About four years ago, a retired professor emeritus from the University of Pittsburgh named Bernhardt Lieberman was doing research on the hacker subculture. He interviewed a number of people in Pittsburgh (myself included at the time), and in 2004 attended the HOPE conference to interview another group of attendees about their lives, practices, education, and interests (computers and hacking aside).
I kept in touch with Bernhardt up until I left Pittsburgh in 2005, at which time I didn't have a net.connection for a couple of months. Life being what it is, I didn't actually get around to contacting him again until last week... I wrote him a letter asking for a copy of the paper he'd written (which seems to have been well recieved by the community - it's been cited in a number of other studies and research papers by all sides). A couple of days ago, I received a letter from his wife, which I will reproduce here due to its size:
Dear Mr. Lynch,
Sorry to inform you that my husband Bernhardt Lieberman died last April. I am therefore returning you (sic) check.
Thanks for your interest in his work.
Well, that's that. As much as I wish that I'd gotten a copy of his paper when I had the chance, I'm more broken up about the fact that I lost touch with him before his death. I haven't been keeping up with what's been going on in Pittsburgh, and that includes the obituaries. He was a good guy. Even though a few of the people he interviewed were kind of out there (myself included, having taken him aback a couple of times during our meeting) he seemed to take everything in stride, and asked intelligent questions without being judgemental.
"A feast for fire, and a feast for water; feast for life, and a greater feast for death!"
I'm going to leave an offering for him tonight.