It is with great sadness that we must share the passing of Jeremy Werst, known on concrete5.org as HereNT.
Jeremy found concrete5 within months of our launching open source. He was user number 654 in our community, and he was an active community member from the get go. In those days before Slack and Github, we were pretty active in IRC. I remember many an evening talking shop in that old chat room while Jeremy used concrete5 to build a bike community site for Minneapolis.
At PortlandLabs/concrete5, our vision is to make digital communication easy and good. We grew up on BBSs and IRC rooms, and we saw technology as not just a tool to improve business efficiency, but as a communication medium that could bring people together. Online, it didn’t matter how you looked or who you knew, your words represented your ideas on an equal playing field. That spirit created some really supportive, meaningful, and important places online. These weren’t the echo chambers of polarized tribal arguments we see on Facebook today; these were real valuable communities like the coffee shops and salons from decades past.
Jeremy Werst embodied that ethos. He loved his home town, loved his bike community, and was a supportive community member who would look for the best in people. He always tried to understand perspectives that were foreign, and he worked hard to make everyone feel included and heard. He was everything that we still find positive about online community. He was able to build and launch a vibrant online community for the bike (road not motorcycle) community, and he had been an active part of concrete5.org for more than a decade now.
I first met Jeremy in the flesh when he was riding through Portland on his bike a few years ago. We enjoyed some beers and time together on my porch talking about how the world goes around. Jeremy was a big thinker with an even bigger heart. He liked expensive bikes and good beer, but he didn’t care about superficial materialism. The man wore a fanny pack, for goodness sake. What got Jeremy excited was helping people.
When we brazeningly released a non-backwards compatible version of concrete5 (version 7), and dubbed our old code base “legacy,” Jeremy fearlessly continued to help folks manage and improve code that we and many others were too busy or too forward-focused to bother supporting. Jeremy stoically continued showed up and got it done. When Planned Parenthood needed to bring in a freelance resource to work hourly on a very agile gig, Jeremy was eager to do anything he could to help. Any time we heard from someone still maintaining a legacy concrete5 site who needed support, we immediately sent them Jeremy’s way knowing they’d be well taken care of.
Last year we had a concrete5 conference here in Portland, which Jeremy joined us for. Even with a broken collarbone, he squished his tall frame into an airplane to come be part of the concrete5 gathering. When we scheduled a show-n-tell during the conference, the project he wanted to demo was a mapping tool for resources for homeless people. We ran out of time before Jeremy got a chance to show that during the show-n-tell, which I still regret.
Running out of time is something we all need to think about today. Jeremy spent his time doing everything he could to help other people. Did we do everything we could to help him? I know Jeremy had some medical challenges he had to battle, and I can’t say I spent as much time as I could have just finding out how Jeremy was doing.
Do you have a friend or loved one you haven’t chatted with a while? It’s Friday; go call them. What are we working for if we don’t have the time to nurture those human connections that bring us together? Go offer your help. Offer a listening ear. Just give someone something they might need without making them ask for it.
Make the world a better place. Jeremy certainly spent his time doing just that. He will be deeply missed.