Sunday, June 8, 2008

In Memoriam - Ron Roberts

I found out yesterday that a fellow comrade in the UNIX/Open Source world, Ron Roberts, died suddenly at the Kerrville Folk Festival. There is still no word about exactly what happened, and it occurred to me how little I knew about Ron other than the fact that he was a computer enthusiast. So I took a gander around and finally found Ron's web site (where I acquired the photo you see here).

So aside from the fact that Ron is a native Texan, born in March of 1950 in Houston, and that he's always struck me as being a damn good system administrator, he apparently clowns-around (seriously, "Ronzo The Clown"), has dabbled in playing acoustic guitar, and enjoys sailboating. So this probably accounts for his wacky sense of humor and the fact he has always been an easy-going voice at the CACTUS (UNIX computer user group) meetings. He lives with his "lady" (as a close friend called her) Kat, who shares his love for acoustic music.

As you may have noticed, I have a bit of trouble writing about Ron in the past tense. While I haven't actually seen him in several months, when I did see him (typically at the monthly user group meetings) it was always a pleasure. I recall his surprise when I told him I was finally going to give-up FreeBSD. At the same time, he was one of the few people I knew that actually understood why I was going to Linux instead.

I'll say that I don't handle death well. I don't care much for going to funerals, so I usually don't. I like to honor the passing of the people I know in my own way, because I feel it's a very personal thing. Some people gather strength through congregating with people who knew the deceased, and others (like myself) like to take some time to remember the person in relative solitude. Since I don't really believe in an afterlife, I think that the parts of ourselves we leave behind with the people we have touched is important. In Ron's case, he shows that computer enthusiasts can have a creative and wacky side as well as a seriously technological side. Ron also showed that computer guys can and do like to put the computer aside and appreciate acoustic music and have a concern for what's happening in the world. Ron, you'll definitely be missed, but rest assured that you've left your mark on the world, and it was, indeed, a good one.


Conrad said...

I had the pleasure to meet Ron at work. Being also a UNIX support person we meet out by the duck pond and swapped stories of problems solved. We both smoked and talked often. I quit 6 weeks ago and haven't talked much lately as I have avoided the smoking area... My heart goes out to his family and close friends... He will be missed...

Jody said...

I was shocked to learn the sad news of Ron's passing. I also had the pleasure of meeting him at work. I was struck most by his propensity to point a jesting finger at the "elephant in the room" when others were reticent to comment at all. His maverick sense of humor always made my day. My sympathy goes out to his love, his family, and his friends. He will be greatly missed around here.

cpu said...

Here is the official obituary, as published in the Austin American Statesman:

Ronald Hugh (Ronzo) Roberts Ronald Hugh Roberts, fondly known as Ronzo, left us on Saturday, June 7, 2008, while camping with friends at the Kerrville Folk Festival. A long-time resident of Austin, Ronzo was born in Houston, Texas on March 9, 1950. In his own words, he was a nerd (UNIX Systems Analyst) by day and a clown by night. Ronzo graduated from the University of Texas in 1975. Over the years, Ronzo was involved in numerous endeavors, including the Boy Scouts (an Eagle Scout and member of the Order of the Arrow,) sailing, CACTUS, and the democratic party. Ron is preceded in death by his mother Sybil Louise Elhert Roberts, and his older brother David Wilson Roberts, Jr. He is survived by Kathryn Joy Stevens (his significant other); his father, David Wilson Roberts, Sr.; his younger brother, Richard Charles (Chuck) Roberts; and many friends who loved him dearly. Ronzo didn't want a memorial or service. He asked instead that his friends have a party and celebrate his life. So long Ronzo, we'll "prepare to panic", and we'll miss you!

Anonymous said...

I had the distinct pleasure of working with Ron wayyy back in ancient history, for one of the five years that I lived in Austin and worked at Texas Instruments. That would've been in the '79-'80 timeframe.

The group we worked in would sometimes gather together after work for poker-parties or chess evenings. A memory that still makes me chuckle is him telling me that I played (chess) like a Boehmian, perhaps as a humorous poke at my somewhat unrefined/unconventional playing style.

Conversations with him were always not only wide-ranging and philosophical, but friendly and easy-going.

I moved away from Texas in '83, but have occasionally looked him up _intending_ to reach out and say hi again, but for no reason I can think of, never taking that last step. More's the pity, as I'm only just seeing his obituary now, nearly seven years after the fact.

For what interaction we did have, I consider my life enhanced.

Patrick Sweeney
Edmonds, WA