Aloha, Ryan [Updated]

Three RyansLast updated 12:32 p.m. HST on May 2, 2011. See end of post.

Ryan Suenaga, “Hawai’i’s best known Apple II Geek and social worker.” A Blogger. A Twitter user and Facebook friend to many. He’s shared hundreds of personal stories, from his job as a social worker to his love for hacking and gadgets, from his journey as a diabetic patient to his campaign to get more fit.

He was refreshingly honest. And endlessly helpful. Always ready with an answer, or a helping hand. To be sure, he’d tell you he wasn’t particularly fond of people. But people knew they could rely on him when it mattered.

And as one of many, many local geeks named Ryan, I felt a special kinship with the man. He, in turn, had a sweet fondness for my daughter, Katie, offering her inspiration and gentle guidance at every opportunity.

In January, several of his friends threw a “Birthday Tweetup” in his honor. Last week, he brought his gadgets and colorful shorts (oh, those shorts!) to the Hawaii Geek Meet. Last night he went to a birthday party with some Twitter friends, where he joined them in belting out “Love Shack.” And this morning, he joined some other friends on a hike up Olomana.

He was right there. And then he was gone.

As hyperconnected as his community of friends are, alarm bells didn’t start going off until news reports surfaced of a tragedy at Olomana. A “local man in his 40s” was killed after getting separated from his hiking group of seven people. Some connected the dots, recalling that a group of hikers on Twitter were tackling the treacherous trail today, and wondering if the man killed may have been among them. Some asked about him directly.

But as quickly as the questions surfaced, a network of friends quietly shared the horrible news behind the scenes. For a community and for technology that often finds people sharing the most trivial thoughts, tonight there was one for which no one could find the words. There were but a few cryptic messages of remembrance.

Nonetheless, people were shocked. Saddened. Hungry for an outlet to express their grief. I found a photo of Ryan on Flickr, and marked it as a favorite. Several others did as well. Meanwhile, a simple heart was posted to Ryan’s Facebook page, and others followed suit. Soon, many touching messages of loss and love began to stream in. A colorful logo he inspired slowly spread as friends made it their profile picture. Finally, back on Twitter, people could hold back no longer.

And what now? I cry. And I write. And I hope to help Ryan’s multifaceted, multicolored legacy continue to touch and inspire others.

His death is a terrible loss for his family, and their wishes are surely tantamount. We await word of memorial services [Update: See below.], and the other rituals and traditions of “in real life.” But Ryan touched so many people in the online realm that I know we also have to do something — to do many things — to remember him, to honor him, and to celebrate him.

One thought, from Ryan himself: a scholarship.

“On Wednesday night you shared with me one of your life goals, my friend I will do my best to make it a reality for you,” wrote Cody Onizuka, explaining, “He told me he wanted to start a scholarship, and I will try my best to do so in his honor and name.” The next post? A picture of a form from the University of Hawaii Foundation.

But there will certainly be more. A bike ride or run? A marathon group? For sure, a gathering of friends wearing brightly-colored shorts and telling equally colorful stories. It will happen.

But tonight, we mourn.

Aloha, Ryan.

Ryan Suenaga | Photo by Kyle Nishioka


Beyond Hawaii



51 Responses

  1. Paula says:

    Well put. Ryan was so selfless. He gave more value to people than they gave themselves. Such a gift he had. Such a fine example of selflessness.

  2. Kaimana Pine says:

    Wore my bright shorts today, reminded me of you. Rest In Paradise and I will #LiveAloha everyday and remember the aloha you shared with others.

  3. Damon says:

    I’m very sad to learn of this tragedy. Thank you for informing us of more information.

  4. jlieu says:

    Thank you Ryan. Im so sad. I miss him. We had so many plans. I guess all angels have to go home sometime. :(

  5. Jon Ah-Nee says:

    I got to meet Ryan a few times at some of the tweetups ive been to. I didnt get to speak to him much, but I always got a warm caring sense from him. Im saddened to hear of his loss and can only wish to have known him much more…my thoughts and prayers go out to his other friends and family…

  6. Scott says:

    Thank you for sharing such beautiful and appropriate thoughts Ryan. My wife and I met Ryan through Kaiser and he helped us through some of our own tragedy. He is was valuable part of that community and he will be missed.

  7. Donna says:

    Thank you for this beautiful tribute to Ryan Suenaga. My heart is broken. He will be missed.

  8. Vernon says:

    So sad to hear the news…he will truly be missed.

  9. Tommy Foster says:

    Ryan and I were Team Fatty Philly roommates at the LIVESTRONG Challenge in Philadelphia. I was lucky to meet him and share that experience with him.
    When my father passed away in December, Ryan took the time to send me a card. He sent many encouraging messages to my FB wall. I will miss my Hawai’i friend.

  10. Maggi says:

    I was honored to meet Ryan last year, when he traveled to Philadelphia to participate in the Philly LiveStrong Challenge. I consider meeting him, and getting to know him better since then via Facebook, Twitter, his blog and e-mails, to be one of the highlights of my LiveStrong experience. He was an inspiration to all of us on Team Fatty, and will be remembered for years to come. I’m sure there will be further celebrations of his memory at the 2011 Philly LiveStrong Challenge, coming up in August. He always said he wanted to come back and conquer the hills.

  11. Kristel says:

    A really beautiful tribute. I didn’t have a chance to meet Ryan IRL (damn me being on the mainland), but I still considered him a friend and knew he was a great man. He was always the first to answer a question (and trust me, I always had tons) and was such a great support when I was came out via the It Gets Better Project. I will never forget the kindness he showed me and will do my best to show that same kindness to others. His presence and generously sweet words will be missed.

  12. Cindy OFarrell says:

    I’m so sad:( Although I haven’t met Ryan irl – However still considered him as a friend. You will be missed especially in the social networking realm. What a great tribute to Ryan.

  13. Katie says:

    We’ll certainly remember him this memorial day. Maybe a tweet-up there? I’ll miss him. Known him for who-knows how long.

  14. Capsun says:

    I am shocked and saddened by the news of Ryan’s passing. But I am now even more grateful to have shared the time I did with this wonderful person who was always willing to give and to help others.

    I will miss his bright shorts, big heart, and geekiness.

    Aloha ʻoe, @rsuenaga.

  15. Shoo says:

    Hey Ryan – go play some wonderful orchestrations where ever your spirit takes you. I’ll always remember you and Jody from KMS days. . .

  16. Diane D says:

    So sorry to hear about your loss! Ryan sounds like a very thoughtful and wonderful person.

  17. John Garcia says:

    Still shocked, saddened and humbled all at the same time. When I saw the breaking news come in yesterday afternoon, I had a bad feeling.

    Ryan was an amazing example of how the little things in life can affect people in such a big way.

    Seeing him last week at the Geek Meet and shaking his hand — snapping a photo of him in is outrageously loud shorts and just knowing that he’d be there to tweet another day.

    Caring – taking time to reply, say hello and just be himself. Something that many people lose sight of.

    We get so caught up in the daily grind that we lose sight of those little things.

    Hawaii’s loss will serve as yet another reminder that life is too short and yet again justifies why sleep can wait when there are goals to achieve and things to get done.

    As I start the day, I have a new found appreciation for life, family and friends. Take time today to tell someone how much they mean to you.

    Rest in peace, Ryan.

  18. Lee J Hopkinson says:

    Although I never had the privilege of meeting you IRL, I certainly knew of you thru your transparency, love, and sharing of yourself virtually. I know that Hawaii has lost a dear friend. RIP, please send us a few tweet updates from Heaven, I know we will all be watching!.

  19. Tutusue says:

    Ryan O…What an INCREDIBLY beautiful remembrance. It made me cry. I’d not met Ryan S in person but was certainly aware of him thru you and HMAUS. This page was also linked on the HMAUS email list. This must be difficult for Katie. Please give her an extra healing hug for me.

  20. I didn’t know Ryan, but his death has affected me. Most any tragic death does, but this one has hit so close to home. Please tell us how we can contribute to the scholarship. Death of any kind is so tragic and I just don’t understand why our universe works the way it does. Tell someone that you love them today. Treat every moment as if it was your last. Last night I was thinking of all the wonderful people Ryan might be getting to know. The ali`i that have passed into that world, the inventors, the innovators. His own ancestors and friends that may have passed before him. There is so much knowledge and glory in the spiritual realm and I sincerely hope Ryan is looking down on us saying, don’t be sad, its amazing here. And I hope he finally gets to see the answers to the mysteries of his life. But he was taken too, too, too soon. And that’s what makes this so devastating. Its horible to lose a friend without warning, its horible to lose anyone. And although I didn’t know Ryan personally, I know I would have liked him very much, based on this tribute you wrote. Thank you for that, and for introducing me to Ryan, and for allowing me to contribute to the scholarship.

  21. Carl says:

    I just now found out about my Team Fatty Philly buddy Ryan. What a horrible loss to this world. I am at a loss for words right now…

  22. mlehua says:

    Great article. Ryan will be remembered for many things. Who knew those bright colored baggy surf shorts would be one of them. He wore them to school and if they would let him, he would have worn them to work. I knew Ryan as a social work classmate and as a coworker at Kaiser. He probably went in a way that he would joke about. Gone too soon. RIP

  23. strobie says:

    Aloha Ryan. And a great photo to boot. Looking forward to details about the scholarship…

  24. Chris Luna says:

    Some people have the gift of writing words that express the emotions felt when you lose a friend. I dont have that gift, but Ryan Ozawa does. This is beautifully written. Goodbye Ryan Suenaga. You were a true friend, and I was blessed to have known such a giving person. You will always be remembered, and always missed.

  25. Susan Murata says:

    I feel like you and I shared a special friendship – one that was based on lots of laughs, berating, and harassment of each other. There was nothing the other could say that was offensive – it was just funny. I miss your emails to me and the fact that I was one of the rare phone calls you would pick up — you and I have been on a lot of hikes and you wore orange on purpose knowing that I hated that color. So I’d deliberately hug you, and you’d make that annoyed face at me. Well, today, I had orange food, wore a salmon color, and knew you were laughing somewhere up there. I miss your laugh, your wit, and your smile. Be happy – and be you. Until I see you again on the Rainbow Bridge

  26. Roger, Sis & Ian says:

    What a great writing about a friend who will be missed. We met Ryan through Kaiser Peds floor. From the start he was truely interested in helping our family on the many occasions when our son was hospitalized. Over the years he became a trusted friend. I can’t believe I will not be able to talk to him and hear his voice and kind words. We could always count on him. Our loving thoughts go out to his family and friends. We all will miss him. He will always be in our hearts and prayers. Love from the Keller’s

  27. Stephen McMahon says:

    This is really sad. While I only knew him in passing, he was present and laughing at nearly every techie/social event that I attended when I lived in HI. He was obviously a friend to a lot of people.

  28. mel says:

    Sad to hear about this. Never knew Mr. Suenaga personally but was aware of his presence through the social media that everyone talks about. Condolences to his family and friends.

  29. Crystal says:

    Oh my god. I had no idea. None… I just … can’t believe this. Ryan was a constant presence in my twitter and facebook stream. A constant. The loss is horrendously painful and I am not his family. My prayers for all of them. Please know how much he added to my life.

  30. paradiseali (ali) says:

    Reading through all the tributes and crying…I only knew @rsuenaga through Twitter. It breaks my heart that I won’t have the opportunity to meet him IRL but I have a feeling that he would be the same no matter what. Whether he was grumbling about the rain during his late night run or offering loving advice, he kept it real. Such an amazing man loaned to us by the Universe for such a short time. He made every minute countd

  31. Wore my bright shorts today, reminded me of you. Rest In Paradise and I will #LiveAloha everyday and remember the aloha you shared with others.

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