barefoot Legacy Fund (Vancouver Foundation). The fund will offer support to the next generation of marketing professionals dedicated to climate action.
Darren, DB to many, was a builder of ideas, relationships and communities. He was an exceptional husband to Julie Szabo and an entrepreneur, professional speaker, flâneur, playwright, author, Dungeon Master, cat-coaxer and master storyteller.
Darren enjoyed a great turn of phrase. His pleasure in language is captured in his long-running blog, darrenbarefoot.com where he mused on miscellany: technology trends; signage and maps; musical theatre; how to cycle the Canal du Midi. If there was a question, Darren asked it. His friends, colleagues and family will greatly miss his curiosity and candour.
Darren was a seasoned presenter and organizer of grassroots gatherings: Northern Voice; Web of Change; Fireworks Factory. His professional pièce de résistance was Capulet Communications where, for 20 years, he acted as a trusted business partner to his wife, Julie. As a team they launched inventive advocacy and fundraising campaigns for NGOs and charities. Darren’s work with organizations like the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat and Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society was compelling and admired. It aligned with his deep concern for the climate and steadfast passion for the environment.
Darren and Julie traveled the world together for 25 years. On working holidays and long-term stays they made memories in Ireland, Malta, Morocco, Panama, France, Germany and most recently in the home they built on Pender Island.
Darren will be ardently remembered by his wife Julie, parents Gordon and Meryl, siblings Kevin (Wendy; nephews Miles and Paul), Lynsey (Dominik) and Imogene, aunts Shaneen and Lynn, in-laws Lynn, Leah and Ken, and the well-loved cat Goldberg. Darren was predeceased by his mother, Judy Neil, in 2003. A celebration of Darren’s life will take place in the spring.
I’m truly devastated to hear this news and, at the same time, celebrating the nuanced communication of this tribute.
Darren was/is as sharp as they come, full of curiosity and quirks, self-deprecating but never cynical, didn’t suffer fools unless a fool needed suffering, insightful and decisive about the causes he cared about, didn’t lower himself to the meaningless squabbles, was a voice of practical reason in the nascent days of (what was then) using Internet as a revolutionary communications tool.
He “took us all along” as he and dear Julie demonstrated mobile, decentralized, “nomadic” work/life before it was a buzzword.
Always taking steps to engage communities, always “getting out there” on-stage – i remember the raucous applause for his talk at the *hard-crowd* at Gnomedex – yet somehow always understated.
I was always pleased for the chance to share a stage, panel or radio show together. I like to think that he noted my storytelling skills as i did his (despite or because of my *renegade style*).
While many others in the extended (for lack of a better term) tech/communications world were eager to build shiny start-ups, Darren diligently stuck to his own path the same way as he walked from inn to inn on his walking rambles.
It was scant 32 weeks ago i sent messages to him ‘on the road’ in France asking “what do you think about when you’re walking along the trails”?
His reply, “I just let my mind wander really. It’s quite meditative, so a lot of the time i’m just looking around the listening, I think.”
I think your legacy and life are truly noteworthy and admirable.
Me and my family at Tsuchida Cottage will light incense and arrange blossoms in your honour.
So very fondly, with friendship and respect and wishes of peace to your family,
daveo + ryoko and ichiro in the far far west
Denim & Steel
We have no words to fit this moment. Darren has been more than a friend and client, he’s been a role model for a way to work and live that brings more to the world.
There are too many memories to recount, too many things to say thank you for. Our hearts and thoughts are with Julie and the Capulet team, and we’ll value every day we got to spend with this extraordinary person.
Todd, Tylor, & team.
My favourite wordsmith is gone so I have no words. Condolences and virtual hugs to J, family and the rest of the Vancouver tech and worldwide family who are missing DB.
Peace and Love
p.s. DB (in partnership with J) was a pioneer in so many things like working remotely. Here’s a video about remote working from 2009 with DB.
I’m so sorry to hear this. Darren’s blog was one of the first ones I read, way back when, and it was funny and informative and shaped some of what I think is how one talks on the web to this day. Later I interviewed him a few times for CBC News and he was insightful and witty. To Julie and all his friends and family, I’m sorry for your loss.
Airdrie Miller McLennan
This is devastating to hear. Darren was at the cross-section of so many important things in my life, leading the way and asking the important questions.
Such a shock. Darren was so gracious all those years when we would meet up for NV. His smile was contagious. To Julie and family sincerest condolences.
When we first moved to Vancouver nearly 20 years ago, it was apparent that Darren was _the person to get to know_ in the local community. He was frequently at in gatherings and events, but as I got to know him in less public settings , I was impressed with how welcoming and supportive he was of everyone who he came in contact with. He was an accomplished author, impressive speaker and advocate for the good parts of Social Media, but I’ll always remember him as someone who was just fun to be around. I’m stunned and sorrowful with his untimely passing; I’m still trying to get used to the idea of not seeing him again. It’s an understatement to say that he will be missed; his early exit from our lives and community will be felt be many, for a long, long time. We’re all poorer without him.
Darren was a real inspiration…from my personal perspective at least, to what I might best describe as ‘wonder’. In the few interactions I had with Darren, I was always captivated by his perspective, inquisitive mind, and such great commentary of the ordinary and extraordinary. I really hardly knew him but immediately wanted to reach out and hand him a bottle of Barefoot wine, which I did so many years ago now. I trust he enjoyed it, and shared it in good company. My sincerest condolences to family and friends, Darren will clearly be missed by many.
In life we meet people and often are connected for only a short period of time, but we are changed in some way, big or small as a result. I had the joy of meeting and dreaming with Darren and Julie a number of years ago, and though the project never launched, my way of looking at the world had been broadened. Real change felt more possible, creativity flowed, half baked ideas and concepts were cognized, a new way of being in the world awakened. It’s has been years since we travelled this path, but just weeks ago dear Darren and Julie, you were in my thoughts again, as another project was being discussed that would benefit from your magic dust, but I wonder now if instead the cosmos were giving me a signal to embrace Darren, if only energetically, one last time before he travelled on to the next plane. The ripples of your union will last forever. My thoughts are with you Julie.
This is heartbreaking. If there was anyone who set the standard for combining intelligence, insight, humour, and compassion it was Darren. Julie – I’m so, so sorry. I wish you the best.
I am sending condolences and love from South Africa. I have shared some of your journey through Meryl who is my dear cousin. Losing an unusually special person like Darren must be devastating. I light a candle for Darren every evening and I share the photos with Meryl.
I was simply stunned to hear of Darren’s death. I send love and condolences to you, Julie, and to Darren’s family and broad community. I was fortunate to meet you, Julie, when you became part of our “PR Chix” group. Through you, I met Darren, and was impressed by your forward thinking on all things digital. I enjoyed hearing Darren speak at the many events you and he were part of, and learned so much. Your lives of travel and adventure were a model for the rest of us. I do hope you find peace in the beautiful memories you made together.
Darren was an absolute icon and cornerstone of building the Vancouver internet community as it has become now. We are all better for having known him.
My condolences. I only got to meet Darren a few times, but he was such a lovely guy. If there is anything me and mine can do to support, please let me know.
Oh Julie, so shocked and sorry to hear about Darren’s death. He always seemed to be a few steps ahead – curious, adventurous, yet steady and wise. Thinking of you at this sad time and sending my love. xx
I just saw this posting. I hardly knew Darren but I’ve always remembered him. I was probably producing some show. He was probably some guest. I can’t recall.
But I do remember his interest in me, and we chatted about whatever I was up to at the time, and I found Darren remarkably kind and open. It’s weird. I don’t think we’ve ever come across each other since. But I never forgot the impression he left with me.
I’m sorry for the loss.
My heart hurts for J and friends and family.
Darren was always up for spirited discussions about tech, marketing, and art.
Yet, the conversation I will remember the most was on importance of a good loofah.
He was always kind and happy to see you.
I will miss you, sir.
I remember Darren as a future-thinker, always ahead of the curve and thinking about important and impactful topics. He was generous with his wisdom and time way back in the day when we were running the High-Tech Comms Exchange. Gone far too early. My deepest condolences to Julie for your loss.
Dearest Julie and the Barefoot Family. Condolences with the loss of your loving Darren. Thinking of you and sending love from SA.
I am so very sorry. You and Darren were so helpful to me during my time at Covenant House. There are no words to express how incredibly sad I felt reading this news. Sending love to you.
[sorry if this story is not that good. I was tempted not to share, but I am anyway because writing seems like a fitting way to honour Darren]
I first met Darren when he was organizing barcamp many years ago. I was trying to host the event at my fledgling, half-renovated, coworking space. Without knowing me at all, Darren trusted me with the event. Not only that, he graciously welcomed me into his community. I was fortunate to be part of his circle, and to learn from him, for a few years.
Eventually, I went off to business school and we lost touch. When I came back to Vancouver, I may have had a slight chip on my shoulder.
One night shortly there after, I was hanging out with a group of friends at kits beach. Darren happened to be there, as were some other folks on this thread… not that it was planned that way but Vancouver was small enough at the time that you would expect to encounter friends at the beach.
I had brought a charcoal bbq with me and was having some trouble lighting it. I tried a bunch of things… newspaper, 8 matches, bark, rubbing two sticks together…nothing. I had no idea what I was doing.
Darren was observing all this from behind his glasses and said in a perfectly warm wry tone…”Hey Bill, how’s that MBA working out for you?”
Darren, thank you for all you did while you were with us. I am sorry you are gone so soon.
I had no idea Darren was unwell.
I fondly remember our time together at Cape Clear which seems like an age ago. Since settling in Seattle Darren and I have exchanged messages but sadly never managed to connect.
As you know better than anyone his charm, smarts and creativity was unsurpassed.
We send you our very best wishes. If you’re down in Seattle and have time for a catch up let me know.
Take care of yourself. You have our thoughts, prayers and best wishes.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.
My memory of Darren and Julie goes back to the Northern Voice conferences, that they helped organize and run and their steady presence there.
I’m thinking of Julie and am sad Darren’s life was cut so short.
This is awful news. I knew Darren and Julie in their Irish sojourn working in Cape Clear. Darren was gorgeous, charming, a thinker, so smart, funny, polished and he and Julie a wonderful team and couple. Their journey across the world with their work was so brave and creative – something I never could have contemplated. Julie I am so sorry for your loss. You are so bright and were so loved by Darren. Love and hugs from all your old friends in Ireland, fondly remembered by us all.
Agree that writing something, is a fitting tribute to a man who truly had ‘a way with words’.
Darren, Julie, you are memorable people and synonymous with Vancouver, BC (for me).
During my CaseCamp years, and throughout all my early professional days, this circle of YVR-based pioneers (… hello to those of you sharing messages and memories) strengthened and encouraged a certain way of thinking, doing, and being. I’m grateful our paths crossed.
And in the end, they say it’s not the years in your life that count, but the life in your years. You packed a lot of life in to your years, Darren. Well done.
Julie, I am so terribly sorry. Darren was such a special person: Brilliant and innovative & generous. This is heartbreaking.
I love you both & it was a pleasure to get to know the two of you & to work with you. I wish I could properly express how special you both are & unfair this seems.
Laura Gaysiigad Cuthbert
Very sad to see you go. Such a kind and thoughtful person. Thanks for the late night chats at hollyhock and your continuous work we will all find new ways to hold in time. My thoughts to your family and chosen family.
I will never forget Darren walking into a meeting of the CPAWS nation-wide staff in Calgary in the dead of winter, straight from the airport, wearing a beautiful sports jacket, shirt, and loafers. With a gleam in his eye, he set right out to tell us about the latest “purple cow“ that we had to try. And so we did. I don’t remember which one it was but Darren’s purple cows always brought joy and energy to our then infant social media campaigns.
He was a very special man and I am so sad to hear of his untimely passing. The world is a better place for his having graced us with his presence. Wishing you strength and peace Julie in the days to come. May his memory be a blessing.
My memory of Darren is off a good hearted, solid person all round. Julie, my heart goes out to you, losing Darren all too young. May his name be a blessing.
My memory of Darren is off a good hearted, solid person all round. Julie, my heart goes out to you, losing Darren all too young. May his name be a blessing.
In 2009, I had the pleasure of attending one of Darren and Julie’s early social media workshops. I had just started a new position and knew nothing about the world of social. I enjoyed it so much that they asked me to add my testimonial on their emerging business website, and I was delighted to promote their sessions. What has always stuck with me from that session was Darren’s simple message that the nicest thing you could do on social media was to simply “like” someone’s post. I still practice this advice. My heart goes out to Julie and Darren’s family. Thank you for all the things you taught me, and that I continue to practice. May we continue to pay forward his intelligent advice, and deep care for the planet, together with his clever wit and humour.
I’m so sorry for your loss. Working with you both felt as natural as working my with own partner/husband, the trust and ease when creativity ebbs and flows.
May you find peace, and overtime your own light will shine brighter as you carry his love for you forward.
My deepest condolences. I’ve been reflecting on Darren’s work and his message from a Gnomedex presentation back in 2007. I didn’t realize the impact his talk had on me until now. His legacy of kindness and generosity lives on.
I’m so sorry to hear about Darren. I had the pleasure of working with Darren from 2001-2003 in Cape Clear as part of the Technical Writing team. Darren was always a joy to work with. So creative, inspirational, intelligent, talented, innovative, charismatic, with a wonderful presentation style. I remember we all went ice-skating on a work social evening one winter and you joined us and impressed us with your skating. He was so proud of you! ❤️ We were so sad when he left our team to return to Vancouver but happy for you both to continue your adventure. You’ve both achieved so much together. Although we weren’t in touch very often and I lost track of your adventures, Darren has always been so fondly remembered by us all as if it was yesterday. Always in our thoughts, Christine
I am so sorry and sad to hear this news. I had one fantastic Fireworks Factory opportunity to get to know Darren and was incredibly impressed by him as a professional and as a good human. My heart goes out to Julie and everyone at Capulet.
Hanna Thomas Uose
I was so sorry to read this news. I don’t think Darren would have any significant memory of me, but I shared two conference spaces with him at Hollyhock. At the second, I remember being relieved to see that he was there, as I believed him to be a kind, thoughtful, and solid person from my first meeting with him. I started watching the Marvelous Mrs Maisel on his recommendation, and was tickled by his enthusiasm for the music and the costumes. I can see now how much this makes sense; a part of his great enthusiasm and appreciation for art in general. The world is surely less bright without him in it. Sending all my good wishes to his loved ones.
Very, very sad to learn about Darren’s passing. I never knew him well but admired so much how he and Julie seemed to ‘crack the code’ of how to adjust and adopt new communications tools. I watched as they led uncompromising lives founded on good work ethic and a sense of wonderment about the world. I lost touch with his work in my own pursuit to make a living and enjoy my career, but I remember in particular his pioneering and welcoming spirit around the Northern Voice conference. It was a great time that bound so many of us together. Julie, I am thankful to you both and I wish you happiness and solace from your grief.
Our deepest condolences to Julie and the team at Capulet. With genuine sorrow, the Granville Island community.
I’m gutted to learn of Darren’s passing and struggling to accept that it’s really true.
Back before we had a term for social media, back when we were still awkwardly explaining that blog was short for weblog, and back before we had ever met, I reached out to Darren via email.
I was a reader of his blog and I admired the agency he and Julie had created, so I decided to shoot my shot, introduce myself and ask some questions. He was so gracious with his time and was very encouraging. Perhaps without him even knowing, he became something of a mentor.
As recently as a few weeks ago he sent me his pirated Match of the Day video link, a service he provided to soccer fans during the Premier League season.(Sorry to incriminate you posthumously Darren, but it’s another fine example of your kindness and generosity)
Like many in this thread, I would attend and help organize a number of events that he and Julie were the driving force behind — they were pillars in a community of people who had the social web in common, in a time when that was enough of a reason for us to congregate. And I don’t take that community for granted — not then and not now.
Even as I sit here and type and grieve his loss, I’m also reminiscing fondly about how many of us came together and forged lasting friendships through those various unconferences and blog comments like this one.
It’s been ages since most of us left a comment on a blog I’d wager, and fitting that now we find ourselves doing so in a tribute to Darren.
Julie I cannot imagine your sense of loss right now. Please don’t hesitate to call your community into service if you need anything at all. I would be all too happy to help, if only as a way to thank Darren for everything he did for me.
Darren had this way of listening and asking questions that made everyone who has had pleasure of knowing him feel seen. First meeting him in university, his goodness, wit and creativity set him apart from the other goofy theatre kids and I instantly looked up to him.
Reading these comments it’s apparent that Darren mentored so many people through his life and has left us all with a torch to carry to continue his good work.
Rest in peace, friend. I am all the better for knowing you.
I am so sorry to hear this news.
I did a few different workshops with Darren and Julie and they really shaped the way I think about my career and the intersection of marketing and non-profit work – I like to think I’ve made some sort of positive difference in my work since, and see it as a further expansion of their impact of good in the world.
Julie and Darren will both be in my thoughts and I wish them peace.
I had the pleasure of working with Darren a few times while I worked at New/Mode. Darren kept in touch with me many years after I left New/Mode. I’m happy to have worked with an amazing individual.
I am so sorry for your loss Julie. Darren will be missed.
Wow. As Darren’s story gets shared here, I realize I too was impact by the whirling nexus/centrifuge/hub he created for all those early-days “web 2.0” explorations in Vancouver, which also changed my life. I remember hearing Darren speak at a simple breakout room at Emily Carr at an unconference/barcamp in…2008(?), and through it, he set the stage and tone for everything I pursued professionally: facilitation, participatory design, remote work, social innovation in technology. Darren was living proof that you could do it, that it was possible; long before any social gatekeepers gave anyone permission, Darren was doing it. I’m humbled and inspired to see Darren’s legacy spotlighted here, and I hope those who remain as his family and friends can move with healing and love and wholeness through this experience.
My heat goes out to you Julie, and I wish you peace during this time of grief. It was a shock to read of Darren’s death, as he was always so full of life! He made a big impact in the short time he had.
You made your mark, gentle man. I salute thee.
Julie – It’s been quite a while since our paths have crossed but I wanted to offer my deepest condolences. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss and I hope you have lots of love and support at this difficult time. Take care.
Rest in Power, Darren. You and Julie inspired me and taught me a lot. My deepest condolences to you Julie, please take care.
Darren was always a leader to be admired. When I first met him, he brought me down to earth on how I’d put him on a pedestal. His humble nature and honesty made him someone who left a positive lasting impression everywhere. I am sorry he won’t be around for those closest to him, and I’ll miss the next great insight.
I am so sorry to hear of Darren’s transition. No one can spend time in his and Julie’s presence without being inspired and encouraged to reach higher and do better. I’m sending love and light to Darren’s family and community.
Deepest condolences to Julie, Darren’s family and community. It was a great pleasure to know Darren as a colleague in Bonn, Germany; his presence and the gifts he brought to light will be dearly missed.
My heart is with you Julie and your family.
Darren’s spirit was electric and you couldn’t help but get wrapped up in his excitement for new projects. It was wonderful to work with him and the Capulet team; CPAWS is all the better for having had him in our corner. The world is a little less bright today. My deepest condolences to Julie, Darren’s family, the Capulet team, and all those who knew and loved him.