I got a phone call today.
And old friend and mentor of mine, Wendell Collier, passed away on Saturday morning from complications of pneumonia. He was 37 years old.
I met Wendell when I went to work for Auction Broker Software. I liked him from the very beginning. He was a warm, open, friendly and genuinely happy guy. He was arguably one of the hardest working men I’ve ever met in my life, regularly putting in 12 hours a day or more and still fitting in time for his family and his church. Yes, he was a very religious man as well. Thing is, I really enjoyed talking about religion with him. You see, Wendell never tried to push his beliefs off on me. Any time we talked about God he would ask me, “Are you sure you are ok talking about this with me?” He would answer my questions about his faith honestly, and never looked down on me for not sharing them. Was it obvious that he wished I felt the way he did. Patently. But that came from a place of truly being concerned about me, and he never let those beliefs show in an overbearing manner.
I remember his passion for spaceships. He loved rendering 3-D models of them while he was taking breaks at work. He told me all about Space 1999, which I had never seen before. We would spend hours talking about all that is geeky in Science Fiction. I remember one time how he purchased a model for the Space 1999 ship during a lunch break, and the schoolboy joy that was evident on his face as he opened the package back at the office.
I remember how much he LOVED chinese food. Whenever we went out for lunch, or it was ordered into the office for us, it was Chinese. Crab Rangoon was huge with him, and in fact I think the first time I ever had Crab Rangoon it was because he uncharacteristically offered to share one of his pieces with me.
He was an amazing teacher. In fact, much of the expertise that I have in my field today can be directly contributed to him. He would never tell you exactly what to do. He would push you in the right direction and let you find your own way. The software that he wrote for Auction Broker was light years ahead of its time, and had it been marketed properly could have made them a lot of money. Other people recognized his talent, and had the vision to utilize it, and hired him away from there. He took his skills to their business, and helped them create a piece of software that was so good it actually threatened to take business away from eBay. So eBay bought it. Unless I miss my guess, he made those people a lot of money (and, quite honestly, saved them from being yet another in a long list of crushed dreams that ABS left in its wake). He was on the verge of doing it again. Yet another piece of software that he helped to develop was set to go live in February.
His employer, who called to tell me the news, said that it will take 3 or 4 programmers to replace him. I think me might be shooting a bit too low. I also understand that he was active in the SCA where he lived in Texas. From the references that netgoth found, it would appear he was highly regarded there. He was also the Children’s Marshall for Southeastern Ansteorra (the Kingdom that is Texas). Again, not a surprise. Family meant everything to Wendell, and if there was ever a man who lived to the code that the SCA represents it was him. Honor. Integrity. Loyalty. Chivalry. He was truly a knight of the modern age.
I haven’t talked to Wendell in years, but we frequently talked of him with fondness. He was a unique individual, and a good friend. My heart goes out to his wife and children right now. If he meant all of this to me, imagine what he was to them.
I know that he would not have been afraid of death, and that he would want us to take comfort in that. In some way, I do. All I know is that here on Earth it’s a little bit dimmer, and in the sky it’s a little bit brighter. There’s a big new star up there now.
Rest in peace, my friend.