(Reposted from my discussion forum.)
On the night of Friday June 25, 2004, Elisa Lynn Frankel Pinkham Tomaszewski, better known to her friends simply as Lisa, passed away. She was 38.
Most of the people frequenting this site will have no idea who she was unless they read the closing credits for the final chapter of DW2, or the dedication on the first chapter of DW5. Lisa was one of the second generation of Warriors players, creator of Sorciere and Phantasia. She was volatile and ebulliant and a little crazy at times, and a lot of fun to be around.
She was a lot more than that, though. In particular, she was the linchpin around which the course of my life pivoted at a key moment early in 1986. I met her at Bellringer's, an annual SCA event held at the Estonian Club in Jackson NJ, in February of that year. I thought she was cute, with her bright red tunic and little black boots and mahogany hair, and I flirted a little with her while I took her picture. I found out her Society name, and when it came time to sign up for seats at the feast, I signed myself up for the seat next to her.
By the end of the feast, she was happily snuggling up to me. By the end of the evening we were making out in the basement of the club. By the end of the next week I'd visited New Brunswick NJ for the first time -- and on that day, I met Kat, Joe, Helen, John and a few other people. On that day, I saw a set of V&V rules for the first time since I took an idle glance at a copy while I was at college. On that day I experienced my first Warriors game. And on that day, Lisa decided that she didn't want to GM, so she shoved the rules and the scenario -- a published module -- into my hands and said, "Here. You run it. I want to play."
That was also the day I threw a fireball across the living room of the house she lived in with Helen and a few other people. But that's another story entirely. <grin>
The romantic/sexual aspect of our relationship guttered out almost immediately -- Lisa was ever the social butterfly, and she had found the then-current love-of-her-life in between Bellringer's and my visit -- but we became fast friends and stayed that way for many years. Her influence on my life was profound. Because of that first visit I made, I happened to be on the phone with Kat one night in the summer of 1986 and mentioned my impending need for a place to live that coming fall. I ended up sharing an apartment with Helen and three other folks, and from there less than a year later another apartment with Helen and her boyfriend, John. In meeting John, I learned about GURPS. I joined Warriors. (And because of both of those things, I stumbled into a professional writing career just two years later. Without either one, I wouldn't have.) I revived my Narth AD&D campaign. And when Helen and John moved on to their own place 15 months later, I got a new roommate -- another friend of Lisa's, named Doug, who had a girlfriend named Peggy... who became my girlfriend when he dumped her, then my fiancee, and then my wife.
By the time I got involved with Peggy, Lisa had, with characteristic impetuousness, picked up and moved wholesale out to the middle of Pennsylvania to chase a guy she'd met at an SCA event. Peggy met her for the first time right before Lisa's next relationship self-destructed, and the two quickly became friends on an intense level -- sisters, almost, in eyes of a lot of people. Mainly because of that, I think, Lisa moved back to New Brunswick around 1989. In 1990, Lisa was Peggy's maid of honor, and several months later Peggy returned the favor at Lisa's wedding to her first husband, Scott Pinkham. (And I was best man.)
For a few years, Lisa and Scott were our main social axis -- we did everything with them. Then their relationship imploded, with a great deal of unpleasantness that I'd rather not get into, and Lisa moved to Virginia, where she eventually married her second husband, Paul Tomaszewski. We'd grown estranged at that point, sadly. Until we heard from Paul that night in June, we hadn't been in contact with them for some years, which I regret because in the weeks immediately prior I had been getting urges to reconcile with her. Perhaps my subconscious knew something I didn't...
I'm going to miss her. Although she was volatile, and a little thoughtless at times, and unabashedly self-centered, she was also a good friend, and a palpable force of Destiny in my life. One less cute brunette at a certain SCA event and I don't know where I'd be now. I probably wouldn't have a dozen books to my name. I certainly wouldn't have a character like Doug Sangnoir to play with. I wouldn't have met Peggy. I owe Lisa so much, and I never thanked her for it.
Goodbye, Lisa. Despite what you may have thought toward the end, we never hated you. We just hadn't had the chance to tell you that we loved you all that recently. And we're sorry.