SGML: Memory of Yuri Rubinsky (1952-1996)

SGML: Memory of Yuri Rubinsky (1952-1996)

[Via CTS Digest, (c) Erik Naggum]
Article: 12372 of comp.text.sgml
Newsgroups: comp.text.sgml
From: (Peter Sharpe)
Subject: Re: Yuri Rubinsky (1952-1996)
Message-ID: <>
Organization: SoftQuad Inc.
References: (12283) <> 
	    (12335) <4ebjhj$ig1@senator-bedfellow.MIT.EDU>
Date: Mon, 29 Jan 1996 23:10:31 GMT

I've known Yuri Rubinsky since he was 14 and I've considered him a close
friend for all of those years. Last week was very hard for me.
This week will be a little easier because of the Saturday service and the
gatherings on Friday evening and Saturday. Those were very emotional but
comforting days for me.

Friday evening, 60 friends of Yuri's gathered at his favorite restaurant,
Peter's Chung King on College St. in Toronto. There were many current
SoftQuad employees, many former SoftQuad employees, and visitors from
around the world. We ate some good food, drank some beer, and shared many
good public and private reminiscences.

Saturday afternoon there was a service followed by a gathering of friends
and family at Marc Giacamelli's house. That gathering was similar to the
one Friday night. The faces were different, but the sentiments were the

I'd like to share some of the thoughts and feelings that I came away with
from those two days.

The comforting thought for me is that Yuri is not gone. In listening
to the tributes and talking to the people from all walks of life who knew
Yuri, there was a common theme: Yuri had entered their lives and changed
them forever. There were those who met their spouses through Yuri. Those
that had their career directions changed by Yuri. And, I think, all who
had their perception of the world changed by Yuri. Yuri is alive today
in thousands of people all over the world.

This was expressed so beautifully in Bill Clarke's tribute at the Saturday
service. The theme was "But wait, there's more." I cannot remember a more
inspiring speech. There is more. More for us personally and more for
SoftQuad. And it will be shaped by that part of Yuri that lives on in all
of us.

Ian Brown put it another way at the Saturday gathering. He said, Yuri was
the most distractable person he knew. You could distract him from eating
his lunch. ("You could distract him from his current distraction," added
someone from those listening.) Ian said he'd like to feel that Yuri was
not gone forever, he was just being distracted.

And that was Yuri. He'd suddenly be out of touch for days or even years
as he was distracted by some new project or other. But during those
distractions, he was still influencing your life because of the way he had
changed your life when he was distracted by you.

Yuri is not gone. I saw him in everyone at the wake on Friday night and
the gathering on Saturday. I see him in all the wonderful and moving
tributes on the internet. And he is very much alive in me.

Peter Sharpe
Peter Sharpe, Director of SGML Development, SoftQuad Inc.  Tel: +1 604 585 1999
#108-10070 King George Highway, Surrey, B.C., CANADA V3T 2W4    Fax:   585 1926
Internet: or  World Wide Web:


Article: 12407 of comp.text.sgml
Newsgroups: comp.text.sgml
From: (Peter Sharpe)
Subject: Three Yuri Stories
Message-ID: <>
Organization: SoftQuad Inc.
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 1996 18:14:38 GMT

Three Yuri Stories

I'd like to relate three stories about Yuri that span the years that I
knew him.

I first met Yuri about 30 years ago. I don't remember the exact circumstances.
My memory has never been very good. It was one of the things I counted on
Yuri for. I wish I could give him a call and ask him when we first met. He'd

But I do have a first recollection of Yuri. The year was 1965. He was in
grade 10 and I was in grade 9 at the same high school in Sarnia, Ontario.
There was a group of us in the basement of one of the student's parents

Yuri had had an idea. He thought we should put together a newspaper. It would
be funny and include satires and parodies. Perhaps the odd pun. He'd gathered
us together to make his idea a reality. And we did it. The newspaper was
the River City Tribune and it was published for the three remaining years
that Yuri was in Sarnia and for at least two more years following that.

(That was not Yuri's first newspaper: He started another when he was in
public school, before I knew him. And it was not his last. His most famous
parody newspaper was Not The Globe and Mail, published a decade or so later.)

When people learn that I've known Yuri so long, they ask me "What was he
like in high school?" Well, what was he like two weeks ago? Or a month ago?
Or when you last talked to him? Yuri was Yuri. He was not so different 30
years ago. The energy, the ideas, the ability to gather people together
to work on a common goal, the humour, the humanity, the politeness, the
compassion, the intelligence: It was all there.

My next story is about magic.

My background is in physics, mathematics and computer programming. I do not
believe in magic. But, you know, there was magic around Yuri. I don't mean
the magic of his personality -- although many would call that magical. I
mean real magic. Here's what I mean:

After high school, Yuri and I shared a house with others for a couple of
years at the beginning of the 70's. Then I went out west for a few years
and we lost touch.

A decade later I was working for a software company in Vancouver. The
company was quickly fading -- not my fault, honest! -- and I knew I would
have to find new work very soon.

At the office we had mail slots. We had email back in those days, but we
also still had the printed stuff and each of us had a cubby hole near the
front door to receive it.

One day I picked up a clipping from the Financial Post newspaper. There was
a note attached saying "Peter -- I think you will find this interesting."
And I did. For the clipping contained a picture of Yuri Rubinsky and an
article about a company called SoftQuad that he was starting. Yuri Rubinsky!
Now who in the office could have known that I knew Yuri?

I was overjoyed at the chance to see Yuri again so I called the Toronto
office of SoftQuad and was told that he was in Banff at the Publishing
Workshop. So I phoned Banff, talked to Yuri and arranged for my wife Kim
and I to drive over for a visit. It was a great visit and, well, Yuri had
an idea. That idea led to me joining SoftQuad within a year. And there
I've remained for a decade.

So who in the previous company knew that I knew Yuri? No one. It turns out
that I had been looking at the wrong side of the clipping. There was an
article on the other side that was supposed to be the interesting one. And
not only that. The clipping had been put in the wrong box. There were two
Peters in the company and the clipping had been meant for the other one.

I think that just might be real magic.

My last story concerns the last contact I had with Yuri. It was indirect.

If you knew Yuri, you knew that he liked to make the occasional phone call.
Like when he had 5 minutes waiting for a plane. Or 10 minutes before dinner
arrived in a restaurant. Or when he was supposed to be writing a chapter
for one of his many books.

I always found his calls mood altering. I always felt happy and energized
after talking to him. Never a bum trip.

I have two children. Graham, 7, and Jaclyn, 9. Yuri was wonderful with
children. He treated them like very important persons and they thrived
on it. They had met Yuri many times and called him Uncle Yuri. (Yuri, on
the other hand, had offered to name our children. Jaclyn was born on July
1, which is a national holiday in Canada, and Yuri suggested the name
"Canada Day Sharpe". We politely declined.)

A week ago last Thursday our phone rang after dinner. Jaclyn answered. I
didn't know who it was but it seemed to be for her since she was having a
very pleasant conversation for quite a long time. I was watching TV or
something and not paying much attention when Jaclyn looked up from the
phone and said "Daddy, does HoTMetaL support frames?"

It was Yuri. He'd phoned to ask me a simple question and instead had spent
5 minutes delighting Jaclyn with a conversation.

As he did to so many others, Yuri changed my life. I was counting on him
being around to continue working his magic. On me and on my family. We miss
him very much.

Peter Sharpe
Peter Sharpe, Director of SGML Development, SoftQuad Inc.  Tel: +1 604 585 1999
#108-10070 King George Highway, Surrey, B.C., CANADA V3T 2W4    Fax:   585 1926
Internet: or  World Wide Web: