Day of the Dead Musings

Two fannish acquaintances of mine passed away recently. By Fannish, I mean people who are part of the science fiction fandom community.

I first met Fred Duarte at an Armadillocon back in the late 1980s. Later, when I moved to Austin, Texas in 1993, he and his wife Karen Meschke were two of the people who looked out for me a little. Fred, Willie Sirois and I went to a Houston Astros baseball game in Fred’s land-barge, (the Mets won that day, if I remember correctly) and we had a fun time. Later still, after things went poorly at the job I’d moved there to accept, Fred helped celebrate my birthday with me by driving to the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame. They have an impressive collection of memorabilia there, no less for the fact that Texas has an impressive roster of players who made it to the Big Leagues including one of the favorite players of my youth, Cecil Cooper.

Fred was active in running conventions, was a longstanding member of the Fandom Association of Central Texas (FACT), and was instrumental in bids to bring the World Science Fiction Convention to San Antonio, Texas. He seemed to truly enjoy running conventions, even if, at any given time they were exasperating, exhausting, and a lot of hard, thankless work.

The year I lived in Texas was one of the loneliest times of my life. For some reason, Texas fan culture wasn’t as big on get-togethers as I was used to in Wisconsin. Being new to the area, I knew very few people, so I spent a lot of time by myself. Fred helped make that time a little less lonely, for which I am grateful. After I moved back to Wisconsin, Fred and I lost touch, but I didn’t forget him, nor his and Karen’s friendship towards me. Fred’s official obituary can be found here.

Don West was a grumpy British fan, known for his sarcastic wit and his illustrations which graced many a fanzine. In fact, it was something of a status symbol among fanzine fans, to have a D. West illo gracing your pages. I met D. back in 1990. Lucy Huntzinger and I went to the UK together, her to indulge her love of travel, and me to see someone with whom I’d developed a long-distance relationship. Everyone assumed — incorrectly — that Lucy and I were sleeping together, which gave Lucy no end of anxiety. The last thing she wanted was rumors of that sort getting back to her husband. It was awkward.

Anyway, Lucy wanted to visit Haworth, home of the Brontes, and I was game to go along. Don, living in the area, agreed to meet us there, though he’d seen the Parsonage before so he waited in a nearby pub. Afterwards in the pub, while Lucy was otherwise engaged, DOn and I talked about fandom, and we agreed that people took themselves far too seriously. Don was a shameless flirt, and a ladies man, and also an intelligent man. I’m sorry I never got to see him again after that. An obituary can be found here.

In any given lifetime, hundreds — perhaps thousands — of people will touch your life in some way. I didn’t know either of them well — hardly at all, really — but I’m proud to say I got to know both Fred Duarte and Don West a little bit. I regret not having the chance to spend more time with both of them, but I’m grateful for what I did have. Godspeed, gentlemen.

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