Emru Townsend: A Life Well Lived

By  |  Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 12:37 am

emruChances are that you didn’t know Emru Townsend, at least personally. But you may well have read his work–the Montreal-based writer did some fine and funny blogging for PC World’s Digital World and was responsible for such popular PCW stories as The 10 Worst Games of All Time, and also wrote for other venues, including his own print and online publications.

And if you enjoy Technologizer, I’m sure of one thing: You would have found Emru to be a kindred spirit. I sure bonded with him, from the time I first met him almost exactly twenty years ago. We were both passionate about computers and gadgets (especially our beloved Commodore Amigas). We both loved animation and comics. And we both were deeply into online community. (Did I mention that we touched base almost every day for years–but that we knew each other only electronically for the first ten years or so of our friendship? And that he was such a vivid, engaging personality that it didn’t matter?)

The world is full of tech fans, but few who wrote about tech with Emru’s wit, style, and thoughtfulness. I was proud to publish his work at PC World, but even happier to hang out with him online and in person.

One Emru memory that sticks in my mind: In 2006, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me–one of my favorite radio shows–included a segment based on Emru’s “10 Worst Games” feature. It was a thrill to have a PCW story seep into the public consciousness in that way, and when I pinged Emru to see if he’d heard it, he said that he had–and that he too was a huge Wait Wait fan.

In December 2007, Emru found himself feeling unexpectedly poorly. When he consulted a doctor, he got some bad news: He had leukemia. He responded in typical Emru fashion: calmly, constructively, and with a remarkable degree of good humor given the circumstances. Along with his sister Tamu he founded Heal Emru, a Web site designed to spread the word about his search for the bone marrow donor who might help save his life. But Heal Emru was never just about healing Emru: It became a community dedicated to educating folks about the need for bone marrow donations in general.

Emru blogged his adventures as a leukemia patient at Heal Emru with uncommon introspection and courage–including his coverage of his bone marrow transplant, which he received in September. But on October 29th, he wrote:

The reason for my discharge and transfer back to my old hospital is because although the transplant itself was an awesome success by any measure, I haven’t gone into remission…I asked one of my hematologists in Ottawa how much time he figured I had. He said less than a year. I asked the same question of my hematologist today, and she said weeks, maybe months.

Emru continued to post on Heal Emru into early November; he also maintained a photostream at Flickr that’s moving, funny, sad, and just plain interesting.

Tonight, shortly before 10pm Montreal time, he passed on, with his family at his side.

Among his survivors are sister Tamu, his parents, his wife Vicky, and his son, Max. But he touched an vast number of people, including the countless folks who encountered him online or enjoyed his writing about technology and other topics. And through Heal Emru, his writing will do something extraordinary: help save the lives of people he never met. (I’m sure nothing would please him more than knowing that folks were continuing to visit the site to learn about leukemia, bone marror donations, and how to register as a donor; please take a few minutes to check it out if you haven’t.)

It’s going to take awhile before I really comprehend that I’m never going to see an e-mail from Emru in my inbox again, or have the opportunity to attend a bad Consumer Electronics Show vendor party with him. I was, however, smart enough to save a sizable chunk of the electronic communications I had with him over the years, so I’ll be able to get an Emru fix when I need it. And I hope it goes without saying that I’ll never forget the way he lived his life, right up to the end.

 
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9 Comments For This Post

  1. neeraj Says:

    After your tweet on him, I checked out Emru’s blog and he came across a really nice, sweet chap. And a very brave one at that. To lose him under such circumstances is very sad, particularly Tamu’s last post before he passed away made me sadder still.
    People do not die… bodies, names do! Emru has simply shed his body and am sure he is aware of your warm tributes Harry and is feeling proud! Keeping his name alive in memories would be the biggest tribute to him I feel. Hat’s off to a talented fellow writer!

  2. michael Says:

    I was one of those people who did know Emru, even before we got our Commodores, and we will miss him very much. but hopefully his and Tamus work will help save and help others, and bring some vague and slight reason to this tragedy. Goodbye my friend.

  3. Dan Moren Says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting Emru just once: at Siggraph back in 2006. I’d read his stuff online at PC World’s Digital World blog, which we repurposed at the Macworld Gadgetbox blog. He struck me as a genuinely nice, smart, funny guy and we ended up chatting for half an hour about a variety of topics. I really enjoyed talking to him, and I was sad to hear of his illness when he was diagnosed. The world’s lost a talented writer, but more to the point, a good person as well. He’ll be missed.

  4. Cathy Says:

    Oh no, I hadn’t heard this. Emru was such a wonderful upbeat person and such a joy to know. He will be missed.

  5. Lauren Says:

    I went to high school with Emru and his sister Tamu. The two have always been close and a breath of sunshine to all who ever crossed their paths. Emru will be truly missed but his fight and his family’s efforts to raise awareness about bone marrow donation will hopefully help others who face the same fate. RIP Emru…we’ll miss you!

  6. DTNick Says:

    So Sad. Being new to PC World I wish I had the opportunity to work with him. My heart and prayers go out to his family.

  7. Patrick Jarrett Says:

    This is the power of the Internet. My mother died last year from a disorder similar to leukemia, called myelofibrosis, for her treatment and path to recovery she kept a blog as well. With her passing I updated the blog for her friends and supporters online.

    Had I known about Emru I would have followed his blog as well. Thanks for this write up so I could know his story.

  8. Dave Mackey Says:

    Bummer to hear this. I was like the D’Artagnan to Harry and Emru’s Porthos and Aramis back on the old BIX Animation Conference.

    Never had the pleasure of meeting Emru in person but I always enjoyed reading his writing, and he did give me a page or two to tell Batfink’s story in his FPS magazine one time.

    Rest in peace, Emru.

  9. actionfigurecanada Says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting Emru when he was raising funds for charity. We donated toys for the charity and I am sure he would still be doing it today if he was here. Rest in Peace, Emru.

    My condolences goes out to his family. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    David Mark

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  1. Tynan on Tech » Emru Townsend Says:

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