Monday, March 15, 2010

In memory of Uncle Don

Donald Courtois (1951 - 2010)
     So, I've been thinking of what to write; my uncle passed away nearly a week ago, and I haven't felt right posting something until I know what to write about it.  What significance does an uncle have to a niece or nephew?  How is this relationship defined between my aunts, uncles, and I?   How is this relationship defined between my nieces, nephews, and I?  Then, the hardest question: what is the difference between the way these relationships should be defined and the way I've chosen to let these relationships be defined?


     I think I'm beginning to realize that my own nieces and nephews may view me the same way I view my uncles Garth, Don, John, and aunt Suzi.  I know who they are;  I know I get along with them, but they aren't a large part of my life.  In fact, the role they play is so distant that one might go as far as to say the only connection I have is simply because they are family.


     I suppose if I were to have a regret about moving to Seattle, this concept would be the root cause for that regret.  However, it doesn't do anyone justice to dwell over the past.  What's done is done, and what's to come is... well, it's what I'm here for I guess (or as close to having a purpose as I'll probably get.)  


Monroe Newborn (Ostrich) vs Garth Courtois (ETAOIN SHRDLU)
at the 6th ACM North American Computer Chess Championship
in Minneapolis, Minnesota 1975.
Garth finishes in 3rd Place; Newborn places 8th. 
     At the same time, to fully understand, I feel the need to reflect on the past.  Let's start with my uncle Garth, who died in 1996;  I have no memory of ever meeting him.  I know that I did talk with him at my grandmother's funeral, even though I can't remember what he looked like, what we said, or anything.  What I do know about him is that he wrote the ETAOIN SHRDLU chess program, he earned a 1900+ rating in tournament chess, and he ran the Denver Scholastic Chess League for many years.  All of this information I learned from reading a newspaper clipping from coloradomasterchess.com and a page dedicated to him on chessprogramming.wikispaces.com.




I also found this stuff too:

  • http://main.uschess.org/assets/msa_joomla/XtblMain.php?199701192290-12059800
    - this page lists the wrong date of his death.
  • http://chessprogramming.wikispaces.com/page/code/ICGA+Journal
    - this page only lists Garth as a participant in the 1986 & 1987 chess tournaments.
  • I updated the Wikipedia article about "ETAOIN SHRDLU" to include the chess program Garth wrote...
  • Plus I found out that if someone (mainly the youngest of my three sisters) needs sign up for a free trial to Ancestry.com so she can link the 2 public records linking Garth to Colorado, and the public member tree that includes him as well... 
  • and some random stuff about Garth Sr too... I still haven't found military records documenting when he was on the hornet, but there is plenty about the infamous 1989 Florida Supreme Court case with Mr. Gibson... apparently Mr. Gibson didn't want to purchase the house and requested a refund for his escrow deposit...  He got it BTW.
I don't think I'll ever forget the day he died.  I went to Cedar Point that day with my childhood best friend, and when I got home from what seemed like the best day ever... yea.  I guess when I picture Garth, I see chess pieces, but I guess that it's good to remember someone by the legacy they left behind.  The code from his chess program pops up here and there when you search hard enough for it.  I found several research papers quoting the documentation from it, but I guess the name is fairly common... so it could always be a different program.

     I guess what I'm trying to get across here is I can Google everything.  The part that really... makes me feel weird... is that I think Google knows more about my family members than I do.  Like in 1997 when Uncle Don when to the US appeals court... I never knew any of that was going on when it happened... and I'm not sure how I feel about that.  Now I'm finding out he has profiles on classmates.comLinkdIn, Elance.com and corporationwiki.com...  none of which appear to be fully set up.  I also learned he started a company called ______ in 2004... which is somehow related to Summit Inn in Franklin, NC.  I also found a receipt from a real estate license that Don purchased from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation... which means the State of Florida is apparently publishing receipts?  At least the credit card number isn't showing...  however that is still a really big security hole.

   I also determined that Don Courtois is a some-what common name. I found a different Donald Courtois that signed a petition to deport all illegal immigrants now...  judging by the comment, this other guy is a hate filled person.  Plus, I'm sure it's not the Don Courtois and Wife Ann from Arkansas...  nor could he be this other Don Courtois from the 2000/2001Varsity wrestling results Then I thought Don holds a patent on some sort of portable X-ray machine, but it turns out it's Donald A Courtois... who apparently lived in Ann Arbor, MI.

At the same time, I can't tell if this Don Courtois, who opposes Stem Cell Research, is really my uncle Don...

This last one is the key.  You see, I can search day and night, and I'll find information about what my uncles did;  I can't search for who they were.  I guess the only real resource I have for that is my family; who is 2500 miles away (by car.)    So, what am I saying?  Do I want to go back to Michigan? No.  Not really.  I want to be around my family, but I don't want to be in Michigan.  Funny thing... can't get it all I guess.  So, I chose the path closest to the one Garth chose.  I moved across country, and I'll probably stay here.


This brings me to the main point of this whole post.  What I actually remember about uncle Don.  My memory does not do me justice for this.  I can picture his face, and I always see him kinda skipping along with a guitar.  Kinda like the scarecrow from The Wizard of OZ.  That image seems to embody the essence of Don.  Which by the way, he is doing Champion (or so he said once.)  In fact, I'm not surprised to hear that he hid how bad his condition was from the family, because he wouldn't want to bring anybody down.  I remember him as a happy man, and a happy man he will always be.


    So, that's really all I have to say about that.  I'll go on, searching for pieces of information that pop up on miscellaneous blogs and forums... I'm sure more will be said and uncovered over time.  Heck, soon enough more public records will start to appear, and I'll continue to collect everything I can find  in the family tree I've been maintaining... which I hope the youngest of my three sisters will get a free trial so she can add all those public records and links to other family trees and stuff like that.  


    So, at that, I'll let this be a post; until next time.


 Later,


     SteveO