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. 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…

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