Heartbreaking news is tumbling out of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as word begins to circulate about the passing of famed snowmobiling meteorologist and website guru John Dee on November 14. He was 57.
Dee was perhaps one of the most popular people in the snowmobiling community that most people hadn’t actually met. His JohnDee.com website brought long- and short-term snow forecasts from a snowmobiler’s perspective, and the site’s webcam network allowed riders to get immediate feedback on snow conditions.
Meanwhile, the message boards he started on his website were also extremely popular, and brought together an entire community of riders.
But more than any of that, John Dee shared his life with his fellow snowmobilers through insightful journal entries on his website that exuded personality. He shared his love of weather, of snowmobiling and of his family through a lot of anecdotes. After reading his journal, you felt like you had a personal relationship not just with John but with his family and even with his beloved dogs. Each journal entry ended with “Good Night from the Keweenaw – JD.”
Professionally, his career involved doing long-range forecasts in the agricultuaral industry. Personally, he was a natural-loving person who loved snowmobiling and who invited all of us into his life.
Dee was also open about some health struggles that had challenged him over time. A freak accident in September during lawn mowing put him in a neck brace for a while. He was mostly recovered from that, but in his most recent journal post on October 29, Dee wrote, “First, my apologies for being absent. I did have full intentions to write last Sunday, but got trapped at the Mayo Clinic again. Nora and I traveled there on the 16th for some tests on that day, as well as into Tuesday and Wednesday. All went well with the tests, except they were not happy with the functions of my heart and kidneys, so I got admitted Wednesday afternoon and spent the next 7 days in the hospital. They were successful in getting the numbers for both organs to a level where I could return home.” He then of course transitioned to his excitement for the coming winter and seeing the season’s first snowfall.
According to his obituary, he died November 14 in Rochester, Minnesota, home of the Mayo Clinic.
UPDATE: His obituary said John Dee was “undergoing evaluation for a heart transplant” when he passed away. Click through to read his obit.
John Dee Fondly Remembered
The outpouring of messages on social media as well as on JohnDee.com has been dramatic, as people from all over the Snowbelt are mourning his passing.
Among the posts were notes like these:
“He truly built something special with this site where many feel a close bond to a person they’ve never met.”
“Although I never had the pleasure to meet John in person, his passion for the sport and his FAMILY shined thru on this site.”
“He will never be forgotten. John had an amazing gift of connecting with people and sharing his love of nature’s beauty.”
“Think of the relationships and friendships bonded because of John Dee. Legendary.”
Kip McIntyre of Pat’s Motorsports in Greenland, Michigan, told us Thursday, “John was always so happy-go-lucky. When you saw john, he was always smiling. I think the most any of us can hope for is to make a difference in people’s lives, and he embodied that.”
Kip’s brother, Chad McIntyre of M&M PowerSports in Hancock, Michigan, added, “I think everyone knew him as a kind person,” Chad said. “He was fairly private in real life but he shared his story online with everyone. He also serve as a board member and president of Keweenaw Trailer Services/Keweenaw Snowmobile Club for several years. He was the best ambassador our area and sport could’ve asked for.”
Words From John Dee
It’s pretty dated now, but today seems like a good day to share this: In the February 2011 issue of Snow Goer magazine, we had a short Q&A with John where he told about his love of snowmobiling, why he started the website and more. Enjoy.
One-On-One With: John Dee
Something clicked when John Dee took his first meteorology class at Purdue University. Something else clicked when he took his first visit to the snow-covered town of Houghton in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In 1999, the meteorologist snowmobiler moved to Houghton and began posting snow-centric weather reports on his own website, johndee.com. Today, johndee.com is one of the most popular sites for snowmobile enthusiasts in the world. In the winter, it can get up to 70,000 unique visitors a day. “Had I known that it would have grown into something like this, I probably would have picked a more clever domain,” he says.
SNOW GOER: At what point did you realize that this website was on to something?
JOHN DEE: “After about a year, the company that was hosting my website said it couldn’t support it any longer because the traffic was so high and it was crashing their servers. It started as a labor of love and I had no idea into turning it into a money maker. I think it ran for two years without any income-generation mechanism. It’s not to the point where I can live off of it, but it’s a nice secondary income.”
SG: What gets your excited about the weather?
JD: “A big storm headed for the U.P. Other meteorologists are giddy about tornadoes or hurricanes. For me, if there’s a big storm headed our way, I sometimes have problems sleeping. I’m like a little kid. It’s just so fun to watch the snow fall and pile up a foot or two. Sometimes I get depressed when it stops.”
SG: Have you seen an epic winter?
JD: “I’m still waiting for the epic winter where it goes wire-to-wire with a lot of snow. We’ve had some good winters, some not-so-good ones and last year was pretty bad. There is a standout storm, though, and that was April 2007 where we received 54 inches of snow and some places up to 70 inches. In my eyes, that’s epic. We were still riding two weeks after the storm.”
SG: Where are your favorite places to ride?
JD: “I don’t’ really have a secret place. My favorite things, and why I backcountry ride, is to explore and to see new things. My favorite places are the new places. It doesn’t have to be any super, fabulous terrain or an overlook – that’s icing on the cake. I just like to find a logging road that I’ve never been down and explore it.”
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