Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Oh, It Looks Like Daniel, Must Be the Clouds in My Eyes

I noticed this morning that he hadn't played Words With Friends in quite a while. From time to time, people drop off, so I checked Facebook, and there I saw my happy birthday message to him in February. But right above it was another post made two days later that read, "Happy belated heavenly Birthday." I had to stop for a while to gather my thoughts.

I remember clearly the day I met Daniel Eremenchuk. I was working in my first IT job back in 1979, and I was on site at a client in downtown Chicago. Our Data General Nova minicomputer needed service, and the office folks said, "'ll get to meet Dan." He was described as something of a character, so immediately, I was fascinated.

In walked a fortysomething gentleman who looked like he could have been a beat poet in the 60s, but who had grown up in the 70s into a sort of rakish looking fellow, sporting a leather jacket, a mane of salt-and-pepper hair, and a full but neatly-trimmed beard. He introduced himself, and I did likewise. He fixed our computer problem in record time by opening up the back of the chassis and tinkering, all the while carrying on an engaging chatter. By the time he had completed his service call, we were instant friends.

Dan could fix anything with parts on hand or that he could procure at a moment's notice. A native of 1930s Chicago, he knew the city inside out, so if he had to run halfway across town to pick up a part, he would be back before you could bat an eyelash. He had no fear of anything digital and was very accomplished at diagnosing issues. Our equipment was "seasoned," but he assured us that he could keep it running, and that he did. When I took a job as data processing manager for the company, I never worried about whether a hardware issue would be resolved. Dan would do whatever it took to make it work.

He was more than just a service technician, though. Dan befriended almost everyone he met, and we invited him along to many of our lunches at West Loop eateries and taverns. He was splendid company and always had entertaining, offbeat stories to tell. On many occasions, he would complete a late service call at our office, and afterward, he and I would retire to the Golden Gate Restaurant for a brew and some solid chat. He was interested in everything and was great company. He also had this deep "huh, huh, huh" laugh that was his trademark. When Dan chuckled, you had to join in. His humor was infectious.

Dan drove an Audi Fox, which was a sporty car at the time. I remember countless occasions where he would pull up in front of our building on West Lake Street beneath the overhead train tracks, pop the trunk, and retrieve some miscellaneous memory board or power supply, then rush in from the cold only to have us back up and running in record time. One day, he came in looking a bit downtrodden, and I asked him what had happened. He told me that the Audi had broken down under one of the CTA overpasses on the Eisenhower Expressway and that he'd had to leave it to find help. He knew that the car would be stripped in the time it took anyone to arrive, and sure enough, he was right. Nevertheless, the next time I saw him, he was sporting new wheels with no interruption of his humor or the electrical parts inventory.

Dan was well-educated and continued learning throughout his life. In his later years, he fled the cold winters and moved to Arizona, where according to his Facebook profile, he studied "Production cinématographique en France." That was just like him, always expanding his boundaries and venturing into new territory. While living in Arizona, he provided IT and audiovisual assistance to local police departments and theater groups. That was how he rolled, a jack of all trades and a master at more than a few.

So now, when I pick up my phone and launch Words With Friends, it seems that I can still hear that chuckle. Dan, I know you'll never stop learning. Miss you, buddy.