Tonight's email brought news that my former co-worker Patrice O'Neill died of cancer on Saturday.
Patrice was great. I was one of the people who interviewed her for the job of manager of our documentation-production department back in August of 2001, and we liked each other pretty much from the start. (The "production" department is the group that takes the docs the writers have written and turns them into finished books and help systems.) She was clearly the right person for the job—when someone's got a lot of the right kind of experience with FrameMaker and other tech writing tools, it's clear from the way they talk about it, and it was obvious that she really knew her stuff. She had the right background and the right attitude, and we hired her pretty quickly, and she turned out to be at least as great as she'd appeared to be in the interview. And then she brought in a couple of other people (former co-workers of hers) who turned out to be really good as well.
She and I had occasional conflicts, but mostly we got along really well. Each of us had a very high opinion of the other. I think everyone who worked with her liked her; one of the people who reported to her once mentioned to me that he felt lucky to have her as a manager. I certainly felt lucky to work with her. There were many times over the years when various of us in the writing department would turn to each other and say, "Patrice is great!"
I was distressed when she was diagnosed with cancer in March of 2004, and very pleased when (I thought) she seemed to have beaten it. She came back to work (part time) just as I was leaving the company last October; we had a really nice talk on the phone, in which we both made clear how much we liked and respected each other. I meant to keep in touch; I even have the beginning of a note I wrote her in February that I never got around to finishing or sending.
She sent me a very nice condolence note in March. I always meant to reply to it, but never got around to that either.
In that note, she also talked about her younger brother, who had died in a car accident a year and a half earlier. She said that she wasn't afraid to die of her cancer, because she knew that her brother would be there waiting for her. Somehow I either didn't notice that part of her note, or else didn't remember it later; I hadn't realized, or hadn't remembered, that the cancer was back. But I'm glad to know that her faith gave her some comfort.
Tonight, my former manager wrote to tell me that Patrice had died.
Through a variety of quirks and chances, Lola was still here. She held me while I cried.
The last thing Patrice said in the note she wrote me in March was "I hope someday we will work together again!" I hoped so too. I think she knew that, but I wish I had told her so.
I gather that the documentation department dedicated the docs for the latest release of the Macromedia products to Patrice. A fitting tribute.
It seems silly to say this about someone who I hadn't talked with in the last year, but I'll miss her.