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Project Manager Leaves Suicide PowerPoint Presentation

PORTLAND, OR—Project manager Ron Butler left behind a 48-slide PowerPoint presentation explaining his tragic decision to commit suicide, coworkers reported Tuesday.

"When I first heard that Ron had swallowed an entire bottle of sleeping pills, I was shocked," said Hector Benitez, Butler's friend and coworker at Williams+Kennedy Marketing Consultants. "But after the team went through Ron's final PowerPoint presentation, I had a solid working knowledge of the pain he was feeling, his attempts to cope, and the reasons for his ultimate decision."

"I just wish he would've shot me an e-mail asking for help," Benitez added.

Butler broke his presentation into four categories: Assessment Of Current Situation, Apologies & Farewells, Will & Funeral Arrangements, and Final Thoughts.

According to Williams+Kennedy president Bradford Williams, finalgoodbye.ppt was "clear, concise, and persuasive."

"After everyone left the room, I sat down and went through Ron's final presentation in slide-sorter view," Williams said. "Man, I gotta tell you, it blew me away. That presentation really utilized the full multimedia capabilities of Microsoft's PowerPoint application."

"We're really gonna miss Ron around here," Williams added.

In the presentation's first section, a three-dimensional bar graph illustrated the growth of Butler's sorrow during the two years since his wife and only child died in a car accident.

"We all got Ron's message loud and clear when that JPEG of his wife wipe-transitioned to a photo of her tombstone," coworker Anne Thibideux said.

The first section closed with a review of key objectives and critical success factors. The two-column text display was enlivened by colorful background wallpaper and clip-art question marks depicting Ron's confusion over his choice.

A slide from the PowerPoint presentation left by Butler (above) before his death.

The second portion of the presentation comprised an ordered list of goodbyes to colleagues and apologies to friends.

"The colors in Apologies & Farewells were perfectly calibrated for digital-projector display," I.T. director Bill Schapp said. "I think Ron was the only guy at W+K who understood the importance of running the Gretag-Macbeth Eye-One Beamer on presentations."

The third segment, Will & Funeral Arrangements, included a list of Butler's friends and family indexed with phone numbers, a last will and testament, and scrolling-text instructions for the dissemination of his ashes.

"To Ron's credit, it was one helluva way to go out," human resources manager Gail Everts said. "Ron clearly spent a lot of time on that presentation. If the subject matter weren't so heavy, we'd probably use it to train his replacement."

Copywriter Gita Pruriyaran said the presentation "had room for improvement."

"I felt some of the later transitions were weak," Pruriyaran said. "The point of a transition is to maintain audience interest and lighten the mood. To me, the door-closing sound effects in Will & Funeral were repetitive and heavy-handed. But Ron's choice to end with that Hamlet quote and then fade to black was really powerful. There wasn't a dry eye in the room when Hector flipped off the projector and brought up the lights."

Coworkers were shocked to learn that Butler's document was initially created on Aug. 8, 2004.

"I should have seen this coming, but I didn't," Benitez said. "When Ron started deleting all of his old files last week, I thought he was worried about another hard-drive crash. I never imagined he was, you know, preparing."

"If only we'd all paid more attention to Ron during the Microsoft Project workshop he held last month," Benitez added.

Butler is survived by his parents Gerald and Martha Butler, who described their relationship with their son as "distant."

"Ron would e-mail us photos and home movies, but we're not very good with computers," said Gerald, 71, a retired postal worker. "We tried to stay close, but we just never learned how to open up those files. At the very end, Ron was sending us his suicidal thoughts, but we didn't get the instant message—until it was too late."

Williams+Kennedy vice president Vivien Esterhaus said Butler "will not be forgotten."

"We have made arrangements for his PowerPoint presentation to be stored in the W+K off-site secure file-storage archive," Esterhaus said. "Barring a virus or major computer malfunction, his final words will always be accessible. If only Ron could've been saved, too."

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