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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 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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I am so sad that I am only now finding out about John's ...

I am so sad that I am only now finding out about John's passing. I have been friends with John since jr high at Dover-Sherborn and also attended UMass with him. John and I lost touch in the mid eighties but would find each other every once in a while...typically it was John who did the finding.Since I was hopeless with computers and he was not! John was one of the most fun people that I have known! There was an intensity and a softness about him that was totally unique to him. I have really enjoyed reading all of the shared stories and I am fascinated with the reoccurring themes! John was a great teacher and he had the patience of Job. All of my weaknesses were John's strengths...He could drive stick,I burned the rubber off his tires. He could use computers and I thought they were a fad that was invented to annoy me. I liked to not recieve detention and follow the rules and he got me and lots of our friends to skip class after a show and have the best junkfood bbq at his house.That was the funniest morning announcement when all of our names were called and we went to the priciple's office. I am sorry kids you are going to have to serve detention for a week. Detention was even an adventure with all of us there!! John loved my 'truck' a C-10 chevy suburban and he borrowed it a few times to haul things and to go fast because it had a v-8 engine ...the Medfield straights will never be the same. But he always returned truck with a full tank! John always seemed older to me because he was so sure about things, like how to light a show, how to drive stick and why you pushed the clutch in...not just cause that's the way you do it. When he first started having problems that I was aware of was the end of our senior year at DS. It changed his career plans and intially it was hard for him because he did not want to tell people what was going on. John would help you anytime you asked, but when he started needing help he backed away. I think in part he was trying to figure it all out and in part he didn't want to burden you. I started missing John at UMass, he would come in and out of my life and then when I graduated and moved it became more difficult. I told myself that's what happens as you get older it is difficult to stay in touch,I did not understand the depression and that I only got to see John when he was up. I can say I wish I had been more persistant after college, but I was on the east coast and he was in Colorado. You get caught up in your own stuff and the occasional chat seemed to work. Once I got married and had kids even that disappeared. I am comforted to know that he found friends near him who treated him well and got to enjoy John when I couldn't. I also find comfort in the similarity of the kinds of fun he had with his new friends. A quick blast from the past Time Warp in the auditorium, Rocky Horror at the Exeter St Theater, the Ring Toss prank, What does that button do?,Duct tape, milk crates in else would you pack for UMass? John, I miss you! This is a huge loss. You were so important to so many people, you left a huge impression while you were here.

I found out about John's death "through the grapevine" only about a year ago. He was one of my best friends in grammar and high school. We were chums until 4th or 5th grade, and then became best friends as AV Aids in 6th grade. A couple years into college, though -- I in Chicago and he at UMass -- we lost touch and I was always sad about that. I tried tracking him down years later, but couldn't reach him. I have so many good memories of John and the fun we'd had. Some of my memories from Dover-Sherborn are hanging out in the auditorium between (or instead of) classes. We basically ran that place! He and I used to show movies to the public in the auditiorium. It was just the two of us doing it. My family had a friend who could get 16mm copies of films pretty easily, so we showed our first one while in 8th grade: Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid! We followed that with Young Frankenstein. After that we ran the Mel Brooks gamut and then on to Harold & Maud, and others. We raised money for some damn thing, but I don't remember what. It was really about showing the movies, doing the "switchover" and playing in our auditorium playground. And then there were the times I was on stage and he was back stage with our good friends Terry and Kevin. We had a fine clique going back then: Bubbles, Terry, Kevin, John, me. I also remember well our senior prank. John came up with the idea of somehow getting tires on the flagpole, ala a ring toss game, and putting a big sign on the building "Ring Toss 5 cents" and sending however many nickles to the principal. John made up some very elaborate engineering plans and drawings of how we would string a rope from the roof of the building to the top of the flag pole and get the tires over the top. So, late one afternoon we hoisted about 10 tires to the roof of the (you guessed it) auditorium and returned after 11:00 that night to do the deed. And we had lookouts on walkie talkies out in the street on either direction watching for cops. Well, we didn't figure in the sag factor of the rope! So, we didn't get any tires on the pole, and went home disappointed, but still having had a great time. The next day, the staff found the tires on the roof and spent the better part of the next week trying to figure out how they got there, who put them there and why. So, we kinda ended up having our prank, but it wasn't how we'd planned it! Fun times. There are so many other stories to tell, and I have so many other memories, but that will have to wait for another time. Or maybe I'll just keep them between me and Johh. Goodbye, my long lost friend. I've missed you these many years. David Coral Minneapolis, MN D-S Class of 1981

John, was just thinking about you and wanted to say hello. I ...

John, was just thinking about you and wanted to say hello. I don't do it with the voracity that you did, but I do try and be rotten as much as possible. My wife and I were having a BBQ with some friends and they have 2 kids. Of course I brought chocolate covered frosted sugar bombs with extra sweetener. Everything a growing kid needs! Miss you!

thinking of you today and always, I can't believe it's been 2 years... miss you, love you. You'd be proud of Ryan - he's a right little demon sometimes with the smile of an angel.

This is going to be a hard month for all of us. Happy Birthday, John - I know you are at peace. Love, Sheri

I just passed my lab exam and i'm now a CCIE. I wanted John to be the first to know since without his guidance and support, I would never have achieved this. Thanks John!!!!

We've been thinking about you, John. We're planning a trip to Brainard Lake this month.

wow I just stumbled upon this page doing a google search for Confer Umass... I remember having a beer with John and sitting in the hallway to 3-North Field smoking an Old Gold... I remember the starship Dodge but not the Fiat... I remember Theodore Corning and his VT-220... (way better than my GE Terminet 300 with it's paper towel output) or was it Mitchell Dickerman that had that... can't remember... been a long time! I remember Gwendal from Confer... I think we had a road trip planned for Boston but it never came to be.... I think we went to Cornell in Ithaca and got some awesome hot grinders from Louie's lunch truck instead... and slept in a dorm lobby that we broke into with some really weird people from Cornell... Cornell had a really cool school store... I bought an amazing mechanical pencil there... and got my feet wet in the Gorge grabbing other people's coins.... I believe we rode in Jim Muri's Dodge Demon (not to be confused with the starship). Jim was the person who introduced us all to "PWAH!" In my recollection it's first use was to announce that you were reaching over the partition in the co-ed dorm showers to steal your neighbor's shampoo or soap! It later gained a much broader usage... see also, term: "Bootch!" Anyhow on the way back from the roadtrip to Cornell... we all had wet feet from playing in "the gorge" and Jim's dodge demon (not to be confused with the Starship) had heater hoses that were accessible under the dash and could be removed to provide hot air to one's socks... this resulted in a truly disgusting ride back home to UMass on I-88 for at least 100 miles... anyhow I only knew John for a couple of years in the early 80's... but I remember him fondly as a good friend... I'm sorry to hear that he's passed... I had an email for him but sadly I hadn't kept in touch... I will continue to miss him... If anyone else from Confer would like to contact me, I would appreciate hearing from you...

This would have been John's new favorite website.. after dogdoo dot com of course.. www DOT cookingforengineers DOT com

Thinking of you today, John - and wishing you peace. We miss you. Love always, Mara

Happy Birthday John. You are never forgotten... doesn't seem to be working at present.

We've thought of John often over the past few weeks. We purchased our first pickup truck last week, and we know that John would have been very proud. He probably would have said "ABOUT TIME." John's F250 moved us three times (one was a double move) and hauled countless items (baby furniture, beer refrigerator, patio grill, paving stones, sand, etc.). In fact, John's truck was so well known at our house that our dog knew the sound of the engine a block away and would start yelping and jumping at the door before John even rang the doorbell. John, we miss you.

o I didn't mention my email... mike34230 at yahoo dot com -Trowt

Have been thinking so much of John around the anniversary of his death, but especially as I used John's precious duct tape to build a cardboard rocket ship for my girls. His picture hangs in my cubby at work - a picture with an "I'm up to something" grin. It makes me feel better on rough days. John, I wish you would have let us do for you what you did for us. You really made the world a better, sillier place. Julie/Evita

count us in as well! -Neal & Mara so many things remind us...

I miss our friend....

We missed John last night. Ever the prankster, he loved Halloween. It was usual for him to stop by around this time of year with an offering of "chocolate covered sugar bombs" for our older son.

Hey All, I am in South Hadley this weekend! I came up to MHC for a training but I am taking some time tomorrow, Sunday Oct 15th to go visit John's parents. I would love to meet any of you that have half a mind to get together again this weekend. Call me at 512-587-2499 and leave me a number I can reach you at. Amy and I are planning to have dinner in Amherst and would love to have more people join us. Vagdevi (Dibs)

I'll try one more time... If anyone is coming from out Boston way send me an email if there's room in the car. Thankee

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..... Posted by: gemi9 on September 11, 2006 at 07:14 AM Wow. Sad. It was my idea and it doesnt look like I'll be able to go.

For those coming to the get-together in Amherst tomorrow, October 10, 2006:

For those interested will meet at 11AM tomorrow, at Atkins, at the intersection of Bay Road and 116 in Amherst.
From there we will go for a hike in the Holyoke Range about 11:15 AM.

If you're coming, send email (my cellphone charger is MIA).

It sounds like some people are meeting at the Blue Wall at UMass around 2-3PM, others arriving later.

Hey I got the time off work, but my ride fell through. Anyone going up and back on Sunday, who can share a ride? I live in Allston. Lemme know -Deb aka Auriga, Glitter, Shy redhead geminitrader AT

I always thought his middle name was Marc... brain cramp I guess, or maybe dain bramage... Anyway, we are all set for the Blue Wall on October 8th. Management has been warned. I suggested 4 pm, Daphne has suggested earlier, 2 pm. We can always have a poll I guess... :) Looking forward to seeing all who can make it.

This the 2nd Spock I've known who has died way too young. The other was a classmate when I went to Hampshire College. He was Peter Spock, Dr. Spock's grandson. He died about 20 years ago.

my contact msaroff at pobox dot com.

Have a newsletter too, coming out with the next issue, rants, raves, wholesale copyright infringement, called 40 Years in the Desert, I mail it out on paper, I'm old school, but there are archives in PDF at

BTW, I've spawned, and my daughter has my laugh, and a son who, at age 6, properly used the word metaphor with regards to a game of "this little piggy".

I think that this fact would have amused John.

For those of you who knew me by my handle:

I was either Cerebus, or Forever.

First of all as we have all stated I am really going to miss John.

Last year I lost my first boyfriend/love and reconnected with old friends by going to my 20th High School Reunion for Lexington High.

I am going to find a way to make it out to the Blue Wall, I need to see you all again.

I have been thinking a lot about the old crowd lately, especially John. Every time the wicked sensative smoke alarm goes off when dinner is being cooked I smile and say dinner must be done :)

I was very surprised to see a familiar name on my caller ID when I got home from work yesterday. A name I haven't seen in like 20 years.

Thank you Jan for finding me and letting me know.

One request/suggestion, let's not make the Sunday get together start too late in the evening. I know we will all want to talk for hours and not everyone lives in the area or has Monday off.

Hope to hear from you all soon!

Anneth01 at Verizon dot net

Here I am just getting back from hiking in the Rockys only to find out John passed away in them.

I only knew John while I was at UMass via Confer and mutual friends. He was living in Northhampton at the time. The house was John's castle and he was both king and court jester. For some reason (my size?) he picked me to be his regular wrestling partner and insisted on tackling me the moment I walked in the door. One time he had me in a scissor lock that was so hard I thought he was trying to squeeze my colon out of me. I only got him to stop when I squeezed his foot so hard I think I busted his little toe. John didn't give up easily!

I also remember John taking me out for my first motorcycle ride. We drove down from Sunderland to Noho in the middle of night without saying a word except whenever he took a turn extra hard he had to yell at me to lean into it.

Cinnamon spaghetti sauce, trying to wake him up from his marathon sleeps, him pissing off his landlord, helping him work on his Fiat, "cleaning day!", walking on his back (I was big enough to crack it), going spelunking in the steam tunnels, shopping for cheap wine for a party at the Big Y and we bought bottles labeled "Cheap Red Wine", watching Buckaroo Banzaii for the MILLIONTH DAMN TIME until Mara and I hid it on him, it was all good.

I wish I was getting an invite from him to go backpacking in Rocky Mtn NP instead of this. If there is a heaven I'm sure he's still playing pranks.

Mark aka Eyebeam

Deb - sorry, I posted this on Joelll's forum... the suggestion was to meet at the blue wall, late afternoon/early evening, exact times to be determined... Neal and I will be contacting the management to see what would work best. We are also looking at hikes/other activities for the weekend for those who aren't local... -Mara

Bluewall closes at 9 on Sundays. What time would we be meeting? John Watson asked about reserving it--too formal? Let me know...

I remember John. I was just a minor character scene when he was at his height (having made my reputation with the Cyber/UMSFS crowd - for good or ill - years before), but I left knowing it was in good hands.

I moved back to Northampton five years ago, and was mildly suprised none of the old crowd was still here. It will be good to see everyone again.

stev0 at

P.S. on the memorial - yes, Shelly, there were chocolate chip cookies!

Toad's Kin:

I had forgotten that but (there is always a "but") John worked for a while (I have no clue how long it really was) at Toad's Kin garage in Florence MA. Toad's was owned by Rad who was also a silent partner in (drum roll) International Auto Parts which actually occupied part of the same "building". (You had to see the place to appreciate why "building" is in quotes.)

John was engaged in a port of the parts database from CP/M to D.O.S. for International which we worked together on - thank grid for dual phone lines.

As a result of his services, John got a case of "Toad's Kin" tee-shirts from Rad.

I found two of the suckers while cleaning out the summer clothes -- a Christmas gift from the year of the database migration. Just imagine -- John with access to a garage AND an auto-parts store.

I expect I'llkeep finding traces like this for years -- at least I hope so...


The memorial service was incredible. So many came from near and far to share their memories and give tribute to John. His brother, Jay, led off with a remarkably good job of a combination of encapsulating John's life and unselfishly giving comfort to the others in attendance.

The setting was perhaps the most spectacular place I've seen in the Colorado Rockies - and I have lived here all my life. The aspen trees were in their full fall glory, and the remainder of last year's snow could be seen on the highest jagged peaks. Two little ones romped near (and sometimes IN) the lake while we talked about our memories of John - something I am sure he would have enjoyed. Even the heavens cried a few tears on us toward the end.

I hope those who came with cameras will share their photos on this blog, both for the people who couldn't come and for those who did and want to remember.

John, you were the best, and I will never be able to replace you, but you will live on in my memory in all the things you taught my son.

boston meetup at davis square is tomorrow; time is adjusted. 9:00PM (21:00) EST.

my cell phone is 206-794 NOSPAM 7820 if someone is running late.

hagan (at)

Julie I am with you on that, wish I could be at that service myself but money (or lack thereof) prevents. At any rate to my knowledge the gathering at the Blue Balls is slated for Sunday 10/8/06 but the time is unknown. (I am hoping it will be later in the day myself...) I hope this helps somewhat and that you are as well as can be expected. Felicitations and well wishes to all other posters here as well....both those I know and those I don't. Out for now......Jan/Elric/Logan/Longshot/Riff-Raff

Reading these stories is such a big help today. I wish I could be in the mountains today. Please let me know about the Oct. gathering in the Blue Wall as soon as possible. I so want to be there if at all possible.
Julie / Evita

I had the pleasure of living with John (and a slew of other people) in a little house in Hadley that came to be known as the Rat house. I could not possibly recall all of the strange and wacky stories I have of John. Those and most everthing else from that time are a little hazy. I do remember 2 important lessons I learnd from John. The first was life was meant to be seized with both hands so that it doesn't simply pass you by. The second lesson was ether in a can will get almost every car to start (at least temporarily).

Farewell John. Thanks for the milkcrates and everything else.

Tom a.k.a. Bumpas

Recipe for a Perfect Martini

2.5 oz Gin (John would settle for nothing less than Saphire)
.5 oz Sweet Vermouth
.5 ox Dry Vermouth

"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." I'm surprised we didn't burn that place down. The place would have deserved it....

I still use recipes learned from John, as well as blaming Barking Spiders etc. Like everyone, I remember driving the Fiat, as well as doing auto repair in his driveway, mostly on my own cars/bike. Nothing will match taking down a wall with the front fork from a motorcycle. I was thinking of him just last week, too.

It's hard to understand how someone who helped me and so many others confront and overcome depression would succumb to it himself.

A memorial on 10/08 at the Blue Wall is definitely in order. I'll be there and I'll drag Andy Hommel and any other Boston area Conferites with me.

My wife still doesn't know what to make of me yelling "Stop Typing Up There!" when she's online....

- Graham
Locarai at aol dot com

It's hard to overstate the effect that John has on us. We all hope to leave a legacy behind us, and John truly has. He was a person that you fall in love with, head-over-heels, the moment you meet him. He was infuriating, charming, uproarious, and overwhelmingly accepting and empathic. When we know people, we think good things about them. John never hesitated to sing his friends' praises to everyone who would listen. He genuinely loved us all, and told us how wonderful we were.

I, too, met John in the mid-1980s at UMASS because I poked around the Control Data machines curiously and stumbled upon Confer. When my roommates started filling our apartment with too many grad students, he found me a sublease with Amanda and Scott (Nyssa & Pup). I don't know what he told them to get me in there, but he was a fast friend. Yes, I was doused with water, kept up late, "helped" with my cooking, forced to eat at McManus at 3AM, and introduced to a whole bunch of strange people. I was dragged through The UMASS Maze in the middle of the night and up to the top of the hill to watch the sun come up, protesting that I didn't *want* to do any of this, but unable to resist.

He played matchmaker, knowing that I would get along with his friend Vagdevi. He was right - three years later I married her! And of course, he insisted that the wedding party go for ice cream at McCray's Country Creamery (read: cowsh!t-smelling working dairy farm) on the way to the reception. He showed up at our door with cigars and super-soakers when our child was born, called periodically for no reason, and remembered our birthdays. (I have no idea how he knew what our birthdays were, or where he found our various unlisted phone numbers)

I can't relate all of the crazy things John dragged me through; you who know him surely remember. He will always have a very special place in my heart. This is a man I have loved for two decades. And now I hurt. But I do smile through the tears. How can I not?

John introduced me to my husband, Tom (Sarge). I remember this birthday party we had at Mt. Holyoke where John unhooked the fire extinguisher and sprayed everyone with the liquid. That was the most trouble I got into at MHC!

He also drove up once to Austin just like that... said he took the wrong turn at Albe-quoi-qui. Brought my son two huge super soakers and ran around the house soaking all of us...

Oh yes, he *loved* indian food and the spicier I could make it, the better... with tears streaming down his face, gulping huge glasses of milk, he would pile the food on his plate and eat it all...

I miss him so much and reading all the posts has made me really appreciate how much he touched all of us.. thanks for the postings.

Could someone please send me details of the memorial service so I can send flowers or something?
Dibs (Vagdevi) vagdevim at gmail dot com

Now that it's morning and the shock is subsiding, I want to make a few things from my previous post clear. One of John's strengths was his ability to laugh at himself. He always helped and cared for the people around him. I recounted the events in much the way he told them himself. He took lessons that he learned and presented them in dramatic fashion to other people in an effort to help and teach others. John was also very careful and responsible. Sometimes stuff just happens.

The carb being repaired under the hood of the car in pete's garage was not getting fuel. He knew this, we didn't and it happened quite by accident while he was pondering the problem. Nevertheless, there could have been gas in the bowl. He never did that again and would caution anyone from doing this.

He set the timer on the stove in the apartment but it wasn't working properly. Also, he knew that I would be home soon. However, he felt that he should not have let the rush to get out to work distract him from turning off the cake before leaving. Again, lesson learned, not to be repeated.

The toilet burning actually happened in the early testing of the EVC formula and during the 2nd rinse phase. He had vented the room and rinsed once already. The small puff of flame and smoke was actually mostly inside the bowl and quite minor. The shock of heat and smoke was enough to cause him to warn people to keep away until he was sure it was safe. He even later went to the extreme of placing yellow tape around the area while telling the story.

The people in the shower were clothed when I got there. Someone kept turning on the water and soaking whoever was nearby. That's what made it so crazy and funny. It was kind-of a wet, stuffed phonebooth gag. And he was a very accomplished cook. I hear the breakfast was great. I just wasn't up for food that morning. John and Joe Hicks had even removed a broken spark plug from my Nova when the sun came up before I had time to even get my shoes on. I kept that piece of plug for years just to show people how far he'd go to help.

John gave in ways that might be impossible to repay. In fact, he shunned any attempt for you to do so. There was a time he kept trying to pay me 2 pennies he owed me from making change or something that I told him to keep. He would leave them on my desk, and I'd stick them in his oven mitts. He'd shove them under my door when I was in my room concentrating on coursework (I probably needed the break) and I'd tape them in an envelope to the steering wheel of his car. Stuff like that went on for weeks until I finally gave up.

These are just some of the things about John that made him special and unique in the most positive way.


Peter (Fuligin) and I still have Spock childhood desk. We where just out at UMass at the end of June with the kids feeding the ducks at the pond. We took them by UMSFS and WMUA and the Blue Wall.

Peter and Misch Lee

I met John in the Twinkle days on one of my typical ventures up Orchard Hill, 301 Field to be precise. It was a usual evening of carousing with Beowulf, Trout, et al. We went out on "a mission" in the Charger aka Starship. It was only the first of many....

I remember working on the carb of the Dodge in Pete's garge, with a Camel (filtered) in his mouth with a loooong ash hanging over it and a bowl full of gas. I never saw peter move so fast in my life. No, the ash missed ..... this time....

We were comrades and eventually roommates in Northwood Apartments. I clearly remember a classic John incident from the first few weeks in that apartment. I came home one afternoon after a full day of classes. When I walked in the door, I sensed the familiar smell of smoke. "John's cooking again," I thought. I closed the door and went to the kitchenette and the oven which was on. When my calls of "John! John!" went unanswered I turned off the oven and opened it's door to a thick cloud of smoke billowing out. I quickly hit the exhaust fan. Then, I saw inside a round cake pan. I grabbed a pair of oven mitts that John always had handy, yanked it out and placed it on the stove top. When the smoke had cleared , I discovered a small "hockey puck" in the center of the pan. Nice! I just left it there to cool a bit and went to my room and my desk to unload my books. Shortly, I heard a PVTA bus pull up outside, some quick steps to the door and keys in the lock. The door flew open and John ran over to the stove. He yanked open the oven door, looked inside and shouted, "Oh my God! It disintegrated!!"

It was in that apartment that the "after Rocky Horror" party occurred. I came home in the wee hours after a night of carousing with Beowulf, Norcott, Bumpas, Kendall, etc. John was burning breakfast for the cast and crew. I took one look at all the people in the shower, shook my head mumbling something like "Not again ..." and went to my room to crash.

It was in that apartment that I witnessed the first "burning toilet bowl". Doug was not to blame, since it was before he moved in with us. You see it was actually John cleaning the john with EVC and a Camel with another deadly loooong ash. This time it hit the mark and "POOOFF!!" Fortunately, it only singed his beard. I'm not sure, but I think Doug may have been responsible for the second burning bowl. At that time, Spock declared that there were 3 John's in the apartment and only 1 flushed! Doug's middle name is John.

I will definitely join a gathering at the Blue Wall in memory of John. He was one of my best friends, a brother. I love you John and I miss you.

Steve aka Gemini

I met John back in 1984, or '85 through Confer. We became friends, which is odd as I didn't do that very well. Through most of my time in western Mass John was always there, if I was moving he was driving the truck I borrowed from my brother-ini-law at 3:00 AM through Amherst. But we all know that John was generous with his time and himself. There was the time that he stopped by my apartment and had me grab my vacuum cleaner and jump into the Starship. We were off to rescue a friend's car by vacumming the chrome bits out of his carburator. There was the time that we raced up from South Hadley at about 2 in the morning, he in the Starship, me in my underpowered Mazda station wagon. He did faster on the straights, but I caught up to him in the curves. Then there was the time that I tuned up the Mazda, and he told me that there was no point tuning a car up if you weren't going to wring it out. This ended up with an explanation to the security gyuy patrolling the parking lot at the Hampshire mall. John brought fun into my life in a way no one else ever has. But John did something even better. He saw things in me that I did not see. He wanted to go into an IT consulting business, and wanted me to be part of it. He handed me a book on DB II and told me to learn it , as it was very much like Dbase, and that would be invalubable to a consulting business. Sadly that business never happened, but the fact that he believed I could learn database programming made it very hard to not learn it. John always had faith in me even when I didn't, and I think it angered him when I would give up on myself. At one point we didn't communicate much for over ten years, despite my not infrequent visits to Boulder. When 4 years ago I stopped in Boulder with Alyxx, on my way cross country we stayed overnight with John, and it was as if we had never had a falling out. He met us at the door with appropriate alcohol in hand, and we talked the rest of the night. Last year when I was spending a lot of time in Colorado due to a health crisis in my family he insisted that I spend some time with him. It was a godsend to be able to just relax with a good friend and not dwell on my family issues.

I missed John during the time we were out of communication, but I will miss him still more now that he has gone on ahead to scout the terrain for us.

Jeremy Dunn aka Frodo aka the_mad_baker
jeremy at pantherhawk dot net

There have been a lot of comments about the gifts John gave us in life, and how even in his passing, he has given us one final gift of bringing us all back in touch after a long stretch of years.

Steve's e-mailings and Tim's blog have been invaluable in these days since we heard the very sad news. There have been questions on the blog and in emails between Steve and others about trying to coordinate future gatherings of the UMass / Confer community that John influenced so much. I'd like to offer a private e-mail list to help in coordinating a reunion of John's friends (one as early as October in western MA), as well as a place where folks can stay or get back in touch over the years to come. The list is called, "Hloe", in tribute to how John would often start a conversation with anyone.

If you'd like to subscribe to the list, send an e-mail to: majordomo at virgil dot com.

The subject line of the e-mail can be anything you like.

The body of the e-mail should contain only the following line (nothing else - not even signatures):

subscribe hloe {your e-mail address}

If all goes well, you'll receive 2 messages. One gives you information about the mailing list - you should keep it for reference. The other will contain a key with instructions for sending a confirmation e-mail that you'll need to follow to complete your registration.

Once you've been added to the list, you'll receive a welcome message and you'll be able to post to the list. The e-mail address to send mail to the "Hloe" list is: hloe at virgil dot com.

The list only accepts posts from members, so you won't have to worry about spambots or other junk mail coming in through it.

If for some reason you have trouble subscribing to the "Hloe" list, send me an e-mail (jsb at virgil dot com) and I will add you directly.

Take care everyone,

- Jim

I have thought about this for a couple of days but I still don't know where to begin. I met and became friends with John in 1997 while working at Paranet. I remember working with him on a project at Corporate Express for a few weeks and he was one hard worker. I also remember chatting and drinking beers with him at various Paranet meetings. I left Paranet in March of 1998 for Sun Microsystems.

John was the type of guy you could count on when things were bad. In May of 1998 I broke both of my ankles and I spent a year either in a wheelchair or on crutches. This was further complicated since my wife was 8 months pregnant with our second daughter. John took it upon himself to mow and take care of our yard all summer. He even conned his friends to mow our yard when he was out of town for work. They do not make many guys that you can count like that.

I eventually found myself in the Broomfield Campus SA Group at Sun. John later joined this group and this is where the toilet made its appearance at Sun. On occasion, John would plant a Snickers bar in the toilet for added effect.

I remember how proud John was when he bought his house in Lafayette. He was particularly pleased that he had his real estate agent list a decorative light switch cover that is located in the basement as an inclusion so it would show up in the county records and he wondered if any county clerks ever noticed.

Restoring the 1985 red Nishiki Mountain bike to rideable order.
Pint Low
A free beer is never a bad beer
How many M80s does it take to blow up .........
That's going to leave a mark
We always wondered but never figured out how many beers you could fit in the back of the truck.

I have left the IT field and now own a restaurant and bar in Erie, CO which is just NE of Lafayette. I will be at the bar/restaurant every night (Wed-Sun) for the rest of the week so feel free to stop by for a microbrew or cup of strong coffee. The address is 524 Briggs St.

Someone wrote: "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."

Of course not.
Tunnelling is illegal.


One of my favorite memories of John is of one Thanksgiving dinner at our house the year one of the Northampton housemates had planted a garden. He hadn't been allowed to take care of the garden in his preferred way - mowing - but by this time the season was over and the garden abandoned. John arrived for dinner and proudly announced "I brought the broccoli!!" brandishing a 3-foot stalk that he had harvested by tying it to the bumper of the Starship.
Another favorite is the day he called me from Conway to tell me that it was really not a good idea to cook chicken for three days - because of course he just found out he had.
As so many others have said, there are too many to post here.
I wasn't really part of the confer/OIT group, except peripherally. John was the first student Peter ever brought home and considered a friend. Some of the people who John brought along or introduced us to are still among our closest friends. He was a huge part of our lives, and will be sorely missed.
Janice deFriesse

Very shrunken and cropped versions of the 1st grade and hiking images.
I don't mean to offend anyone, it is just that imaging is play for me

First grade 96K
Hiking 60K