I’ve lost a friend.

Mark Warren was without a doubt the most eccentric man I have ever met.  Our story begins sometime in the late 90’s while I was still working for Pole Zero.  Mark was looking for some technical consulting and learned about Pole Zero at the Dayton Hamvention.  He had neither the interest nor budget to retain Pole Zero for the design work he wanted.  He was looking for someone to do some design work on the side.

I learned later that he’d had lengthy discussions at the Hamfest with one of my co-workers about what he was looking for and had shared his number with whomever that was at the time.   Apparently the number had been passed around through several co-workers not interested in the opportunity before it made it’s way to me to see if I was interested. In at least one case, a coworker indicated that he’d made his decision based on Mark himself and his, well, unusual style.

937-228-1199.  It’s a number that by now, I’ve dialed easily a million times.  Literally.

I was interested in what Mark wanted to work on, despite his rather unconventional style.  Our first meeting was in a Japanese restaurant who’s name escapes me, and unfortunately is no longer in business.  I’ll never forget the pot-stickers though.  In part because they were good, but mostly because of the spectacle Mark made with the waiter about what they contained and what they were cooked in.  It was the first of many adventures with Mark, wait staff and food.

I had taken a long lunch for the meeting, and in retrospect, it’s a wonder I didn’t get in trouble at PZ (Pole Zero) because I’m sure I was gone for at least three hours.  We started working on some system ideas he had to expand the functionality of the communications equipment he used much of in his business.  I loved it, not just because of the extra money coming in, but because it was more of the type of design work I loved to do: embedded controllers, embedded programming and circuit board design.

Every time I turned around, there was another project.  Even in the beginning, we’d work on one project for awhile, then the priorities would change, and we’d switch to another.  Then eventually we started adding PC based projects and software.  The project list got longer.

It was always an interesting interaction between us, and it really wasn’t long before we were as much friends as coworkers or whatever you want to call the working relationship we had.  He was one of those quirky people you either loved, or you hated.  Eventually I’d find myself “interpreting Mark” on occasion for those not used to dealing with him.

Then one day I got downsized.  PZ was no more for me, and it was time to consider what came next.  While there were plenty of projects to do, there wasn’t quite the budget for Mark’s projects to be the sole source of income.

To resolve that, I continued to work on Mark’s projects, and spent some time working with a private ambulance service.  I hated it.  It really wasn’t long before I decided that I needed to get away from the ambulance service as a job, and concentrate on what I really wanted to be doing.

Weigold Enterprises was born.   We continued to work on projects for Mark, and started to expand to support other clients.  It’s been interesting ever since.  There’s never been enough money for Mark to get my undivided attention, but his stuff often got attention when it probably shouldn’t have.

I always looked forward to the meetings we’ve have to hand off equipment or talk about projects.  “Rendezvous” he’d call them.   If there’s one thing you could count on, a Rendezvous would include some food.   Mark was a foodie before being a foodie was cool.  I’m sure I learned about more new interesting places to eat than I ever would have alone.  The likes of Bravos, Meadowlark, Fusian and a couple other places I can’t remember the names of are going to miss Mark and his “food energizers”.

Often such Rendezvous would include a stop at his favorite market, Dorothy Lane, for a “scooby snack” and usually resulted in me coming home with something interesting to share with Dee.  Pistachio oil, Lemon Shandy, exotic licorice and probably dozens of other products or foodstuffs traded hands over the years.

Come to think of it, some deep fried artichoke hearts from Meadowlark sounds good right about now.

More recently, about the time his health took the final turn for the worse, Mark fell in love with a new local Chinese restaurant.  Many times over the last weeks he would mention about how when he was better he was going to take Dee and I there to try it.

I think I’m going to try to figure out which one it was and try it in his honor.

Over the years, there were plenty of occasions for Mark to step in and help when the need arose, and he could always be counted on to do so, and I tried to return the favor whenever i could.  I couldn’t begin to count the number of late night phone calls where we tried to solve some problem, whether it was something I was dealing with or something he was dealing with.

He could be the biggest help, and the biggest pain in the ass.  Sometimes both in the same phone call.  I have a desk phone here.   It’s directly connected to one of Mark’s phone systems.  Occasionally I call out on it, but I don’t generally publish the number, so Mark is the only one that calls in on it.  We call it the “Bat Phone”.  Sometimes I’d dread when the damn thing would ring with Mark “checking in”, and it would often ring three or four times a day.

When we were working on a particularly annoying or urgent problem, it could ring three or four times an hour.

I never thought I’d say this, but the Bat Phone is eerily quiet, and I kinda wish it would ring.

Unfortunately, it won’t.  At least not anytime soon.  And even then, it won’t be Mark “checking in”.  If there’s any consolation in that, it’s that Mark isn’t in pain any more.  He isn’t having trouble breathing, and he isn’t stuck in bed or in a chair the way he spent his last weeks.

Mark passed peacefully today in a comfortable room surrounded by his friends and family at 2:24.  Eccentric to the end, I’m sure he waited the extra minute so as not to cast any aspersion on his beloved 223, the headquarters for all that is “Mark”.

I’m going to miss him.  He was a client before there was even a Weigold Enterprises, he was always there for me when I needed him, and most importantly, he was a friend.

I’ve lost a friend.

Farewell Mark.  I’m glad you’re beyond the suffering now.

I think I’m going to find some Lemon Shandy and some pot stickers and toast my friend’s life.  I wonder if I could find a food energizer to put them on…