A little before noon today, I got an email from an old friend’s daughter. Her dad, my friend, passed away this morning of a heart attack. He was 71, a year older than me. His name? Thomas J. Applebaum.
Tom and I went way back — to 1971 when both of us worked at Western Union (yes, it once was a going concern). After WU went in the toilet, Tom and I stayed in the telecommunications business. Tom went to California, I went to Seattle. Tom went to work for the nation’s biggest telecommunications operations, while ran my little one-man consulting shop.
Over the years, Tom and I hatched a number of plots; some worked, some didn’t. But the main thing is Tom was one of the smartest , cagiest, innovative and extraordinary people I’ve had the good fortune to know. He also had one of the most acute and abstract senses of humor ever encountered. The fact we kept in touch for forty-two years says something.
Had Tom and I lived closer together — he was in Morgan Hill, CA and I’m in Snohomish, WA — I have no doubt we would have come up with something. Something big. In fact, Tom gave me the idea for Global Office, a significant improvement to my Desk/Flex product. It was a hit. Tom also got me into Tandem Computers, my first big software customer, and later into Cisco Systems, where I cleaned up. That Jo and did better than OK during the 1990s was Tom’s doing. I owe him big.
The last time I saw Tom was in a truck stop diner somewhere in South Bay back in 2006. It took about two days to arrange the meet, but there we were. Tom hadn’t changed, except for shaving off his mustache. We had dinner, sat around shooting the breeze, then I was off to pick up a load of walnuts. And what did we talk about? New things. Ideas. Possibilities. Over the last five years or so, Tom and I kept in touch by phone three or four times a month. He always had something new on his mind.
God broke the mold.
I’ll be saying Kaddish.