Mark Estill (1954-2008)

My friend Mark Estill died today.

I won’t pretend to have known Mark well. He had never been to my house, nor I to his. I knew him mostly through his brother Lyle and the fact that his company is in the same building with mine.

But Mark was one of those rare individuals who you could consider a friend pretty much upon meeting him. He was incredibly down to earth. Growing up in a family with three brothers, each of whom was really successful in their own way, Mark could hold his own.

He would sometimes come to the office in the late afternoon, with me neck deep in work, and say “let’s go get a beer.” His timing was always perfect, as I was usually stressing about work to the point where I wasn’t very productive. So I’d turn off the laptop and we’d head out to the General Store.

We’d just sit and talk about pretty much anything that came to mind. One beer would turn into two. I’d call my wife to tell her I’d be late for supper. Sometimes I’d call my wife to have her come pick me up – our quick beer having turned into a chat several hours (and beers) long.

Out of the past four weeks I’ve been gone for three. When I left, Mark seemed fine (I learned that he wasn’t, but he didn’t let on). During that time he was diagnosed with lung cancer (even though he is a non-smoker) and now he’s gone.

It just goes to show you how quickly things can change, and that you can’t take anything for granted.

Woody Allen once said he wanted to achieve immortality, not through his work, but through “not dying”. Unfortunately, we don’t have that option, so what we do and how we behave may be the only things left when we’re gone.

It’s one of the reasons we work on OpenNMS the way we do. We’ve had opportunities to take different directions with the business, but our goal is to build something lasting, to change the world, and not to focus on short term financial gains for a few people. Doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do is something Mark demonstrated every day.

When someone like Mark makes an impact on your life they never really go away. They help make you a better person, and by being a better person you affect those around you, and in turn they improve the people they know.

It’s the heart of “community”, and by that measure Mark will be around for a long, long time.