These words were on my mind as this year’s Telerik Testing Summit kicked off. They were advice my grandfather, Ed, frequently imparted to me amongst other life lessons such as, “Don’t act too smart. It can scare a guy off.” (I married a firefighter I met volunteering. Heh.)
Despite his advice, there are plenty of landmarks in Atlanta, Georgia such as the Fox Theater, that would not be standing today if he hadn’t raised the alarm and helped start a campaign which saved the Fox and resulted in the formation of Atlanta Landmarks, Inc.
But this isn’t all he did and isn’t, in my mind, his greatest accomplishment. In the 1960′s when most people in The South were finally waking up to the fact that segregation is inhumane and not to be tolerated, he volunteered, as a restaurant owner, to be the spokesperson for the voluntary integration of Atlanta’s fine dining scene. I’m proud to say that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dined at Herren’s.
Sometimes, as a child, I got to hang out with Ed downtown as he managed the restaurant. I guess it was the old-school version of take-your-kid-to-work day. I always noticed that he seemed to know and say hello to everyone we saw on the street and treated his customers like gold.
And then there was his sense of humor. Ed lived for corny jokes, goofy smiles, red socks and the beat of his electric organ. I can still hear echoes of “Strangers in the Night” as he sang at the top of his lungs to his wife whom he referred to as “Beautiful Jane.” I can still feel the wind in my hair as he drove us down the street in his orange convertible chevelle with a fat basset hound wagging her tail in the back.
Ed was a master collaborator and new how to bring people together for good. Although I do my best to be as engaging, it can be hard sometimes. We live our lives at such a fast pace these days. Sometimes it’s easier to tell someone “no” and keep on trucking with my own agenda rather than to stop and listen to what someone has to say. Ed was the greatest example of a person who knew how to slow down and listen to others.
The Telerik Testing Summit takes place yearly in Austin, Texas and I was lucky enough to book a few relaxing days in Austin ahead of the conference. My flight for Austin left the Sunday before the conference. Unfortunately, after I cleared security and was having a pre-flight beer and garlic fries, I got word that Ed passed away. Let’s just say it was an interesting flight to Austin and I’m glad the lady sitting next to me was so comforting.
Although sad, it’s not like this was totally unexpected. Ed was 91 and suffering from Alzheimers. Also, Beautiful Jane passed away a few years ago and he was definitely a boat without a rudder without her.
It’s just… he was such a force for good in the world and so lighthearted about it. Perhaps this is why I prefer surrounding myself with lighthearted people. I married a man who makes me laugh when I least expect it. At work, I’ll often try to move my desk next to someone with whom I know I can tell jokes and maybe act a little stupid. (Okay, a lot stupid.)
There I was, in Austin for a week while my complicated family gathered for Ed’s funeral in Atlanta. There were a few times when I almost called the airline to ask about a flight home, but family members told me I was much better off following through with my plans. I floated in the pool, drank some margaritas and had a cry, then it was off to the Testing Summit.
Ed was my role model for engaging the community I live in, engaging other people and, above all, keeping a sense of humor and humility about it. All of these were important themes at the Testing Summit this year and I thought it a great unspoken tribute to Ed that I was able to take part in these discussions.
I like to think that Ed was hanging out over my shoulder as we talked about the new realities of testing in the wider context of software development and how we can all get our community more positively engaged. These are things I’ve started making notes and writing about, but I wanted to take a post to reflect on someone who meant so much to me and who I’d like to make an unofficial member of the #expectpants crew.
I’m ending this post with a link to Monty Python’s “Ministry of Silly Walks.” One of Ed’s favorite jokes was to say, “follow me” or “walk this way” and commence with his own silly walk.