It has been a beautiful, balmy day, one of the best in a dreadful summer, but tinged with a little sadness. I’d never met Robert Phelan, nor could I call him a friend directly, and yet when my husband woke me with the news of his death as reported on WUWT, I felt his loss quite acutely.
I’d only known him, as commenter ‘rephelan’, one of the more insightful of the WUWT regulars, and as Bob Phelan – ‘REP’ – part of the moderation team, highly active and seemingly tireless, fair and giving no quarter to those who stepped over the bounds of the site rules. We had little direct correspondence other than that generally aimed at the whole moderation team, but he was ready with an anecdote when I expressed regret at being unable to make it over for the WUWT East Coast picnic he had planned. In that short email was the essence of the man – warm, funny, intelligent – and I regretted being unable to meet him and many others all the more.
I heard a snippet of a radio programme a while back about how the digital age has affected friendships and relationships. Actually I have the whole thing on podcast – I should remember to listen to it. The gist of what I heard concluded that, although we reveal so little of ourselves in online exchanges, we somehow manage to convey the elements that underpin our personalities. So, although it seemed a little strange to me to be so sad at Bob’s passing when really I knew so little about him (I learned more from reading the announcement posting than I had previously known), perhaps it should not surprise me that he had touched and affected my life.
My family spent today at the beach and I had plenty of time for solitude. Apparently Bob’s house has an ocean view so it seemed appropriate to have sand between my toes, the breeze in my hair and the sound of the waves in my ears as I reflected on all of this.
Quite simply Bob was someone who made a difference, and that is perhaps the best that each of us can aspire to. My condolences go out to his family and friends; he will be sadly missed.