I am sure everybody had people like my friend Ken in their lives: People who, often by pure chance, played a major role in shaping our lives at critical turning points. When I came to Canada in 1987, I met several people who opened doors for me, offered me opportunities when I needed them most, or simply rewarded me with their friendship.
Ken Bowman was one such person. A mid-level manager at Canada Post in 1989, he was running the little project that I joined. I needed the income badly as my previous contract work ended months prior and I was rapidly running out of money. But the project itself was also interesting, challenging even. Oh, and the machines were fabulous: IBM PS/2-70 workstations with very large (by the standards of the time) hard drives, high resolution color monitors, laser printers… Lovely work.
I worked there for about nine months, but the friendships proved lasting. Some time later, Ken joined the company that was set up by a couple of my teammates on this project. He led the business side of one of my favorite development projects, which involved not only a product catalog but also an engineering and load sizing component, with plenty of interesting physics.
Ken’s partner at this company had a long, difficult-to-spell last name. One day, they received personally addressed but otherwise identical pieces of junk mail. The partner’s name was spelled flawlessly. Ken’s? Not so much. The envelope just read “Kenowman”. Needless to say, this earned him the obvious instant nickname: from this point on, he was often called Obi wan Kenowman, or just Obi wan for short. He loved it.
Even after he retired, we stayed in touch. Whether it was the politics of the day, a reaction to one of my silly blog posts, or just a picture of his beautiful cat Cimarron, I received missives from him occasionally, mostly in the form of lengthy text messages. And before the pandemic changed the world, we also met from time to time. Seeing him in person, I was actually worried about his health: he lost a great deal of weight, more than what I’d consider healthy.
Ken with one of his grandsons, two elegant gentlemen in happier times.
Photo courtesy Hollis Bowman.
Sadly, it appears that my concerns were not unfounded. One morning a few days ago I received an e-mail from Ken’s daughter Hollis that her Dad was now in palliative care. And before I could even respond, a second e-mail arrived: her Dad passed away.
And just like that, another friend is gone. If I am counting it right, Ken is the fifth person who played an oversize role in shaping the first couple of years of my life here in Canada. Inevitably it makes me wonder, who’s next? (Let that be a plea to my remaining friends: please stay healthy and take good care of yourselves!)
For now, though, Ken, I’ll miss hearing your voice on the phone from time to time. I’ll miss getting text messages from you about the state of the world. I’ll miss pictures from you about your beautiful cat.
I’ll miss you. Thank you for having been a part of my life.