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The best of times...
While I initially balked at conveying my feelings on Betty's
passing in public, the surge of very touching messages posted yesterday
changed my mind. Although the sharing of grief is an important activity
for us all, I think many of us, including most certainly Mary in her
original post, have the feeling that the best testimonial we can make is
to try to continue our friend's work after her passing.
We have all been made well aware of Betty's productive
contributions to the list, and to others in the community, in
disseminating information. Indeed, the flow of up-to-date information on
our field is perhaps the greatest concrete value this list has to offer,
and Betty certainly did her part with her usual mix of professionalism and
style. However, I think her greatest contribution to the dinosaur list
itself was in putting a human face on our discussions. Although Betty was
capable of approaching questions with a serious intensity and
flexibility of thought which is normally not expected of non-scientists,
she still retained her sense of humor and her compassion for her fellow
man. I cannot, offhand, remember an occaision where she lost her temper,
yet she would shoehorn good-naturedly into almost any discussion. She
often had a warm joke or other quaint silliness to break up the
all-too-often harsh tenor of the list.
Betty did something which few of us even at the graduate level
have managed to do, she retained the eagerness and sense of wonder of
youth. She was not afraid to commit herself wholly and personally to a
discussion, yet she did not invest her ego in the outcome. It seemed ,
most of the time, that all she wanted was to have fun and learn. In doing
so, she set an example which I know that I personally have been remiss in
not following more closely. While me might think of this as nothing more
than the cavalier attitude of a non-professional, I always got the
impression that Betty was simply being comfortable among friends.
While I think continuing Betty's material work is a fantastic
idea, I think that each of us can honor her in our own lives by carrying
with us a little piece of Betty to the dinolist. I believe we should each
try to loosen our collars, take a deep breath, and remember that the
person on the other end of our posting has a momma who loves them dearly.
If we do, not only will we be helping ourselves and our friends on the
list, but we will be carrying on the lighthearted spirit which Betty
brought to the list. If we try to handle our list affairs with patience,
humor, and inquisitiveness, then we will be truly giving of ourselves to
carry on her legacy.
Of course, I have been as much the opposite of this attitude as
anyone else on the list. So, as I look out over the dinolist and see all
the people with whom I, for one reason or another, have had a less-than
pleasant exchange, I ask forgiveness for what I have said or done, and I
offer all manner of forgiveness in turn. I can't even name all of the
folks I have irked, But I think they include George Olshevsky, Ralph
Champman, Dan Pigeon, Larry Whitmer, Tracy Ford (with whom I have already
made up), Darren Naish (once, a long time ago, I think), probably Jaimie
Headden once or twice, even probably Mickey and Mary, and a whole host of
one-shots over the years.
Well, folks, in the same cheerful way Betty conducted herself, I
again ask your forgiveness. I also ask you to consider what I have said,
so that we can all move toward more pleasant interaction both on and off
the list. Maybe then we can all take this worst of times, and make it
turn out for the best.