Remembering William Stortz, August 2015

William Stortz and salmon.jpg

From a post I wrote, August 27, 2015.

I will be flying down to Sitka tomorrow to attend the memorial for my dear friend William Stortz. For someone who calls herself a writer, it is beyond difficult to express the loss I feel, for Libby and Sasha especially, and for so many of us who were lucky enough to spend a day hiking, fishing, talking to William. I walk around my house getting ready for the flight and touch the many gifts I have. Finely crafted wooden bowls William turned on a lathe. One of Libby's paintings on the wall beside my desk. The dresser in my bedroom that was too large to pack when they moved from Fairbanks to Sitka. And the memories, everywhere.

The day Libby called to tell me about the landslide that took William and the Diaz brothers, I was on my way to Spokane to attend Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction convention. I spent five days there, good days that will forever be joined with thoughts of William. I had planned to write something about the panels and meetings, the Hugo awards and the sad puppy backstory (read the excellent article from Wired at http://www.wired.com/…/won-science-fictions-hugo-awards-ma…/) but as it turns out, I want to mention the 5,000 strangers and the friends from Fairbanks who were there with me.

They didn't know it, most of them, but their presence helped me remember William with sadness yes, but also with joy. They were 5,000 individuals, from infants to gray hairs, from all over the country and around the world and they came to share a love of ideas, of reading and writing books and making art and music and the importance of vibrant, diverse artistic expression. They came to be part of a community and William who loved family, and Sitka and Alaska, would have appreciated so much of what went on there. People came for the love of stories. They came to vote. They came because politics matters. Because as Laura J Mixon said on accepting her much deserved award for Best Fan Writer, “There’s room for all of us here... I stand with people from marginalized groups who seek simply to be seen as fully human. Black lives matter.” I felt welcome and at home at Sasquan, and it wasn't just because of the wildfire smoke in the air that was thick as a summer day in Interior Alaska. Don't forget to love your family, and always remember to vote. I'll miss you, William.

The portrait of William at Sitka City Hall is by artist Steve Lawrie.

I invite you to read the brief note, Terrible Loss, by noted Alaskan author, John Straley, when he first heard of the landslide. http://www.johnstraley.com/blog/2015/8/20/back-home-to-a-tragedy

And also read about William and his bird blog and check out a few of his photographs at https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2015/08/23/1414403/-Dawn-Chorus-Remembering-realalaskan

and more photographs at A Solstice Walk in the Park, by William. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/12/22/1262379/-Dawn-Chorus-A-Solstice-Walk-in-the-Park