Yesterday I discovered that one of my friends, Jeff Woloson has died, on the 7th August. He had been in perfect health, but was found sitting at his PC by his sister-in-law.
Jeff had recently lost his husband of 16 years, Isaac Koole. The pain of Issac’s loss had been unbearable for Jeff, and I think most of us who knew him are grateful that they are now together again, even as we mourn his loss to ourselves. I know I haven’t stopped crying since I heard.
I first met Jeff on Wikipedia some two years ago, over the creation of a LGBT Barnstar for editing on LGBT-related articles. It’s somewhat poignant that we met in the midst of an edit war – many more were to follow in the years to come. Sometimes we were on the same side, sometimes we weren’t. Our argument over the age of consent lasted three hours. I found Jeff’s support for Hilary Clinton misguided, he thought my support for Barack Obama naive. We both hated the Iranian regime. A friendship was born.
Jeff may have come across as cranky on Wikipedia, indeed, his IRC name is was KingCranky, but he was one of the kindest, trusting people I ever met. He flew over to London on nothing more than my word that I had a ticket to see Westlife for him. He gave me the username and password to his New York Times subscription and told me I could use it for whatever I liked. He offered to go to Wikimania in Taipei with me so that he could be sure I would be safe.
That jaunt to see Westlife, for which I made a 400 mile round trip, was a memory of Jeff I will treasure forever. He knew the words to all the songs, and was giddy as a schoolboy to see them. We spent hours traipsing round the streets of London beforehand, wandering in and out of shops, all the while arguing, talking, and gossiping about people on Wikipedia. Jeff loved gossiping and talking about other people, even though his opinions about other people could be very hurtful at times.
There was much about Jeff I didn’t understand: his love of Hilary Clinton, his obsession with 1960s television and film, his hatred of Perverted Justice. But he was never afraid to express what he believed, and to follow through with it. It made him him. Other people disliked Jeff heartily for his forthrightness, but it made many others appreciate him more.
As both Jeff and I moved off Wikipedia and onto other projects, we stopped communicating as much. I was in America when Jeff sent me an email to tell me that Isaac had died from complications to do with his illness. I immediately sent an email back offering my condolences and a week later we got on Google chat. Jeff was completely heartbroken over the death of Isaac, and distraught at the fact that he had ordered the CPR to cease. He told me he felt like a murderer, and their cats were the only reason he was still alive. That was the last time I ever got the chance to speak to him. Two weeks later, Jeff was dead. I guess in the end the cats weren’t a good enough reason.
I never met Isaac, but I heard enough about him (my god, did I hear about him – Jeff lived for Isaac) that I truly wish I had had the opportunity. Jeff’s funeral speech is heartbreaking to read. Now Jeff is gone too. It’s at times like these one wonders where God was when these two amazing human beings were going through such suffering.
You will be missed, Jeff Woloson, and my life will be just that little less technicolour without you in it.
Me and Jeff after seeing Westlife in March 2008. Goodbye, my friend.
Originally posted to God Made The Rainbow.