The reason I passed through that so quickly is that they're just facts, I've been struggling since his death to get his essence down in words for this page and it finally hit me on the train back from his funeral.
Three speakers gave eulogies. His best friend from his army days who told us about his army life, his wounding and his recovery; a friend from the one of the Dalmatian Societies who told us about all the work he did for the breed and the societies and finally his son who told us about his father, a man he only knew in a wheelchair.
Most of the people reading this know him for his work in the Diplomacy field, he ran a magazine, created the postal rules for Sopwith and created the Diplomacy 2000 website.
Again more facts, the point being that it really isn't relevant what Tom did, what's relevant is what he was, as was pointed out at his funeral, he was reasonably good at quite a lot of things but he was only really good at one thing and that was being Tom.
Basically he was a people person, he was sociable, he liked people, he got on with almost everyone and he made things happen. He may not have been an expert but if you were chatting with him and mentioned a problem he probably knew someone who was and would get the answer for you, I've lost count of the number of computers I've fixed by proxy because Tom rang me to ask for the answer to a problem someone else was having.
People did things for him, mainly because they liked him. One of his friends needed something done, he happened to know someone with the skills and inclination to do it, he had problems keeping up with his website because it had become too successful, it got automated, software got written, other people helped with it; he was always grateful, often seemed quite surprised that people were so helpful and probably never realised quite how special he was.
I knew him for over 20 years, I never met him, I never felt a need to do so although now there's a slight regret that I didn't. We met on a bulletin board in the mid 80s when he was trying to start online games, way before the web and email were common. For some reason we hit it off, we communicated regularly, we talked on the phone, sometimes 2 or 3 times a night sometimes not for a few weeks, usually once or twice a week, for over 20 years and a man who I never met became one of my closest friends.
I last spoke to him a couple of weeks before his death, even then when he knew he was in his last days he was thinking of others. He wanted to ensure I had all the data I needed to make sure the website would continue, he didn't want to let anyone down and he wanted me to know how much he'd valued my friendship, I must admit I was slightly embarrassed, I tend to be that way when people thank me, it's the main reason I do most things under a pseudonym, I hope he knew I felt the same because I'm not certain I told him so, he'd been very ill before and while I knew he didn't have too long left I don't think I'd allowed myself to believe the end was that close.
The thing I'm going to miss most, daft as it sounds is that I can't pick up the phone and ring to annoy him. I'd be bored, looking for something to entertain myself or occasionally feeling a little low, I'd pick up the phone, ring Tom, tell him I'd just rung to be irritating and go on to have a weird conversation with him and Jan (you couldn't just talk to him unless she was out of the house!). Ten minutes, half an hour, sometimes an hour later I'd put the phone down, cheered up, entertained and having had a conversion which could have ranged almost anywhere and usually did. He was always happy to chat, always had time for you and accepted you as you were, warts and all.
This may seem like an unusual way to sum up someone's life but Tom was an unusual person, I've only realised since his death just how unusual and rare he was, how many people he touched and quite how much I and many others will miss him.
The Phantom Programmer