Thursday, January 19, 2017

In Memoriam: Notable AFOLs We Lost in 2016

The biggest reason this blog got quieter in 2016 isn't actually personal issues getting in the way. It's the difficulty with figuring out how to write this post. We lost many notable figures in the LEGO fan community this past year. I'm not even talking about Carrie Fisher (Star Wars' Princess Leia) or any of the other "celebrities" the rest of the world knows. I'm saying we've lost many of our friends, our inspirations, and predecessors.

Not knowing how to grapple with that made it difficult to say something right away. Over time, I quickly started to think that more fitting and thorough tributes were required to properly eulogize and remember why these people were important. Then the terrifying realizations started settling in: people will want you to say something more meaningful now that you've taken longer to say anything. More people have died and it's not fair to any of them to compress them all into one post. Nobody else is saying anything. Wait, really? None of the big AFOL blogs noticed Seymour Papert died? Or Ed Boxer? Or Robin Werner? What kind of community are we? How little do we know about our history, or care about people who are active in different parts of the country than we are in? How many more important AFOLs has our community lost that I don't know about? What does it say about us "LEGO news blogs" in the "AFOL community" that when we lose someone important in our community, we don't say or do ANYTHING to honor the departed? Can we really claim to be a community if we don't do anything in these situations?

The guilt set in. I knew I had to write something about it, but anything I said would be too little, too late. We've disrespected our elders too much already, and even focusing on what's wrong with us as a community instead of what we loved about those we've lost is unfair to their memory. I just can't win, and it feels like most of our "community" doesn't even realize that we should be fighting to preserve our community.

Without further ado; here is too little, too late (in roughly chronological order):

  • Seymour Papert
    A giant in a few different worlds, Seymour Papert is probably best known to LEGO fans for his role in creating the LEGO Mindstorms range. He's not just a major figure in bringing LEGO into the classroom, though - he's also the major figure in bringing computers into the classroom. Before Mindstorms, he was instrumental in developing the LOGO language, he spoke at one of the earliest LEGO fan events, and he did much of the research underpinning the bringing both play and programming into education. Like I said - I can't do him justice in a short blurb.

    Further reading:
    The ACM published a thorough obituary
    HispaBrick published a short blog post about his passing, and also republished an article on his role in inspiring the evolution of the LEGO MINDSTORMS line
    The LEGO Foundation posted a brief tribute
    Wikipedia Bio
    Slashdot report and comment thread
    Bio on Daily Papert

  • Ed Boxer
    If you're a "real AFOL" (tm), you know about Ed Boxer's LEGO Castle. It was impossible to miss in the late 90s, especially after it was recognized as the first "Cool LEGO Site of the Week" (he was later featured two more times). Admittedly, he had been quiet in the community for some years before he passed last summer, but he will still be missed.

    Further reading:
    Cool LEGO Site of the Week : Site #1
    Ed Boxer's LEGO Castle as saved by the Internet Archive
    Ed Boxer's site as saved by Library of the Collective Human Record

  • Robin Werner
    Robin Werner spent was active in the AFOL community for a longer time than most, but he primarily focused on town and train layouts in his home state of Florida. He was a founder of both the Greater Florida LEGO User Group (GFLUG) and the Greater Florida LEGO Train Club (GFLTC) - and in many ways, he was the indispensable man keeping GFLUG rolling. Best known for his stunningly ambitious downtown Tampa layout, he passed very suddenly just after returning from a month-long tour of three AFOL events.

    Further reading: (as of this writing, still frozen in time with reports of events from before Robin's last outing)
    GFLTC history (a summary of 1996-2004, which shows how important Robin was in establishing his state's LEGO scene)
    GFLTC on Brickshelf
    Cool LEGO Site of the Week : Site #120 was "Robin's LEGO® Zone", which seems to be lost to history (if you can find it, let us know).

  • Paul Quigley
    Barely a month after Robin's passing, GFLUG was still reeling from the news when we found out that Paul Quigley was gone as well. While he didn't have the travel itinerary of others on this list, I knew him as a passionate builder, friendly vendor, and devoted family man. He was a constant, active force in a LUG that badly needed the support, and it's unclear how the LUG will continue after losing two of its most active members.

    Further reading:
    Jurassic World MOC as captured by The Brick Show

  • Durrell Reichley
    A fixture at AFOL events in recent years, Durrell Reichley was a key person in running ColonialLUG, the first recognized LEGO User Group aimed primarily at teenagers. Part of a rare family of FOLs, he was often more of a supporting player for his wife (Mary) and two sons (Zane and Nathaniel), who remain active in the hobby.

    Further reading:
    ColonialLUG website

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