Jeanette Symons packed a lot into a tragically short life

Sometimes tragedy strikes close to home, and sometimes it does so quite literally.

Such was the tragedy that occurred on Friday, February 1, 2008, when a Cessna Citation C-525 crashed into the woods near West Gardiner, Maine, minutes after taking off from Augusta State Airport.

The pilot was Jeanette Symons, 45; her only passenger, her son Balan, 10 years old. Apparently eager to return home after a week of attending ski camp at Sugarloaf, they took off into extremely unfavorable weather conditions. They didn’t make it.

For me, this plane crash hit close to home in a number of ways. First, West Gardiner, Maine is only a few miles from my house. He must have practically flown over my house just before his plane crashed, and one of the volunteer fire departments that responded to the crash was from my hometown of Manchester.

Second, the home they were headed for is Steamboat Springs, Colorado; I too have lived in Colorado. Third, Ms. Symons had been involved in business in the San Francisco Bay Area, founding companies that helped shape the Internet as it exists today; I have also lived in the Bay Area. Ultimately, she was a stratospherically successful businesswoman of the kind I only dream of being.

The weather at the time, a nasty mix of freezing rain, sleet, and snow that most locals took pains to avoid when driving, was undoubtedly a factor in the accident. All the whys and hows have yet to be worked out, and the investigation is expected to take anywhere from six months to a year.

Meanwhile, he leaves behind a 7-year-old daughter, Jennie, her parents, and two brothers. And, of course, many fans, of whom I would count myself one, although to be honest I can’t say for sure if I had heard of her before this tragedy made big headlines on page 1 of my diary.

Jeanette Symons was a “serial entrepreneur,” her friend and co-worker Tim Donovan said. She was named the country’s richest woman under 40 by Fortune magazine in 2001, and she reportedly had a net worth of $374 million that year. She co-founded Zhone Technologies, a telecommunications startup, and Ascend Communications Inc., a provider of wide area networking solutions, which Lucent Technologies bought for more than $20 billion in 1999. Her last company, Industrious Kid, manages a networking website. for small children.

“She wanted to bring people together and make good things happen,” Donovan said. “She was an amazing person, a fabulous, hands-on mother and a great friend. She will be missed by all.”

The world needs a book about Jeanette Symons. Is anyone working on this?

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