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Stories about John Ponte

Posted by timboudreau on September 9, 2006 at 4:10 AM PDT

I got word this evening that my friend from college, and later colleague at Sun, John Ponte has died. Being stuck in a Seattle hotel room with nothing to do but ruminate, I thought I'd share a few stories about him. Given that most of our circle of friends have been online since the 80's, I hope some others will find this page and add theirs.

John On Lawnchair
I met John in 1986 when I was a freshman at UMass. We were both part of a community of extremely eccentric individuals that used the Cyber mainframe there. It was a community bound together by primitive local newsgroups called "notesfiles" and a proto-irc called "Confer". And by the fact that the terminal room closed for cleaning on Thursday nights, so everyone would gather in the campus coffee shop for "coffee break" - and to scare the mundanes with whatever bizarre behavior we could muster, including showing up in costume, more than two people making out together, musical interludes and anything else anyone could dream of that could make people think we were all crazy. It was easy - we all were.

John was one of the administrators of the system. You could get online from the dorms, but whenever conversation on Confer got heated and interesting, the buffer pushing data to your 300 baud acousticouple modem would be flooded and you'd be timed out and miss everything. So the terminal room was the gathering place.

One of the other admins of the system was the gatekeeper to the community via a simple technique: he would mercilessly hit on anyone who logged in for the first time, be they male or female, with lots of S&M overtones. If you couldn't handle that, you'd probably never dare to log in again. This was to scare the mundanes away. It worked. My first-ever electronic chat began with a man I didn't know announcing to me "I am a bottom." I think I replied that I was a left-side. Apparently I passed the test.

I really got to know John the summer of 1988 - my girlfriend Mara rented a room in the house he lived in. John had had severe problems with depression at a young age. He was quite matter of fact about it being biological and simply something he had to live with and take medication for. Aside from meds which imposed severe dietary restrictions, he had a unique and memorable way of dealing with it: Do anything that looked like fun, no matter how ridiculous. "Anything" tended to heavily biased toward physical comedy and practical jokes.

I Really Need a Shower

One morning I staggered downstairs, and was rinsing a coffee cup at the kitchen sink. I muttered to no one in particular "I really need a shower." Seconds later I am drenched from head to toe with icy water. John had gone out the back door, and come back in with the garden hose, and hosed down me and the rest of the kitchen. I wasn't too happy at that moment, but someone choosing to use the garden hose indoors was so totally unexpected that I was laughing in spite of myself.

This led to a host of other ingenious indoor uses for the garden hose...which eventually came to an end after the linoleum in the kitchen started coming up - the floorboards had to dry out enough to glue it back down.

We're Not Drunk Enough to Work on an Italian Car!

John had a Fiat, aka The Galileo (his online handle was Spock), from the early seventies. He had an idea that if he could get it past one million miles of travel, he could convince Fiat to give him a new one. It was close to half way there.
It was in constant urgent need of attention; that summer he was setting up an inventory system for International Auto Parts in Florence, Massachusetts - I suspect the work there helped slake The Galileo's never-ending thirst for parts.
John-hiking-small.jpg

John did his once a year off-the-meds month that summer, which was a bacchanal of pizza, beer and other normally forbidden foods. On another morning that July I got up at seven AM or so. I was working mornings at Augie's Tobacco Shop in Amherst (a truly surreal bit of employment - but that's a story for another day). This was a Saturday and I was not working.

I sit down at the kitchen table with my coffee, and John takes the coffee, pours it out and replaces it with an 18oz beer. "We're not drunk enough to work on an Italian car," he says. Well, drunk we got and work we did. I don't remember Mara being too happy when she got up at ten to find us reeking of beer and WD-40. I also don't know that anything got fixed. But it sure was fun.

The Flour Cannon

This is a story I didn't witness - but it is so typically John, and I heard it so many times, that it is etched in my memory as if I'd been there.

Returning from a trip to the grocery, it occurred to John that it would be fun to empty a bag of flour over our friend Andy's head. This, of course, left a huge pile of flour on the kitchen floor (not to mention on Andy). Naturally, it needed to be cleaned up. That only led to another opportunity for mayhem: An upright Hoover vacuum will clean up flour. But it's much more interesting if you remove the bag. Thus was born The Flour Cannon. I don't know that the results were ever completely cleaned up.


John was the one person I knew from our little online community in the 80's who kept in touch with everyone - I couldn't believe how many people I'd lost touch with whose lives he could tell me about when I saw him last year.

We got together a few times after college, whenever I was passing through Colorado on one of my between-contracts road-trips. He had dropped all the meds sometime in the early nineties, and as he told it, drove nonstop from Massachusetts to Colorado with a box of Wheat Thins for sustenance. When NetBeans was acquired by Sun in 1999, I did some name searches, figuring that one or two of our very peculiar group from the Cyber at UMass must be working here. And sure enough, John was working for Sun in Colorado. And was doing well - as funny as ever, and as smart as ever, and working as a sysadmin in Sun's Broomfield office. I last saw him a bit over a year ago; he was in great shape, happy with his job at a startup there and doing well. We talked for hours later by phone - he was planning the world's most obnoxious baby shower gifts for Mara and Neal, and making sure everyone from Cyber was part of the conspiracy. Captain Underpants figured heavily in the plans.


I can't really imagine a world without him in it.

 

If you knew John Ponte, and have a story you'd like to tell about him, you're welcome to share it or a link to it below. I'm sure others of us would enjoy reading them, and perhaps they can be gathered together for his family, if that seems appropriate.

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Comments

Peter here again,

I am *AT* the Blue Wall Mara! Janice also, of course...

I'll be back later with low-bandwidth versions of the pictures Sheri Isele
sent out - they're kinda big and I'm in dialup country...
> Peter d.

Sheri Isele asked me to upload two photos. The first is John's first grade photo; the second was taken during a hiking trip and looks quite recent.
-Tim

I didn't know him all that well directly, but his presence and quirks were an essential attractor and part of the energy of the confer/umsfs crowds. I'm sure he went on to create similar wonderful chaos around him elsewhere in his better moments, and I'm sorry to think of all that he could have continued to do if his worse moments hadn't caught up with him. Sadly, I've known too many similar stories.

That I'd hear of his passing through others trying to reach others who knew him shows that the community he helped shape still exists after two decades, and I hope it counts as some sort of monument to him. {warlock}

I don't think anyone has mentioned the bog monster yet. For those of you who were subject to this prank, its hard to forget.

I have to echo Nick here - each memory I read is either one I share, or makes my brain light up with yet another one, I couldn't possibly type them all.

I just asked my friend, a DJ at an internet radio station, to play Meat Loaf's Bad Attitude - Gods, I remember CRUISING in the starship with that cranked.

In all of the UMass memories, no one has mentioned TUNNELLING - a formal dinner in a reeking steam tunnel is something everyone should experience at least once.

There is no way I can be in Western Mass in October, but I'll be in Colorado on Thursday. If there is a GTG at the Blue Wall - hoist one for me, please.

Feel free to get in touch if you desire alyxx at pantherhawk dot net

In reading these postings as they have been going up, I have been amazed at the consistancey of the stories.

It seems that Johns ability to lift spirits never faded.

I look forward to seeing those of you that will make it to Co this week.

For the rest of y'all, have a pizza and a beer in memory.

Nick/Shadowspawn
nickfel at hotmaildotcom

Thank you Tim for starting this comforting collection of John stories and appreciation. I met John here in Colorado at HEAD Sports. I am one of his not IT industry friends.

I will miss the truly wonderful friend that John was. He is the type of people that we all want to surround us. He was always ready to sample new taste delights from my kitchen. Good beer, great conversation and a treat for the taste buds was a great get together for John an I. Conversations about nearly anything seemed to flow for hours.

I am saddened by his passing and can only now truly appreciate his battle to keep the unfortunate part of him that he kept to himself. I was very aware of that battle. I knew of the "John Time" that he needed to recharge his batteries. He always gave the best of himself to all of us. We all can hold on to this.

I will always have my photo of the cake that he made for me after my job elimination from HEAD. It was his BOHICA cake. Bend Over Here It Comes Again. He would set my screen saver to say "Never Pay Full Retail" as I am in sales and could find a way to not pay full retail for most things.

I am comforted by the out pouring of all of these additions to the blog from all of you. His rememberence is quite deserved.. Thank you to all. A comment from mnagle is quite appropriate, Now John is free.

For boston area folks, we're tentatively planning to meet 9.30 pm *FRIDAY* in davis square at the statues by the benches in front of jp licks. From there we'll find an appropriate place for a drink.

(hagan at cih dot com)

This one is hard to type, but close to impossible to actually say... I came to UMass from a big high school, but never-the-less got lost in the shuffle at college. Spent a couple of semesters on academic probation. I was a work study student and I remember quite clearly the day I found out I was dismissed. Needless to say I didn't bother going to work, but found that I had locked my keys in my car in lot 32. Took the bus home to Hamp, told John. I now had no job, no insurance and no rent since the deal with my father was rent & car if in school only. John said he would drive me back to get my car and in the meantime said 'what are you going to do now?'

By the time John got me back to my car, I had an answer. I drove straight to Greenfield and enrolled at GCC. I came home, called my parents and told them I was dismissed. They said 'we will come get you' and I told them it was too late, I had charged a full semester's tuition, fees, and books on their credit card - non-refundable. :)

The best moment of that day was when John picked me up, hugged me and told me he was proud of me. It meant everything to me.

I can not make a gathering this week as I live in Wisconsin. But I am very interested in a Blue Wall gathering in October. Please keep me posted. With a little notice I will be there.

Missing John terribly......................

Julie/Evita - jbalch at natus dot com or poohnix at earthlink dot net

Kitiara wrote: "Neal & I would like to suggest a Coffee Break at the Blue Wall, the Sunday of Columbus Day weekend. It seems somehow fitting, as so many of us have memories of him there..."

That sounds GREAT, would anyone be coming from the Boston area?, I don t have a car..

Drop me a line at Geminitrader at Yahoo dot com

I met John in 1995, when he and my husband worked for a small computer startup in Longmont, CO. One of our earliest experiences with John was car related. We had a 20 year-old Saab 900 Turbo. When smoke started coming out of the vents, we called John for help. He showed up in a flash and they set to work. When they were finished, there were a few "extra" parts. He said "not to worry, if the car starts without them, then they not important." Sure enough, the car started up, and in fact, ran for years after that without those "extra" parts.

I think the "fence incident" has been mentioned a few times above. It was my fence, and I was the enraged wife. In hindsight, its hilarious, but I was a bit peeved at the time. After that incident, John was banned for the house if he was in possession of power tools.

Memorable Quotes:

  • If you double the temperature, you halve the cooking time.
  • You're not cooking unless you set off the smoke alarm.
  • There's a power tool for that job.
  • A little Roundup will take care of that.
  • We're a pint low.
  • It wasn't me, it was a Colorado Barking Spider.
  • I've got some Dynamite for that problem.
  • Go to your room until you're 21 (to my teenage son).

John was a joker, but when things got serious you could always count on him. When my father passed, John was the first person we called. He house-sat for us, took care of the cat, and had the fridge stocked when we returned.

He was a true friend.

I thought some folks might appreciate this, or not, but there it is:
http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/27014

Some of y'all will know who this is, some won't. That's OK.

John appears in some of the old cyber/confer stories at http://47d.org/~seven/funlib/

Craig Hagan and I are trying to get any friends of John's that are still residing in the New England area together for a beer or two sometime this week. If you're interested please drop me an email. Thanks. -Matt (ratrig at comcast dot net)

Had to laugh....

Last night I was taking down the boxes from that attic with all the baby stuff. Found the baby toys box and was going through it and sure enough we found Captain Underpants. It survived a round in the washer machine, so it will be the first toy I give my son when he is born next month...

My lil one won't get the gift of a pack of camels, nip of Jack, and some condems but he will have Captain Underpants!!

brian.cinque at cinquefamily dot com

I found this card while I was looking through some old pictures I hadn't looked at in years. I learned a lot at the five colleges, but International Auto was another school tucked away where John held his own classes. It was the garage where he traded his skills for a set of tools and a place to park the Starship Dodge.

I used to drive Honda Accords in college which were notoriously expensive to maintain. Up until I met John, I had never worked on a car. One time I had serious rear-brake problems and the estimate I got from Northampton Honda was way beyond what I could stomach on a student budget. John stepped in and told me that I was going to take just a little bit of the money from the estimate, and from then on, always buy the Chilton and Haynes books for any car I ever owned. The Haynes book in particular was useful because it was written from the perspective of a total tear-down and rebuild. The rest of the cash would be split between parts, and beer.

With the Haynes guide, John taught me how to take apart the rear drum brakes, resurface the drums, attach new pads, bleed and reset the master cylinder, clean, unstick and resurrect the butterfly auto-adjusters, re-tension the emergency brake cables, and most important of all, show me from the Haynes book that there was supposed to be a 50-cent rubber plug in the back of each drum that kept excess moisture and road grime from getting into the drum and prematurely corroding the whole works. That plug was missing on both sides when we worked on my brakes that Saturday afternoon. He made me buy a bag of those 50-cent plugs and told me to check the rear side of the drums every time I took the car back to a Honda dealer for any kind of service. Sure enough, the next time I did (for something completely unrelated to brakes), the plugs were gone when I got the car back - so I replaced them. When I took the car to a different Honda dealer for other non-brake service, the plugs would disappear again, so I'd replace them again.

John spent 8 hours with me that day, patiently teaching me how to work with tools and not be afraid to tackle automotive tasks if I had the right guidebooks and a decent garage. We got the brakes fixed, and I was prouder of that accomplishment than some of the school tasks for that year. Even now, 20 years later, when cars are way more complicated and require certification and special computers to handle the many diagnostic systems, I always keep copies of the Chilton and Haynes books at the ready to make sure I can have a more informed conversation with shop mechanics.

Thanks again, John.

I first met John when he interviewed for a position in my team at Sun. He showed up wearing jeans cutoffs and an old rugby shirt. I was a little shocked and surprised when I first saw him. No way would I recommend hiring someone that would dress like that for an interview!

10 minutes into the interview, I was sold. We had to get him in!

John referred to his F150 truck as "the little pickup." He helped me moved with it and taught me how to drive a stick in his neighborhood.

Joel Duval, a sysadmin at Sun (last I know...) was the actual recipient of the office "toilet" chair. It did stay at his cubicle for a while. Who knows where it is now though...

John would be a perpetual prankster. He always threatened to give his friends kids "sugar coated sugar bombs". You did have to look for whoopie cushions before sitting down. He even convinced me to help him unplug the christmas lights at the corner of 120th avenue and Interlocken Blvd (I think...) after a late evening of troubleshooting internal Sun systems.

Other things that I learned from John:

  • How to make a perfect martini
  • How to properly label cables at both ends.
  • A 19" server cabinet going downhill on Main Street can be very, very fast.
  • The BRM04 server room corridor is perfect for bowling
  • Doing donuts in the parking lot is OK. Doing donuts on a busy street isn't.
  • You can make Sunray terminals sing "Kyle's mom... in D minor" in unison.
  • Smoke detectors can be used as kitchen timers.

I will miss him dearly, but seeing him remembered here is a comfort.

Frederic Jean
fred at fredjean dot net

btw.. as much as I would like I can't make it out to CO but am very interested in a Gathering.... Andy

What does THIS BUTTON do?!?!?!

I am deeply saddened by the loss of John, while we had drifted apart and lost touch he touch me perhaps more profoundly than almost anyone I have known. To this day I have not met anyone who is more unconditionally accepting and giving. John as a few other people have noted would do anything for anyone at anytime, this was true for a total stranger and even truer for those of us lucky enough to call him a friend.

He taught me many of the most important lessons of my life, things that I use to this day. The first is that Anything is possible, the second is that life is FUN. So ever since graduating (which often seemed impossible) I have been able to accomplish many impossible things and still have fun. I also learned how to fix anything with WD-40, Duct Tape, Hammer, Screw driver, and a Pipe wrench. I've since added a cordless drill but I only use that sparingly.

Looking around my life I see traces of John around my life even though its been over 10 years since we last talked, I still cook with mixing bowls and a food processor he gave me, I read occasionally with a lamp that used to be his. I still have a bunch of milk crates in my attic filled with stuff from UMASS that he helped me acquire.

Today - 9/11 and living in NY near the city 5 years after that tragic day, it was already a day filled with reflection, introspection, and hope tinged with sadness. That sadness was deepened when I got a call out of the blue from Daphne (Jen) and I learned about John's Tragic Death. That deep sadness is also tinged with joy at the memories of his life, those we knew and the good times we shared. Reading this blog has taken me back, helped me have a good cry and reconnect with John's memory.

Thanks to Tim for Starting this, Steve and Jay for reaching out to so many, To Jen for Tracking me down, for everyone for sharing their memories and most importantly for John for sharing his life so fully with so many of us.

I have only a few regrets, but one of them is letting myself loose touch with John. While John's Death leaves a deep hole in my heart and the world. Please join me helping to fill it with a little love. Be nice a stranger at least once every day. Give your shirt off your back to help someone if for no other reason than because you can. LIVE Life.. Have FUN.. Take Chances.. and most importantly find out what that Button Does. -- Live Long and Prosper

Finally my condolences his family. We shared paths for only a few years but he was like a brother, a dear friend, and will be missed.

Andy Seward aka Grundig
sewarda at gmail dot com

I met John a couple of years back while he was working at a startup company. I was working at a sister company and we had the opportunity to work together on a few small projects. The work went quickly but we spent hours just talking.

We talked about ourselves, of course, but John also regaled me with tales of his pranks over the years (many of which have already been written about here). He was proud of them, and well he should be, given how elaborate some of them were.

We also talked about his time at Qualcomm and Sun and how much he enjoyed the jobs and people.

Unfortunately, there were problems at the startup where John was working and John left. I didn't see him again. For as short of a time as I knew him, I got to know him pretty well--or so I thought. I wish I had gotten to know him even better. He never mentioned the depression, for example. He was always upbeat and positive regardless of the circumstances surrounding his job.

I didn't know him long and he made a great impression on me. I can only imagine how much he meant to those of you he knew for years.

Neal & I would like to suggest a Coffee Break at the Blue Wall, the Sunday of Columbus Day weekend. It seems somehow fitting, as so many of us have memories of him there...

Unfortunately I didn't know John well at UMass, but I do remember when he paid Graham Mitchell (Loki / Locarai) and I a visit in our apartment in Dedham MA in 1992. He taught us how to make beer battered seafood, then said his doctor had declared him disabled due to his depression, next he spoke of skinnydipping in the ocean with some girl he had just met, and ended with him ordering Graham to repeatedly punch him in the stomach as hard as he could, which Graham did. John didn't even flinch, he had a stomach of steel then.

Andy Steinberg / Professor Nutto
andy at research dot umass dot edu
South Hadley MA

Thank you John for teaching me that golf is a lot more fun when played with a can of spam - rather than a golf ball.

This is one of the last emails that John had sent me. (Madeline is my 10 year old daughter) From: ponte [at] indra.com
Subject: The Plan!
Date: June 20, 2006 9:41:23 AM PDT
To: sam.woolsey [at] gmail.com

Ok! Here's the plan:

1. Invite Madeline to come visit in Los Angeles.

2. Take her shopping on Rodeo Drive.

3. Go to an upscale clothing store. (The kind that has an attendant for the fitting room.

4. Have Madeline pick out an item, and go to the fitting room.

5. Wait 3-4 minutes.

6. Have Madeline yell, "Hey Dad! I'm in trouble! There's no toilet paper in here!"

7. Photograph the expression on the attendant's face and send it to me.

Damn....by all the gods above this truly sucks beyond suckage. John was a great friend, bent over backwards to do anything to cheer you up. I will always remember how he smoked multiple cigs when he was upset. I will also always remember the 1st Rocky Horror Picture Show liveshow cast party at his apartment....how many people can one fit in a shower indeed. Having been working in the human services field with psychotropic medications for 19 years I have an inkling of what he was going through and the things those medications do to you. However he was always a trooper, I never heard him complain about it. John was one of many who reached out to a young, clueless (yeah I admit it), geeky kid who never fit in anywhere and brought him into an eclectic, dynamic, and sometimes manic crowd of people all of whom changed my life. I wish I had the money to come to Colorado for the memorial service, would love to see all of you again and pay my deepest respects to John. I hadn't seen him in a LONG time, and I wish that I had.....I think he would have been surprised, as I look NOTHING like what I did at UMass, just ask Neal/Corum. John was a great friend, a great person, and a truly bright spirit. I never heard anyone say a bad word about him. I will miss you Spock, and hope to meet you again someday.....until then, Live Long In The Light And Prosper........and at the next metal show I am at I will do some headbanging for ya, I think you'd be amused at that. :-)

Jan Novak (aka Elric/Logan)
jmnovak at hotmail dot com

One other thing ----

I distinctly remember riding the bus routes when John was driving with "classical gas" and "long cool woman in a black dress" playing full blast. I still think of him when I hear those two songs.

Mandy here (yes, Peter K's first wife). I won't be making the memorial - I went back to grad school and am currently in medical school (yes, to be a real doctor). Gross anatomy doesn't stop for anything. I think John would understand. John came to my second wedding as well. After the ceremony, my husband and I went to get into the limosine to ride to the reception - and the limo was dead. In true Ponte fashion (yes, we have pictures), John drove his car onto the old historic church lawn and jump-started the limosine. While he was in a suit. No shit. A bright burning flame in a world of darkness has been extinguished when John left this earth. He was a beacon of kindness, laughter, humility, and friendship. Let me know if there is a memorial fund in his name. I'll burn a pot of spaghetti sauce in his honor this weekend. -Mandy (Nyssa/Pearls)

I'd love to hear more about what John was doing after college. I lost touch with him around 1985, but he has the distinction of being the last guy I dated before I started dating the guy I married (Hawkmoon.) I had a rule that I wouldn't date guys who smoked but I broke it for Spock. :-)

Wendy
Dally at Myself Dot Com

Wish I could--but my heart is there.

Neal, Ryan and I will be flying to Colorado...

So many things have been posted already, I have little to add.

John taught me that everything could be fixed with duct tape, that even a bath tub could be set on fire, that umbrellas are meant to hold confetti, and that every thing (EVERY THING) can be made funny if you try - there is humor in every situation.

I met John through Confer in 1985. He was one of my dearest friends for the next 21 years and will be with me always. He was the truest kind of friend.

Every time I flew through Denver, John was there to greet me at the airport, even if only for minutes. Every time I received a cigar in the mail I knew that John had gotten a promotion or a new/better job. John threatened me with Captain Underpants gifts for my kids. I couldn't wait.

I really love John. He will be sorely missed. But he would love the gift he gave us all. In his death, he brought us back together.

Julie (Hansen) Balch - EVITA

Wow.

Now that I see your names, I have really begun to miss you guys. I wonder if this isnt a good time to think about planning some kind of reunion? Maybe in a year or 2 years time we would all have the money to travel to meet up...maybe John would have been amused by that.

just an idea.....

Very sad news indeed. John was a good friend, as well as source of mischeif and inspiration. He was the only person I have ever known who could catch a steel pot on fire whilest trying to boil water. John appeared in my life at a time when a dear friend from the old "CONFER" days had passed away. "CONFER" UMASS' early chat application. The funny part was, that most of the people using the old InfoTON 100 terminals in either the library or Grad Center were sitting within eyesite while using the system :-)

A short story: John's FIAT was deader than a doornail at his place in Conway. I came over to assist in a "carbuerator"ectomy. After a couple of hours of painstaking diagnosis., John decides place the air-filter back on the top of the carb and procedes to douse the paper element with about about a pint of ether. He then has me turn the igniton and "pow" you could have heard the backfire and seen the flame from South Deerfield. After a couple of beers and some thought and possibly some spray-paint, it turns out he had a cracked distributor cap instead. Anyhow, John could always provide a smile when you were down, and thought not of his own wants. He will be missed.

Matt Deloia
(Hodge Podge)

As the others I have many stories about John....

I *still* have some of the milk crates he pwahed.

Last week I heard "Shout" by Tears for Fears.. that song always reminds me of the times John was driving for PVTA . He would crank that song and it seemed the whole bus would get into it.

I havent seen John or any of you in over a decade. This sad news really shook me. John was a good man, always ready to help, and always making life interesting.

Ellen/Natural Log
natural_log at verizon dot net

One story John himself told me about was installing a telephone in the oven in his apartment in Sunderland...so he could have a "hot line". Maybe someone reading this can fill in the details. Something also about mounting the couch half-way up the wall...

I'm overjoyed at the outpouring of stories and thoughts here. Many of us haven't seen each other for nearly twenty years. I got together with Nick, Alyxx and Jeremy tonight. It's good to meet again. Really good.

I will be attending the memorial service in Colorado. If anyone needs help with anything in regard to it, just ask.

Tim aka Kablosna Phantax
tboudreau at sun dot com

Here's a picture I took of John while we were still at UMass together. I remember him telling me that of all the places he'd worked on campus, he never felt more comfortable and content than when he would spend time at the stables taking care of the horses. He was happiest when he got the rare opportunity to ride, and I happened to come across him during a winter day, when he had 'borrowed' a moment with the mounted division of the Boston Police who were getting ready for a patrol at the Quabbin.

- Jim/The Shadow (jsb at virgil dot com)

I remember going to the Northampton DPW for my license test to drive a bus, which was taken in one of the green and orange UMass school buses which the PVTA used to teach drivers. One of the other drivers was a guy I sometimes talked to waiting for chem lab in the morning. After we both passed the test, I started talking with him the next time I saw him in the hall waiting for the lab to open, thinking it cool that we now knew each other as drivers as well as engineering students.

"Hold on, I need some nicotine..." as he reached into a pocket for a Camel. He contemplated it for a moment, then ripped off the filter. Once he'd had a drag off it he visibly relaxed. "So, do you ever use 'confer'?"

"Yep"

He grins. "Hi, I'm Spock."

"Hi, I'm Axeman." and we laughed like crazy at the weird synchronicity of it all.

From then on every time I saw his typed out "Flick...Puff...Ahhhh" I always stopped to wonder if he'd stopped to tear off the filter first.

--Glenn

John and I went to the same high school (Dover Sherborn Regional), though John was several years older than me, and I didn’t know him in hs, I did know his younger brother, Jay. As a newbie freshman at Mt. Holyoke I, naively, thought that high school was far away and no one would know me there. Imagine my surprise, shortly after discovering confer, having someone verify he was, in fact, from DS by providing the students’ nickname for the vice principal! That’s how I met John.

I didn’t know John as well as some of you, and wasn’t a part of the cyber crew for long, but I still have some milk crates John helped me acquire too! Those suckers are too useful to get rid of! I swear that for the longest time I didn’t really know (or want to believe) that taking milk crates was illegal. Yes, despite the notice printed right ON the milk crate!

And I remember that gravy! I was just thinking about that!

Someone said that John kept in touch with everyone and brought people together. This is definitely NOT one of my strengths. I can’t think of a better way to honor his memory (other than going on a PWAH run for milk crates) than to get back in touch with old friends, both in and out of this community. I have already started reaching out to old friends.

Thanks for everything, John. You are dear and will be missed.

Heather (Carrie)
hcoon at wideopenwest dot com

I didn't know John that well, but I remember him as a funny, cool guy. Twenty years after I first showed up at UMass, I now work there (yikes!) and every time I find myself in the Blue Wall I think back on the old coffee breaks and wonder what became of all those old friends; this wasn't, alas, what I'd hoped to hear. This is very sorry news indeed. )-:

-suzanne
(at chem.umass.edu)

What a loss for all of us, and what a sad way for us to find each other again. In many ways john/spock managed to provide a locus for our community. That he manages to do so in both death and life says much about the people that met him along the way.

I'm more than glad to merely remember him for his willingness to take time out of his life to help us newbies find our way around umass and elsewhere.

As noted above, John could always be counted on to help. He was also pretty good at getting other people to help him...

Which is how I wound up helping Doug "Jim the Lizard King" move back to southeastern Massachusetts one afternoon. John simply arrived and announced that we had a mission.

I missed the part where he should have mentioned that he wasn't coming along.... I really didn't know Doug all that well before that two and a half hour (each way) trip.

-Neal

Neal said I have to post this one:

I don't remember what scheme John had come up with this particular day, but I said "John, you have lost all remaining marbles!!!"

John just grinned that grin at me and ran out the kitchen door. I followed, afraid of what he might get up to. He ran out to the garage, opened the driver's side door of the Starship, reached under the seat, and ... you guessed it - pulled out a bag of marbles. "See? said John, "I know exactly where my marbles are!"

Only John would have thought to have his marbles so conveniently at hand for just such an occassion.

Damn, I almost forgot the gravy. Jim and I used to have a bunch of people over for dinner every year on Xmas day (The Dinner for Misfit Toys, naturally). One year, we ran out of gravy for the turkey. Not to worry, John was there. He raided every cupboard and every nook of the fridge for anything brown that would pour or melt that we could put in the gravy pan. When he added the bottle of Guinness, it was just right.....

- Johnna
jyklukas at virgil dot com
http://www.jykboxes.com

I never knew John very well, but he was nothing if not memorable. When I first showed up on Confer, he was one of the ones who went out of his way to make this clueless dweeb feel welcome. I remember hearing about his struggle with depression, and finding that an interesting contrast with his outwardly happy-go-lucky nature.
I don't think I've really thought about him since leaving the Valley, but now, hearing these stories again 20 years later, I miss him.
Farewell, Spock-wad.
...
-Chip Olson (Castellan).
ceo at thsi dot org
http://ceo.livejournal.com

Update from Colorado - The memorial is early Thursday morning.

I woke John up - not hard to do when you sleep 22 hours per day - late one Wednesday and told him he was needed urgently to be best man at a wedding in Boulder - the following Friday. A quick call to Regnad to borrow plane fare and he showed up at our place wearing full Vulcan attire, including the ears, in plenty of time for the wedding. Not long after that adventure he moved to Boulder and occupied the living room for a good long time.

This morning I remembered these very Ponte-like adventures:

  • the story of him cleaning the toilet with EVC when the Lizard King flicked a burning butt into it
  • cleaning toasters in the shower. He later found that inconvenient and switched to using the dishwasher
  • the folks at Head Sports were much to dreary so he began the morning ritual of dumping the left over decaf, replacing it with the sludge from the previous night's regular coffee, and firing up the burner. Very much a Spock maneuver.
  • in either the shuttle craft (the fiat) or Regnad's old 626 we would go out for a drive. He'd roll down the windows, blast 'Big Bottom', and operate the windshield wipers continuously. For unknown reasons he found it fascinating to fill the wiper reservoir with French Whore perfume, whatever that was. Folks sure noticed.

Yoda
pete at nic.umass.edu

Nick, Jeremy, and I are planning to fly out for the memorial. I've spoken to Jay (John's brother) once, briefly, and he said "midweek" - if anyone has more complete information, please let me know ASAP so I can grab plane tickets.

Thanks

Alyxx

Photos (That was quick):
Oddly, despite my reputation back then, NONE of these photos are shot by me.

As far as I know the first time John ever went to Colorado was for the wedding of Peter Krotkov and Amanda Faut. The "InTux" shots are from that trip at that wedding.

The garage shot was made by Janice when John showed up during one of my FreeBSD installations on "new" hardware. He made many helpful suggestions, but as I had no explosives I was unable to implement them.

The lawnchair shot was shortly afterward when we decided if explosives were not available, we'd hit the next best thing -- the beer supply...

I'm VERY lazy now that I've retired from Hell (also known as OIT) so this is a simple dirlist:

http://www.people.umass.edu/peter/Spock/
[Editors note: the photo above is a link from Peter's collection. Thanks!]

Peter pdefriesse{at}yahoo.com