Judy Watt is the first member of our Compuserve women's group to die. She died of cancer on November 13. We heard the news from her husband yesterday.
Judy was the very first internet friend that I met, back in...oh lord...maybe the early 1990s? The women's group was just kind of forming at that time. I had been asked to be the sysop for the group (remember sysops?) and spent a lot of time scouring the newspapers trying to find deep, relevant topics for us to discuss, with varying degrees of success.
One day, I was totally out of ideas and I wrote an entry about housekeeping and how much I hated it. It was the most lively discussion we'd had to date and it sparked a different, more personal, kind of discussion.
Out of what I consider the first real intimate discussion grew this wonderful group of women who remain friends today, though our numbers are smaller now and are not growing because many years ago I had to move the group to Yahoo, where we no longer pick up new members. I think Judy is on the membership of the Yahoo group, but I don't remember her participating in any discussions after the move to Yahoo.
Most of us have met each other many times over the years, we have traveled together throughout the United States, England and Scotland. We were together in London on 9/11, in fact. We have seen each other through illness, divorce, births, deaths and lots of other things that mark the ups and downs of life. Even though I see them rarely, I consider this group of women among my best friends.
At some point during those very early years, Judy and I decided to meet, since she lived in San Francisco. This was a big thing in those days and we joked on line about the potential of one or the other of us being an axe murderer. We had a lovely coffee together at a nearby cafe (a safe, neutral meeting place) and I had only slight misgivings when she invited me back to her apartment to continue the visit. When I saw there were no axes in sight, I began to relax.
But Judy had a prickly personality. She was highly opinionated, highly intelligent and not hesitant to express her opinion. We clashed frequently and there was one huge misunderstanding in Ashland, Oregon, which really marked the end of our relationship. Neither of us cared enough to work through our disagreement at that time.
Our group met in San Francisco a few years ago, had dinner and then returned to Judy & Joe's apartment for dessert, but the two of us kept our distance from each other. I don't think we actively disliked each other, but our personalities were just different and there was no point in courting further explosive interactions.
Still, I continued to follow her, occasionally, through her blog, her post-crossing account (where I loved seeing which postcards she had chosen to send to other people), and especially through her Flickr account (not her Facebook page because we did not ask to be each other's friend on Facebook).
Judy was an excellent and passionate photographer and her favorite thing to photograph was San Francisco. As a native San Franciscan, I loved seeing the city through her eyes. Like me, she never tired of taking the same view over and over again (there are 327 pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge, for example), but on different days, in different weather, and from different angles. I encourage you to pop over to Flickr and see her work. Some of it is breathtaking.
It is a shock to see one of our group die -- and prematurely, at that. This year in particular, with the number of deaths among peers that we have seen, it is depressing to watch yet another internet colleague die. I am a member of two long-term group of friends and when something like this happens, the natural reaction is to look around and wonder who will be next.... will it be me?My sympathies go out to Judy's husband Joe and her daughter, Rachel, of whom she was so incredibly proud, and to all of those internet groups of which she was such an integral and beloved part.