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Mourning the passing of cherished colleagues December 4, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.

I would like to welcome guest blogger, Susanne Aldridge from In-House Translators – A Dying Breed, who helped me write this. I didn’t realize the irony of her blog title and the fact that she is helping me until I just typed it. No pun was intended. She may have helped me write this, but will also be writing her own memorial for Judy Ann. This is not a very cheerful topic to discuss, but I feel it is an important one.

Susanne and I have been active on the Internet for many years now. One interesting phenomenon that we have noticed is how close you can become with someone whom you have never met face to face. We have lost several colleagues over the years who were active in online listservs or blogs, and it never ceases to amaze us how their deaths affect us.

Getting news of someone’s death is always a disheartening experience. Whether we read about it in the papers, or are informed by friends, whether the death is due to natural causes or has been sudden and unexpected, it saddens us. And this is so even when we don’t know the person who has died.

My first experience with virtual loss was the death of David Orpin back in 2002. His posts to PT were always very well-written and profound, and I find myself sometimes referring back to them to this day. His insights and posts were extremely helpful to a newcomer to the business like me, and those of us on PT still remember him fondly to this day.

The death that really made me realize how close we can become to someone we have never met was the death of  one of my fellow volunteer translators at German News, Hermann Evelbauer. I learned of his death while checking my e-mail in the middle of the Exhibit Hall at the ATA conference. Tears streamed down my face and I felt the profound loss of such a helpful colleague, yet I had never met him because he had lived in Brazil.

The latest colleague to pass on is Judy Ann Schön, a English to German translator who lived in Lenggries. She was an active participant of the PT list and she was famous for her incredible knowledge of DejaVu X. She was a certified Atril training partner and, with her company EDV & Seminare, she taught DejaVu X training courses. Even though teaching DejaVu X was one of her jobs, she never hesitated to give free support and answer questions on and off the mailing lists. For many, her offer “If you like, you can send me your file and I’ll fix it” was a life saver and you never heard anything but rave reviews about her courses. She is survived by her daughter Sandra, a geology student at the University of Munich. The PT list, one of her virtual homes, is collecting money to help out Sandra and to show that, even though most of us had never met Judy Ann, we are truly affected by her passing. We may work in isolation, but something like this really brings the community together and, while Judy Ann asked to keep her illness a private matter, we believe that we can now get together to remember her.

Susanne and I were talking this morning about the phenomenon of losing an online acquaintance/colleague. We both mentioned that we had written out instructions for our executors about whom to notify once we are gone. Our families most likely have no idea how active we are online and where we were most active, so a list of groups to notify in the event of your death will be a huge help – and will allow your online friends to grieve and not simply wonder what has happened to you a few months after you stop posting. Consider taking a few minutes this week and compiling a list of the groups you are involved in. I have my list stored with my Living Will and other important documents. It may sound silly to many and you may not feel this way, but I do consider a lot of the participants on the various lists and message boards to be my colleagues and friends. In today’s world, I probably know them better than many of my next-door neighbors and I would want to know if something happened to them.

The outpouring of sympathy from online colleagues and friends will definitely warm the hearts of your family and next of kin. I myself am frequently touched by the responses on various listservs when the news hits that someone has passed. We mourn together as a community.


1. Kevin Lossner - December 4, 2008

What a shock. I had heard some months ago when I tried to refer someone to Judy Ann for training that she was unavailable due to illness, but I assumed and hoped that was a temporary matter. I never met her, but I too benefited often from her advice and valued her as one of the best in the DV user forums. When I saw the notice of her death this morning on the list, I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. Her professional generosity will be remembered always.

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