Last week, my friend and colleague Bill Fink passed away. He was 46 years old.
A few months ago, Bill went to the hospital complaining of a severe pain in his side. He was fearful it was a gall bladder problem but it turned out to be much worse. Bill was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in his pancreas. The outlook was bleak and his chance of recovery was small, but he underwent treatment anyway. The treatment did not work. In September, Bill was placed in hospice care. All treatment was stopped and his caregivers focused only on managing the pain that inevitably comes with this disease. On December 16, Bill succumbed to the cancer. He weighed about 120 pounds at the time of his death.
Bill and I were both Technical Evangelists on the same team at Microsoft. He joined the company in late 2014 - about a month after I did. A few years ago, we both worked for the small consulting company GA Sullivan. We never met during this time because he lived near St. Louis and I lived near Cincinnati, but we shared many common friends and acquaintances.
We finally met when we shared a room at a team off-site in Scottsdale, AZ in early 2014. I found Bill, intelligent and easygoing and funny and silly and very passionate about technology. Bill loved tinkering with hardware and writing software. Earlier this year, he missed his flight home from Seattle because he was so engrossed in writing software for a Hololens. One of his most impressive projects was a photo booth application that used the depth sensing technology in a Microsoft Kinect device instead of a green screen to replace the backgrounds in photographs.
Bill loved being a Technical Evangelist and he wrote about that last December after a year on the job. Bill spent much of his life and his career helping others. Whatever knowledge he had, he was always happy to share it with others. I have encountered many people who learned from Bill’s teachings.
I was lucky. I had a chance to spend some time with Bill these past few months. I visited him 4 times since Labor Day and we spoke on the phone between visits. Because our team is so spread out geographically, it was difficult for most colleagues to travel often to St. Louis. I was only a 6 hour drive away, so it fell to me to keep everyone updated on his status. Some people have asked if this made it more difficult to deal with Bill's death; but for me, connecting with him at the end, has made it easier for me to deal with his death. We had a chance to talk and I had a chance to say goodbye. And I had a chance to see the best in him.
Bill faced his illness with great courage and grace. He never denied its seriousness and he was not afraid to talk about it. But I never heard him complain about the hand he was dealt.
Even in death, Bill is making an impact on the technology world. Bill’s brother wrote an obituary that described Bill’s demise using computer terminology, such as "...encountered an unhandled exception in his core operating system, which prematurely triggered a critical ‘STOP’ condition" and "Bill’s application has been migrated to the Cloud". The obituary began to trend on Reddit and many newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, the Miami Herald, and the Washington Post, wrote about it.
I will miss Bill's humor and his passion but I will carry part of him with me until I encounter a critical 'STOP' condition and my applications are migrated to the cloud. I hope I do so with courage that Bill Fink showed.
If you would like to make a donation to help Bill's family, you can do so at https://www.gofundme.com/BillFink.