We and the whole i community lost a friend last week. Long-time midrange advocate Al Barsa died in Nashville on Thursday night. It's now Tuesday morning, and we're still completely stunned. Al was always larger than life and it's hard to comprehend our world without him.
When you first met Al it was all too easy to label him as the brash, loud, New Yorker that he appeared on the surface. It was only when you got to know him a little better that you realized he was one of the kindest most caring people you would ever be privileged to meet. The only thing that Al loved more than the "i" was his family. Indeed the last time Jon talked to him, the majority of the conversation centered around his pride in his children, Albert and Christie, and tales of how well they were doing at college. The balance of the conversation was about Al's willingness to let us use one of his V6R1 systems after Jon had mentioned that we were having trouble gaining access to one. If generosity wasn't his middle name, it should have been.
Over the years, many IBMers were the target of Al's clinical dissection of the problems of a particular release or piece of software. Certain past GMs even tried to have him prevented from asking questions at COMMON, so penetrating and profound could be the issues he uncovered. But he was equally quick at handing out kudos where they were due and to congratulate IBM for resolving the issues. For some years when he sat on the COMMON Soundoff panel, Jon was always grateful that Al's interests did not often extend to the application development tools and compilers for which he was responsible. But when Al did target that area ...
Al's reach extended way beyond his speaking appearances. Many people who didn't have the good fortune to meet him in person, knew him through his support of Internet lists such as Midrange-L. Al was always willing to share his knowledge with others, and many's the time that a list member received a surprise phone call after posting a question. Al would simply phone them if the answer was just too complicated to type, or required significant amount of Q and A. Since few include their phone numbers in their posts, Al often went to great lengths to locate the individual, using his significant investigative and persuasive skills to track someone down to lend a hand. He didn't have to do it, but he always did.
We were fortunate to have been part of both Al's personal and private lives. We worked with him many times, at LISUG, COMMON and the Education Connection conferences of which we were part of for many years. In fact Al and his lovely (and ever patient) wife, Sue, were among the guests at our wedding. It was good this weekend to be able to look at those pictures and see the happy and smiling friend that we will always remember.
Al was doing what (next to his family) he enjoyed most in the world. Although not in the best of health, he went to Nashville to attend COMMON and deliver a number of his award-winning presentations. Every time you saw him he would be talking to attendees, no doubt answering their questions in his own inimitable way. We have no doubt that by now he has persuaded St. Peter that a new Power System running i V6R1 release is the only reliable way to keep the records of those who pass through the Pearly Gates. Tuning that system should keep him busy until we see him again.
Al--we are proud to have known you and to call you friend--you will be sorely missed.
To Sue, Albert and Christie, we extend our love and deepest sympathy. While you'll read and hear much about the business side of Al's life, you should know that you were always the biggest love in his life.
P.S. A special Web site has been set up to honor Al and share reminiscences.