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News Feature
WebTV Remembers Jos Claerbout: June 14, 1974 - August 20, 1999

By Brian Bock
(July 2, 2000)

On June 14, 2000, friends and family gathered at WebTV Networks Inc. to dedicate a tree and present an employee award in the memory of Jos Claerbout. Johannes "Jos" Dianovich (born Jeremy David) Claerbout died of cardiac arrest on August 20, 1999, shortly after his 25th birthday, much to the shock of his friends, coworkers, and family. He had been healthy, was a member of a gym, was a vegetarian, and didn't smoke or drink alcohol or coffee.

Jos' coworkers and friends at WebTV and his family gathered on what would have been Jos' 26th birthday to dedicate a newly planted tree on the WebTV campus in Mountain View, California, in his memory. The tree was dubbed "The Toessel Tree" after the hats Jos knitted for friends. He called them "Toessels." His website, Yossel's Toessels features pictures of his friends with short, clever essays Jos had written about each hat and its new owner. The splash screen of the Toessel site sets the tone for the rest of the site. It reads: "Knitting is Complex and Dangerous."

A plaque dedicates the Toessel Tree with the following inscription:

The Toessel Tree

This tree is in memory and celebration of Jos Claerbout, whose creativity, wit and charm inspired us at WebTV from 1997-1999. His ideas live on in cyberspace, his memory lives on in our hearts.

Johannes "Jos" Dianovich Claerbout

June 14, 1974-August 20, 1999

"He did not, when he came to die, find that he had not lived."

The first recipient of the award, called "The Jos," is Arnold de Leon for his work on connections issues. de Leon was presented the award by John Matheny, the head of engineering at WebTV. Matheny cited de Leon's leadership, dedication, enthusiasm, and teamwork. de Leon received his name on the Jos plaque and $1,000.

According to a site dedicated to Jos' life by his parents, several people have given their ideas of what the award means.

Steve Wasserman said, "To me, the coolest thing about Jos was the way he made WebTV a better and more fun place to work simply by being around."

Another of Jos' friends said the award was for solving problems on behalf of WebTV Customers with creativity and zeal.

A dozen of Jos' friends and his parents shared their memories of Jos. At the reception by the outdoor waterfall, Jos' father, nicknamed "Popster," was given a box of Jos' early WebTV business cards that exhibited his trademark sense of humor. The cards had been confiscated from him because they didn't fit the image the growing company wished to project. The cards did, however echo his sense of humor. His title is listed as "Migrant Worker" and his phone number was 614-STAG.

Jos' parents, Jon and Diane Claerbout, have gathered many of Jos' letters, web pages, pictures and other memories and have presented them in a web tribute. Visit The Life of Jos Claerbout.

The images in this article are courtesy of Jon and Diane Claerbout.

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