Rest In Peace

It was a big meeting.

For Jim, they wouldn't come bigger: International owners and operators were convening in Orlando, Florida, on Monday. And Jim was to rouse them, rally them and awe them.

In less than 17 months on the job, Jim had done a lot of rousing, a lot of rallying and a lot of awing.

He had taken a company that was staggering and set it right.

He dealt in food -- fast food. But the fast food company he took over suddenly wasn't acting so fast, or even delivering the right food.

Customers complained about bad service. Health food zealots complained that food like Jim's was making people fat.

There were lawsuits. And there was Jim -- in the middle of it all -- fighting it all.

Somehow Jim handled it all, by shaking it all and changing it all.

He changed the menu. He offered more salads -- better salads. And he offered more chicken -- better chicken.

He said “super-size” dies. And it did.

He said customers would come back. And they did. And so did the stock.

Jim did that for his company, because he loved his company.

He had worked for McDonald's for nearly three decades. He was just getting his feet wet as CEO, when out of nowhere, he died as CEO. A heart attack; out of nowhere.

Jim Cantalupo (search) dead at age 60.

He had changed so much, so fast. He reinvented industry rules, but succumbed to a much more basic rule: We all die.

And now Jim is gone and those conventioneers are left wondering: Who will take Jim's place? Someone will, of course, and life will go on, but without Jim. Just like it will without us.

It doesn't matter whether you're a hot shot CEO, or a teacher, or a TV news anchor: Your time comes and no menu spells out the year, or the moment. Just that it comes and that we do our best before it does.

Just like Jim did.

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