SGML: Memory of Yuri Rubinsky (1952-1996)

SGML: Memory of Yuri Rubinsky (1952-1996)

[Via CTS Digest, (c) Erik Naggum]
Article: 12371 of comp.text.sgml
From: (Barbara Burrows)
Newsgroups: comp.text.sgml
Subject: Yuri Memories
Date: Mon, 29 Jan 1996 19:57:47 -0500
Organization: HookUp Communication Corporation, Waterloo, Ontario, CANADA
Message-ID: <>

It feels like I've spent the past few days doing nothing but think 
about Yuri.  There is so much I can say, and then, there is nothing 
I can say about Yuri that adequately captures the man and what he has 
meant to me.

Yuri always called my son, Syria, because his name is Jordan.  When 
I think about this it always makes me smile.  One of the greatest 
things about Yuri was his wonderful sense of humour.  He loved to 
play with words and phrases giving them a unique twist all his own.  
I loved the way his mind worked, so creative, so imaginative, 
with just the right touch of whimsy.  I worked with him almost eight 
years and I think every time we were together there was laughter.  
Yuri was just fun to be with.  Having said that, it wasn't always just 
fun, there were also lots of thought provoking comments or experiences 
too.  He had a way of looking at things that made you reach for a 
higher understanding or meaning, to go beyond the ordinary.  He never 
said you should think about something in this way or that, or look, I'm 
going to teach you something here.  He just led by example.  He was a 
very sensitive, caring, thoroughly enlightened individual.  But, that 
doesn't capture him.  I really need him here to edit this posting. 
He was able to breathe life into ordinary words.

Yuri taught me a lot about SGML, about how to put words together, about
how to make a page look good.  But, what he taught me the most was a lot 
about being a human being and about how to treat people and accept them and 
learn from them.  Yuri moved in some pretty impressive circles.  I saw 
him with heads of companies, chiefs of staff, taxi drivers, hotel staff, 
a wide variety of people, and he was always the same with everyone.  He 
looked at the individual and he paid attention to people.   I really 
think he believed he could learn something from everyone.  I reread 
Desiderata recently and I thought of Yuri then -- "Go placidly amid the 
noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.  
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.  
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others..." -  
He was genuinely interested in people, a child of the universe.  

And certainly, people gravitated to Yuri.  It was impossible to enter 
a crowded conference hall and get quickly with him from point A to 
point B.  It seemed like everyone wanted to talk with him or shake his 
hand.  I would kid him that we should burst through the doors, with 
music playing "Hail to the Chief", while Yuri made his way through the 
crowds shaking this hand, talking to that person, waving at this one.  
It was really like that.  Someone special had just arrived.

I loved to hear his speeches.  He had a way of speaking or getting a 
message across that could really fire your own imagination.  People 
would come up to me at trade shows and conferences and say, "Do you 
work with Yuri?"  "Yes, I sure do."  "Wow", they'd say, "What's he like 
to work with?  Is he as much a character as he seems?"  Now, how do you 
answer that?  Yes, he was definitely quite the character.  And, he 
definitely had character and compassion and intelligence and a quality 
of humbleness and so much more.

When I travelled with him I would get a cash advance from the company, 
in the local currency, against expenses.  I'd also get some money for 
him.  I'd give it to him before we'd leave or when I'd see him at the 
airport.  He always seemed surprised that I'd do that for him and he 
was, this tremendous person, grateful that I had, and happy like a little 
boy who had been given a treat.  He just never thought about those kinds 
of details, he just did what he loved, the rest followed.  He had a 
quality that made you want to do things for him.  Maybe because he so 
rarely asked for anything and was always so genuinely appreciative.  

Yuri and I both had Grandmothers who were very special to us.  He'd talk 
about his Grandmother and I'd share stories about mine.  They died not too 
long after each other.  When his Grandmother died, I sent him a 
card which I thought expressed well the feelings for someone special in 
your life.  He apparently felt the text was appropriate enough to read 
during her memorial service.  I searched for those words again, because 
they are no less true when applied to him.  "Some people come into our 
lives and quickly go.  Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our 
hearts and we are never ever the same."

I am happily filled with Yuri memories.  I remember illicit afternoon 
potato chip binges.  The h, we really shouldn't be doing this, should 
we go get more?" kind.  I remember the great fun we had with slogans and 
puns when we came up with the idea for the "This too shall Parse" and 
"I'm in my Element" buttons.  I remember laughing until I cried listening 
to Yuri trying to order breakfast in Spanish in a small town restaurant 
in Austria.  I remember giving Yuri a great picture I had taken of him 
and watching tears run down his face as he took it and said, "My 
Grandmother would have loved this picture".  I remember him insisting 
that I share his almonds, so that I would stay healthy.  I remember 
a 7 hour overseas flight that only took moments to go by as we talked, 
shared ideas, laughed and played word games and riddles.  We were having 
such a good time we couldn't believe they were announcing our arrival.  
But, you could never be bored with Yuri.  It seemed like he knew how to 
get the most out of every second of every minute.

Those SoftQuad employees who travelled with Yuri were always amazed at 
his ability to bring people together and his generosity of spirit.  His 
lively enthusiastic approach to life was contagious.  We'd all look 
forward to spending some time with him during dinner after conference 
sessions or a trade show ended.  As often as not, along would come 
Yuri with a virtual stranger (or strangers) who he would have invited to 
join us, so they wouldn't have to eat alone.  By the end of the meal, 
of course, we wouldn't be strangers any longer.  I think you couldn't 
be a stranger for long with Yuri - just a friend he hadn't yet met.

To me, being with Yuri was always an adventure.  Even the mundane 
things like going to the airport or sitting through meetings or 
attending trade shows, had a potential for fun.  I loved him.  I feel 
fortunate to have known him.  I'm proud to have been considered his 
friend, and, I am grateful to have had the chance to walk with him awhile.

I can't believe he's no longer physically here with us.  You know 
though, I'm sure, that he will always be with us, a part of us.  
He was one of the most spiritual people I knew.  I was talking 
about him recently to someone who had never met him.  She said 
I was describing an advanced soul.  I liked the sound of that.  
It seems so right.  I've got to believe he's off on another new 
adventure somewhere, somehow.  And so, I wish him Godspeed.

We're all going to miss him.

Barbara Burrows        (work)     (home)