A Bright Light Snuffed Out

I’ve been in a daze all day today after receiving the news that a dear friend of mine, Okokon B. Okon III, was murdered last night here in Atlanta. He was the victim of what appears to be a senseless crime. As usual, he was being productive. He was attacked in the parking lot just after leaving his office Sunday night. (According to a recent news broadcast the police still don’t know what happened and appear to have few clues so far. Here’s the transcript of the March 29th Fox News report on Okon’s death. )

We, along with two other old college buddies, had just gone bike riding Saturday morning. He had brake trouble on two different bikes over the last two weekends and I’d been joking with him about how I was going to post pictures of him trying to fix the bikes. Little did I know that those would be the last pictures I’d ever get to take of him.

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Okokon was one of the best people you’d ever want to meet — intelligent, a great brother to his siblings, always positive, enterprising and he was always very inspirational to me. It was he along with another friend, Maurice, who gave me the vision to strike out on my own and trade stocks for a living. I’m really going to miss being able to kick ideas around with him. Over the last few weeks we had been discussing how to monetize my weblogs, and we were supposed to get together this week to talk about him starting his own blog and to watch the Final Four. I still can’t fully wrap my head around the fact that we’ll never get to do those things.

We’ve had some great times — from just bugging out back at Stanford, to discussing the latest music (I just got him to change his opinion of Kanye last week), to him hipping me to the next great technology trend, to bruhs going worldwide on trips to Caribana, South Beach, Brasil… You’ll be sorely missed my brother. Rest in peace.

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Update: There’s now a memorial site for Okon please visit OkokonOkon.com

Edit to Add: Here is Okon’s obituary from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (I’ve copied the text below)

MR. OKOKON BASSEY OKON, III Of Ellenwood, GA., and Chicago, IL., eldest son of Dr. Okokon B. Okon, II and Mrs. Alsena B. Okon passed March 29, 2004. He was the victim of what appears to be a senseless crime. Mr. Okon was born on January 23, 1968 in Albany, NY. He graduated from Stone Mountain High School in Stone Mountain, Georgia and went on to earn his B.S. (1989) and M.S. (1991) in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in Stanford, California. Mr. Okon was a software engineer and consultant by trade and he loved ideas and innovation. Motorola employed him from 1992 to 1997, after which he co-founded the software-consulting firm CoPresence LLC. At the time of his death, he was an employee at Elemental Interactive in Atlanta, GA. He traveled extensively within the United States and outside of the country to Nigeria, UK, France, Spain, Netherlands, Brazil, and Canada to name a few places. Mr. Okon is survived by his parents, grandparents, Alsena Smith and Patricia Okon, four siblings, Iquo, Uduak, Songobong, and Afiong Okon, nephew, Jiano Okon Briggs, niece, Fantasia Smith. He also has a large extended international family in the United States and in Nigeria, West Africa, and a number of close friends and advisors around the world. Viewing will take place on Sunday, April 4, 2004 at 3:00 p.m. at the mortuary. Funeral services will be held Monday, April 5, 2004, 3:00 p.m. at the chapel of Donald Trimble Mortuary. Interment Kennedy International Memorial Gardens, Ellenwood, GA. In lieu of flowers, we welcome your prayers and contributions to Okokon Okon’s Memorial Fund. Send contributions to Lloyd Metz, ICV Capital Partners, 666 Third Avenue, 29th Floor, New York, NY 10017. Please make checks payable to “Iquo Okon-Memorial Fund for Okokon B. Okon III” for proper processing. For more information, please call the hotline (877) 385-4018 or go to www.okokonokon.com. Donald Trimble Mortuary, Inc., 1876 Second Avenue. 404-371-0772-3.
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 3/31/2004 – 4/4/2004.

Update: Stanford Magazine has done an article about Okon.


  1. Thanks for doing this Mike even if reading this was like ripping my heart out all over again. I wish I had kept up with Okon as much as you did over the years since graduating Stanford. It is always a tragedy when life is lost so senselessly, and it so devastating when a community loses such a productive and positive contributor. I will miss you always, Okon…

  2. I don’t know what to say except that I am very, very sorry for the loss of your friend. Okokon reminds me a lot of a buddy of mine from college. Haven’t caught up w/ him in about 4 or 5 months. I’m defintely giving him a call tomorrow to see how he’s doing because you just never know.

  3. Mike,
    My condolences go out to you and all that knew your friend Okokon. May he rest in peace and may he live on in your cherished memories.

  4. Mike,

    I got the news last night and I’m still in an incredulous daze. Okon was one of the most loving, caring, heartfelt people that I have ever known. I’m going to miss his laughter and all of the sage advice that he always had for me and all the other people who crossed his path.

    My condolences to Okon’s full circle of family and friends.

    Everybody loves Okokon B. Okon III..aka Gooch.

  5. Dear Mike,
    We were shocked to learn of Okon’s tragic death. My prayers are with his family and all of you who were his friends.
    He was such a fine young man and we’re glad we had the pleasure of meeting him and chatting with him.
    His senseless death requires that each of us makes a commitment to put a stop to violence in this country.
    Now he is with God!!
    Cecil and Emma Talbott

  6. Mike,

    Thank you so much for posting this and providing a space for people to share their thoughts about this warm, sunny, grounded man. We didn’t all keep up with him, but we all knew what kind of positive and valuable person he was. This is hitting folks hard and I appreciate you putting information and your experiences out there. My deepest condolences to you, Okon’s family, Maurice, BJ, and all the bruhs – his other family…If you could add me to your email list, I’d appreciate it…

  7. Seems like it was yesterday. For me it was Kev, then Okon and Chris right afterwards. The old BRUHS, the ones that knew how the game worked, knew what we younger BRUHS needed to be doing but were humored by us as they slowly molded us. You know its funny, I probably haven’t talked to Gooch in over a year, but I will always remember how he greeted you with a laugh and a smile and pearls of wisdom. To his family; I send my condolences, to his friends, I share in our grief…but as we try to make sense of this senseless thing remember that, as we miss him, the greatest lesson he gave us all is to live life to the fullest… that was what Okokon B. Okon was about, and that is what I will incorporate more into my life, to honor him, for as long as I am in the physical world.

  8. This is so tragic and senseless I cant even believe it. I will never forget Okon singing “I Can Only Be Me” at Stanfunk

    Definitely one of the kindest persons Ive been priviliged to encounter.

  9. Mike,
    Thank you for creating this site for Okon (and for everyone whose life he’s touched). It’s still not sinking in for me. I’m still praying this is all a case of mistaken identity or an early (and REALLY bad) April Fool’s joke, and that Okon and his big ol’ grin will be at the minority alumni conference next month. I’ve known Okon since Sept. ’85 – more than half of my life. I can’t imagine not seeing him again. Please add me to your email list for updates.

  10. When I heard the news from Mia J. yesterday, I just sank into my chair at work speechless and stunned. I still don’t have words to describe my feelings adequately. I am however most appreciative of this weblog to be able to share with others who had the privilege of knowing Okon. The 3 day old pictures of the fellas out biking, clowining, and having a good time really drive home the fact that life is so precious and so fleeting. Beloved, let us love one another.
    Okon will always be a bright and cheerful memory for me.

  11. I am so moved by the outpouring of love as everyone remembers Okon and I hope this log will provide some comfort to Okon’s family to know that Okon mattered so much to so many and will live on through all of us. Thank you Mike for posting it and for keeping us informed.

    All I can picture is Okon’s radiant smile. I honestly can’t remember him not smiling and I can’t hold back my tears when I think of how brutally he was killed. We have so much work to do y’all and now another reason to do it. I am so thankful that I knew Okon and grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with so many of you in this precious village. My heartfelt condolences to his family and his closest friends.

  12. Okon and I have not talked in years. In fact, I have to go back to B-wing & the BRUHs to remember his voice even though we may have talked since. It is not strange to me that his voice, character, and spirit are still clear in my mind. We all experienced something special back then that binded us, even though we are apart. Our paths in life cross and sometimes we move through life together. I did not have the pleasure to do that with Okon. Even so, I always felt in my heart that he and his path were special and would always be blessed. Now, to know that his journey is over leaves me
    stunned. Rest in peace my BRUH, you are home.

  13. I couldn’t think of what to write so I started looking at some pictures I have of Okon. They make me smile seeing him laughing, and for some reason, in a lot of the pictures, his mouth is wide open, as if he were about to say something. I have old pictures of him sitting on my sister’s lap when he used to come by and visit my mom’s house. What a blessing it’s been for me and my family to know him. I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to be in his presence.

  14. Early yesterday morning on my way from a school I rode by the Maurice and Okon’s old place on Montrose (in Chicago). Instantly, I smiled remembering Okon and a couple of our conversations. He truly was a king among kings. He always had a smile and an encouraging word. Now if we each take the compassion, caring, intelligence we experienced with Okon and pass on to one another we will do our part in helping Okon’s spirit live on…

  15. It’s all been said…If I shed a tear now, it is because this event has made me realize how important it is to not sweat the small stuff. Like others, I did not keep up with Okon as I might have liked but the memories I have of him will always keep him in a special place in my heart. I love you, Okon…

  16. I’ve been distracted all day…remembering his laugh, his smile. He was just good people. It’s just so sad, tragic. I’m praying for his family. We were all truly blessed to know him.

  17. I haven’t spoken directly to Okon for a few years, but like many of our friends you would hear about how he was doing through others. I am truly sad that I didn’t get to see more of him.
    Okon’s smile and laugh was a fundamental part of life in Ujamaa back in the day.
    He will be greatly missed by his Stanford family.

  18. I was blessed to have talked with Okon about three weeks ago. As usual, we laughed and joked catching up on old times…it was like I had seen him yesterday. So much of my Stanford experience was shaped by Okon and the other “B-wing Bruhs”. We made friendships that will last a lifetime (and beyond). Reading these postings reminds me of how much Okon was loved by all who knew him well and how much he influenced lives around him. What I will remember most about Okon was his positive outlook on life, strength of character, and genuine friendship. Okon, you will not be forgotten…You will always live in my heart. I love you, Gooch…

  19. I’m experiencing so many emotions right now, as I’m sure others are, that it’s difficult to figure out what to say. Unfortunately, I’ve had to try to steady my emotions and think of the right words to say a few too many times this month due to deaths of family members and now a friend. Like a number of other Stanford alum who posted comments, I remember Okon from Stanford days, but had not been in touch with him since then (although generally knew that he was doing well by keeping in touch with Fatima Ford and Mary Dillard).

    Mike, the picture that you posted of Okon at the end of your rememberance of him and everyone else’s comments say it all. He was loved and appreciated and although no one would have imagined his life ending in the way it did, he served a purpose on this earth that should inspire us all.

    My sincere condolences go out to Okon’s family, his close friends who were like family to him and others who have been touched in his life’s journey.

    Rest In Peace Okon


  20. For days, I have been in an emotional stupor. I guess deep down, in the recesses of my mind, I am hoping as Stephanie said that it’s a joke albeit a cruel one. I guess I was hoping that I could stand up and say, “See! See! I knew it wasn’t true!” But each passing day, I am coming to terms with the reality. The reality I do not want to accept.

    I am wrestling with what to say and how to say it. I fear I will never effectively express what I am feeling. I just keep coming back to the words I initially cobbled together: Rage, Frustration, and Sorrow.

    Okon was a good man, a dear friend and a brotha who will be deeply missed.


  21. What a wonderful tribute to a man who was obviously a friend to so many. I haven’t seen Okon since my freshman year at Stanford, but that last picture really captures what I remember of him. May each of you whose life Okon touched find comfort in your memories of him, and the times you shared.

  22. So sorry to learn that another precious life is lost to senseless violence. My prayers go out to Okokon’s family and friends (such as you Mike).

  23. Mentor, Friend, Confidant…everyone, like I, was touched by this amazing man in so many different ways. I only wish I hadn’t taken so much for granted. My deepest condolences to his family, to the Bruhs, and to all who knew him.
    Thank you, Okon…

  24. Okon was truly a bright and shining light… I remember the smile, and the positive outlook… I was blessed to have known him, and to have seen his impact on people. My condolences to his family and friends.

  25. Okon left each of us with some great memories and those memories we will cherish forever. He truly enjoyed living life and I vow to continue his compassion for life in my own as a way of building a legacy for him. I encourage all of you to remember Okon in this way.

  26. I’m still in a daze. When I came into the office Monday, I started worrying, but I never imagined this would be the outcome. Okon was a great man. We had many conversations, sometimes we agreed sometimes we disagreed, but he never got angry. He was incredibly friendly and full of life. Always willing to stop what he was doing and talk about anything.

    My prayers go out to his family and I hope they find solace in God’s love.


  27. Thank you so much for giving us each this way to remember Okon’s presence….and, for reminding us we never know how much time we have.

    Bini Bean and Jeff Upperman

  28. This is definitely a terrible tragedy. My prayers and heart go out to his family.

  29. There is so much I can say about my brother. He loved life, he loved us all, family, friends, everyone. He was incredibly supportive and that is what I’ll miss the most about him. We were suppose to do spoken word together and he was going to take me to Paris when I got my BA. Talking about him in the past tense seems so surreal! My brother would give you the shirt off his back to help you regardless of how you treated him he was always kind and supportive. He was suppose to be my NOPI cheerleader this year (Big ups to Volkswagon for my brother) and I know he’ll be with me in spirit and he’s in heaven keeping guard over all of us and as comforting as that thought my be it still doesn’t take away the pain that we all are feeling right now which is natural. I would have never in a million years thought that my older brother OB. would be the victim of a violent crime no matter what day and age we’re living in. The best thing we can all do at this time, and I know this is what my brother would have wanted to is band together as we are doing now and stand strong and be there for one another, and offer any type of comfort possible in this time of extreme tragedy. My brother was a wonderful person in life and is an angel now in death. I pray the Lord rest his soul until we meet again in the next life. I Love You OB. Don’t worry, we’re ok.
    Uduak Okon & Fantasia Smith
    Lala Loves and misses you Uncle OB.

  30. Dear Mike,

    Thank you so much for posting such a loving and wonderful message about my big brother – Okokon Bassey Okon III – the best brother anyone could ever have. My heart is broken. I hurt in a thousand different places. My brother was a bright shining light that will burn in all of us forever.

    I love you Bro.


  31. I keep thinking that I am dreaming, it is really sad to know that I am not dreaming.For the little time I’ve known OB junior, he was quiet a chearful,loving and a kind man. He loved to laugh, everytime I saw him, he was always smiling. He loved his family and friends. Anyone who came around him was treated as a family.OB you will surely be missed. My sympathy to his family and friends.

  32. It is still yet to be a reality that my brother OB. is no more especially at this time he was more of a great inspiration to all of us.Okokon was and is still young energetic,intelligent,ambitious gentle whom every one would love to have around always.I know the Lords God knows everything has taken record of every event that has occured in his life so shortly lived.What a vacum so created.May the ever living spirit of his remain at peace in the bosom of our lord Jesus Christ.May the Lord Jesus console his dear family he has left behind.may our sadness be changed into Joy,our sighings into songs.We will surey meet again one day as the lord decrees.Amen.

  33. Like everyone I guess, this has left me sad and jarred. I remember Okon as a kind soul and a great man, someone who I was sure I’d catch up with and see again. My love and condolences go out to his family and everyone who is suffering from this loss.

  34. When a man is loved by so many different sets of people, he deserves all of the respect that has been, is, and will be bestowed upon him.

    I don’t have to know him personally to understand the level of positivity that he not only had but openly shared with others.

    I, too, am deeply touched by his passing because it signifies the preciousness and immediacy that life is…

    Don’t be sad for him, he obviously lived his life accordingly and to the fullest. Instead, let his life be a strong example of how to live.

    To his family, I give my best. And although it’s easier to say and much harder to life with: EVERYTHING happens for a reason.

  35. I also got word from time to time of the wonderful person, a classmate from Stanford, whom I can only remember with a smile from day one. It so useless that such a bright light has been dimmed. He will obviously live indefinitely because he has touced so many, so deeply. Thanks to his family for sharing him with us.


  36. My prayers and thoughts are with Okon’s family. He was truly a special brother that had a great impact on many people. Although the last time that I saw him was in 1997 in Chicago, my memories of him are vivid..he was the same Okon that I had the pleasure of meeting in Uj in 1985. God be with him and his family.

  37. Mike,

    Please accept my condolences and prayers and share them with Okon’s family. Thank you for providing this vehicle for Okon’s spirit to be celebrated. It will serve as another lasting reminder for his loved ones of just how many lives Okon touched.

  38. I cant believe such a wonderful, gentle soul is gone. Kim Mitchell just told me the sad news. God bless Okon’s family and friends. Mo, Chris, Eric, Fatima, etc be kind to yourselves, my heart goes out to you. We will have to honor Okon in some way for our 15th reunion this year. Love, rachel

  39. I did not know or ever meet Okokon when he was alive. My longtime Kinsman and family friend Dr Bassey Essien (with whom I share exact first and last names) called me today Sunday to break this devastating news. In looking through Okokon’s memorial website it is obvious he was well loved and respected among his peers.
    We continue to hope and pray that our young men are not cut down in their prime, and that we are able to live through our full years and contribute to the betterment of our society.

    May God bless Okokon and give comfort to his friends and family.

    Bassey Essien,
    Lawrenceville, GA

  40. Okon was such a wonderful person. He fully embraced living and the universe. He was a creative mind with a sensitive soul. He possessed an infectious smile and a side-splitting laugh. He touched so many in a time cut too short.
    We must all remember that every day is a blessing… My head is flooded with images of his smiling face.

    Rest in peace my man.


  41. My condolences to the Okon Family. Okon will truly be missed. This is a tremendous loss for us all, I will always remember the positive energy and spirit that this young brother conveyed while on the Yard. Last met Okon about five years ago…and nothing had changed…the brutha always left you smiling!

    Peace Okon,

    Kraig Sanders, ’87

  42. This is all still so surreal. I don’t think I’ve seen him since Nikki Ray’s wedding but I remember Okon as many of you do, not as I saw him yesterday. He was so vibrant, quick-witted and helpful. I remember most of all his voice distinct among many on B-wing and in White Plaza. He certainly was memorable in a positive way. It is easy for many of us to conjure up a warm or funny memory of Okon. I pray in time we can find some solace in that. Okon, rest in peace and the love of so many.

  43. I heard someone speak about the affect of one man. The amount of change one man can bring about. As I read all the posts… Okon was that type of man. He was a loving brother/son, friend and a friend that was like a brother. He affected all of us and many others through us. Our loss is not just ours but it belongs to many others. I will remember the smiles, the laughs and the good times. This “B-wing Bruh” will not and can not be forgotten.

    My prayers are with the Okon family and his many friends.


  44. In some ways, my mind cannot accept the fact that Okon is gone. I did not keep in touch the way that one should with someone who has been a friend. But I always thought that all of us would grow old together. Hearing about each other and our lives (successes and struggles) through our friends that kept us connected.
    When Chris told me what happened, I was just about to comment on my jacked up day. Instantly, it all faded away as I realized we had lost someone that we each loved in our own way.
    How sad that such a good guy was taken in such a tragic manner. We have all been blessed to know him and to have shared a laugh with him. He will always be remembered and loved by those of us who were fortunate enough to have been a part of his life.


  45. mike – keep this going. we gonna keep going. the piece of okon in each of us is gonna keep going. i don’t know where i’m going sometimes, and i feel confused, knowing gooch is ‘gone.’

    “after you’ve done all you can, you just stand”

    every day, i carry him and a piece of his legacy on my back; i feel safer with him there with his arms wrapped around me, like the ‘bruh hugs’ we all know so well. He is literally my ‘Coat of Arms’. in part as a shield and in part as a life preserver, and in part out of a duty to get him to the finish line with the rest of us.
    “he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.”

  46. It’s been 19 years since I’ve even heard the name Okon. I went to high school with OB. (That’s what we called him, because in our little town of Stone Mountain, we couldn’t even half way pronounce his name.) He was so incredible. I remember just sitting there listening to him and thinking what a wonderful person and spirit. It’s tragic, and even thought it’s been 19 years, I will miss him too.
    Thanks for being a light in my life during a time of darkness….

  47. I can’t get my head around it. As much as I try to make sense of the senseless of Okon’s death, I can’t square it with who he was. I didn’t know him well at Stanford, but I knew him to be a positive brother, a kind man with a generous spirit and a smile always. My heart goes out to his family and loved ones. I will keep you in my prayers.

  48. Being in Atlanta, and hearing the story, we felt the loss, but besides the news, we didn’t know or hadn’t seen reports of those who were closest to him. Believe me when I say I’m speechless. My heart goes out to you. Stay strong.

  49. I keep checking in to read the posts. I feel like I just need to hear the things that people are saying about my brother. I am so, so lost right now. I can’t believe that my brother is not here anymore. Everyone keeps saying that he is in a better place right now, but I can’t accept that. The best place, in my opinion, is here with us…with me.

    I need him. I know that he is in me, but I want him in front of me or beside me. I want to hear his voice and touch him in “real time” not in my memories.

    I know I should be positive right now, because my brother always was, but I can’t find that in me right now. I just can’t.

    I never in my wildest dreams ever thought that my brother and I would not grow old together. I am in such a state of shock. It is just not fair to take away something so lovely.

  50. This is a beautiful tribute Mike. I don’t recall if I met brother Okon, but judging by your description of him and the wonderful sentiments expressed on this page, he was a kind, gentle spirit who touched many lives. May God rest his soul.

  51. God Bless Okon and be with his family! I lived next to him at Uj back in ’85. Great laughter, personality and insight. My prayers are with his family!

  52. While I technically did not live in Ujamaa during my years at Stanford, I did have the pleasure of bumping into brother Okon often when I visited Ujamaa. He was a very good guy. I wish I had had the pleasure of having more than superficial conversations with him because I probably would’ve have learned a lot.

    Rest in Peace, bruh.
    Greg Billings ’88

  53. We just got the news. Words cannot describe how I feel. Michael and I have very fond memories of Okon during our Stanford years as Resident Fellows at Ujamaa/Lagunita. Some things make no sense, like the early homegoing of such a wonderful, young man. Our prayers and thoughts go out to Okon’s family. — Rosalyn & Michael Britt

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  55. Hey Iquo, I was quite shocked and saddened to hear about your brother. I only met him like once or so But, I remember you speaking very highly of him. And I likened your relationship with him to my relationship with my own brother. So I can really empathize with the way you may be feeling. I wish you and your family strength and peace through this difficult time.

  56. Hi Tracy.

    I happened to read your postings. Thank you so much. I think it’s been ten years since we last spoke. It’s nice to know that you remember my words about my brother. I tried to contact you, but the email account used to post your message is not working. If you happen to find this little note, please call me at 212-304-2216.
    Take care. I hope to talk to you soon.

  57. I graduated from Stone Mountain High School in 1985 with OB. When I was a geek in 8th grade he and I bonded, and after graduation I wondered about him, always knowing that he would be a success. He was so sharp that a few times I did an internet search, looking for an email address, and he and I both worked for Motorola but never crossed paths. I was just thinking about him again with the 20 year reunion coming up and decided to do a search again, finding this tragic news. OB was a good guy, and although I have not seen him since graduation night in 1985, I know that did not change.

  58. Okon used to come into the bakery where I worked for lunch. i didn’t know him well, but he was always pleasant and smiling. A few months ago the clip on Fox5’s Georgia’s Mcost Wanted aired the story of his death. I was half-asleep,yet the name OKON made me open my eyes. I am saddened by his tragic passing. He is missed.

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