The title has become trite since it’s been used so many times and so many ways. However, when it happens to you, it’s different.
For example, Ben Nicks is now 103 years old. He was an aircraft commander (on the B-29’s, they didn’t call them pilots) during World War II. About a year ago, his last friend from that time passed away. He is fortunate, however, as he had 8 kids, 7 of which are still living.
You can feel sympathy for someone like Ben. Then again, I had a similar situation happen to me and I only recognized it recently.
In 1975, fresh out of college, I started my first job, as an engineer, at Picker Nuclear and Ultrasond in Northford, CT. Picker no longer has a division in CT. The location has been taken over by another company, but that’s another story.
During that time, I was very interested in chess and eventually started a chess club at Picker. We managed to have some kind of event every lunch time and a number of people were engaged. When it came to finding a name for out club, we decided that we weren’t that sophisticated. We called it the Picker Chess Horde and registered it with the US Chess Federation.
It was there that I met Ken Plesset, a chess master, who took an interest in my development. Years later, Ken was to witness me winning the club championship at the Madison Chess Club, where, rather ironically, he was the only opponent I lost to.
Eventually, there were four of us who were really into chess and it went so far as we would hold chess tournments among the four of us at each other’s homes. Along with Ken and me, were Paul Hornreich, another engineer and a technical artist by the name of Wayne Howard. Yes, the comic illustrator, the Wayne Howard that you could look up on Wikipedia.
Wayne was unique. He loved playing and analyzing chess games. As any chess player, he didn’t like losing, but he didn’t like beating anyone either.
After 5 years, I left Picker and eventually lost track of the other three. Ken was the one I kept in contact with the longest, that is, until he left the state.
Fast forward to 2008. I received an email from Howard Hornreich, the son of Paul. I did the normal mistake of asking how his father was. He’d passed away on Nov 15, 2006, at the age of 62 and his son was just gathering up stories about his father from his friends. He significantly asked about finding Ken Plesset and Wayne Howard. I helped him as far as I could but I’d lost contact with them. Wayne was still either in the state or in his cabin up in Maine. The last thing I’d known about Ken was that he was in Washington state running a chess store/club that a rich woman was funding.
Then I went back to normal life. It was earlier this year, when I was thinking of updating my first book, Raven: The Call from Central, I was considering a new cover. For some reason I remembered Wayne and searched to find him. I didn’t think I’d have any problem convincing him to do a new cover for me.
It was then that I found his Wikipedia page. It surprised me but not as much as finding out that I was much too late. Wayne had passed away on Dec 9, 2007 at the age of 58. Wayne was a heavy smoker. One of those that usually got ashes everywhere.
That was when I went to find out about Ken Plesset. Ken’s given name was Kiven, so he was easy to find. Ken was also the oldest of the four of us, so I had already figured that I’d find his obituary. Ken passed away on Jan 9, 2012 at the age of 85.
So, of the four people who drove the chess club known as the Picker Chess Horde, I’m the only one remaining. The last man standing.