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‘Hardware failures’: Obituary for Illinois man goes viral

In a 2014 visit to Belleville East High School in Illinois, Bill Fink talks with senior Don Proctor about a website that Proctor helped design. Fink spoke to the students about careers in technology.
In a 2014 visit to Belleville East High School in Illinois, Bill Fink talks with senior Don Proctor about a website that Proctor helped design. Fink spoke to the students about careers in technology. dholtmann@bnd.com

An obituary for a 46-year-old Belleville man who died from cancer has drawn national attention for the unique way it pays homage to William “Bill” Fink’s love of technology.

“It’s just a fitting tribute to him,” Matthew Fink said of his brother’s obituary going viral. “He was a very humble person who didn’t like publicity. He was a really great man, and I always wanted the world to see what we saw. It’s just fitting that it goes viral, because he was a computer programmer. It’s just fitting for him to live on.”

The obituary states Bill “encountered an unhandled exception in his core operating system, which prematurely triggered a critical ‘STOP’ condition on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015.”

Bill was an “avid technophile, program developer, and educator, whose master functions were harnessed by Microsoft Corp. as a technical evangelist,” the obituary says.

Bill, who was a 1987 graduate of Belleville East High School, is survived by his wife Rhonda Michele Fink of Belleville, his children Cassidy Gardiner and William John Fink of Belleville, his parents William and Nancy Fink of Las Vegas, Nev., and his brothers Michael and Matthew Fink of Las Vegas.

It’s just a fitting tribute to him. He was a very humble person who didn’t like publicity. He was a really great man, and I always wanted the world to see what we saw.

Matthew Fink said of his brother’s obituary going viral

Growing up, Michael said he and his brothers were into technology, because their father was a computer teacher at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey and Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville.

Bill enjoyed sharing his passion for all things technical with others. In April 2014, he spoke to a local high school class about information technology careers, and he spoke to students informally during the counseling department’s career chat.

“Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would get a job working for Microsoft,” Bill said at the time. “I love my career. I love my job. Sometimes I love my job more than my weekends.”

One thing Michael said people don’t realize about his brother Bill is how funny he was. “He was kind of like Abbott of Abbott and Costello,” Michael said. “He would sit there quietly and then he would pop off a joke out of the blue and get everyone laughing.”

Bill was diagosed with cancer in April, and Michael said the family had a farewell get together in October. “I kind of went through the grieving back then,” Michael said. “We wanted him to end his suffering.”

Bill’s obituary, which ran in the Belleville News-Democrat and Las Vegas Review Journal, was written by his youngest brother, Matthew, and two of his childhood friends — Erick Tejkowski and Stephen Mueller.

“We are just glad Bill has been given this opportunity to be known,” Matthew said. “He has always been one of those guys who never sought recognition. He never sought fame or money. He did things for the love of helping others.

“He was always a very modest person, reluctant to take credit for things. He was very passionate about his career, technology and computers — to share that with others was his dream,” Matthew said of Bill.

Michael said he was responsible for getting a customized cremation urn. Bill’s love of Star Wars was the inspiration for the urn, which Michael said is his image in carbonite to look like Han Solo. “He was a big Star Wars fan,” Michael said of Bill.

When they were children, Matthew said he and his brothers made a movie called “Spaceship one,” which included Legos and bad acting. “We thought having Bill encased in carbonite would be appropriate as a symbol of hope and one day being reunited,” Matthew said.

Non-tech savvy people may not get some of the references in the obituary, including the virtual storage known as the Cloud.

“Diagnostics indicated multiple cascading hardware failures as the root problem,” the obituary reads. “Though his hardware has been decommissioned, Bill’s application has been migrated to the Cloud and has been repurposed to run in a virtual machine on an infinite loop.”

Matthew said he never expected Bill’s obituary to go viral. “My only hope was people in the Belleville area and people in the Las Vegas area who knew him would see this and have an inner chuckle to themselves,” he said. “That obituary is Bill; that obituary is him.

“I think the most potent thing is the outpouring of people,” Matthew said. “Strangers from across the world commenting that they never knew him (Bill) by they wish they did.”

It’s profound, he said, for one obituary to do something like that.

“For him to go viral like this, he truly has been migrated to the Cloud,” Matthew said.

Jamie Forsythe: 618-239-2562, @BND_JForsythe

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