I was honoured to be asked to speak at last month’s Common Conference in Poland. I say “asked” but that’s not quite how it works. What actually happened was a conversation with Waldemar Puk (Waldek as I know him), Waldek would then start talking about the golden future of IBM i, the way we can spread the word and bring education to the masses in Poland. Pretty soon, you find you’ve said yes to “volunteer” for something that later turns out to be a week’s unpaid work.
This was Waldek, through and through, he was charming, funny, unorthodox and persuasive but above all else he was instantly loveable. So, as you might have guessed, just a few weeks ago (for the second time in six months) I found myself in Poland, working with Waldek at a Common conference and literally laughing until my sides hurt!
Now working with Waldek wasn’t always easy, he always wanted the things to be as good as they could possibly be and then a just a little bit more! But even when I was on the receiving end of this demanding task master, his charm and good humour meant that I couldn’t get mad at him. A classic example of this was when I found myself spending half the night writing a presentation that he had “volunteered me for”, I was to give the presentation at 9am the next morning and he had circulated the agenda to a couple of hundred people. I truly had no idea this was about to happen and thought I was going to give a talk on a totally different topic but in his charming way he simply said “But Steve, you should do this, it will be perfect!” How can you argue with logic like that and as it happens it was a subject that people wanted and it was received very well and every time I give that talk in the future I will think of Waldek.
You may have noticed I am using the past tense and sadly this is no mistake, as he was driving back from this very conference, Waldek was involved in a traffic accident that cost him his life.
Who was Waldek?
Waldek was the president of both Common Poland and Common Europe, was also a member of the Common Executive Committee and the Common Europe Advisory Council (CEAC) and of course when he wasn’t doing all this voluntary work (that’s right, he did all of that work because he loved and believed in IBM i) then of course he had his day job running some of the largest systems in Poland for The National Health fund.
To put it another way, Waldemar Puk was one of the unsung heroes of the IBM i Community, he loved the platform and all the users of it and he was proud of the work he did.
Waldek the Joker
He was a funny man, with an incredible sense of humour, if you ever wanted to know where he was at a conference, you wouldn’t have to ask, you would just follow the sound of the laughter.
I really enjoyed his good hearted mischievous nature and I’m not exaggerating when I say there were times when we were together that I literally ached because I’d laughed so much!
I found this picture of Waldek and Dr Frank, I thought it summed up his sense of fun perfectly. I would love to have been “a fly on the wall” when this one was taken.
He was a man of ideas and enthusiasm, a man who believed that no matter how much he improved things, he could always make them a little better. But best of all for me, he was a man I was proud to call my friend.
Some things just cannot be replaced.
Unlike our modern day servers where everything can have a hot spare or HA copy, when we lose the people we care about we are left with a hole that we just have to learn to live with.
I sent a note out to a few of Waldek’s peers around the world telling them I intended to write this piece and asking them for their thoughts and comments about Waldek, below are just a few, please feel free to add your own tributes to the “Reply” section under this article.
iTech Solutions & CAC Member
Waldek will surely be missed by his family, friends, and the entire IBM I community. He always gave his all when it came to COMMON Europe and COMMON Poland. He was an amazing host, and always took care of me when I was in Poland. He made me feel like home at every conference I was at. When something unexpectedly would happen at the conference, I could always look at Waldek and say what now. He would always tell me “we go to Plan B”. Waldek would always have a Plan B, even if he was making it up as he was telling me. I will surely miss talking with him, discussing IBM i System Administration topics, and his hospitality. Every time he would enter a room he was smiling, and you could hear his laugh all the way across the room. A good hearted soul who made the IBM i community better place for all of us. My friend, you will be sorely missed.
Olenka Van Schendel
Arcad Software & CEAC Member
Waldek was one of the kindest hearted people I’ve had the joy to meet and he always added grace and warmth to any place. Waldek, one of those rare people with the gift of drawing others together with his natural charm and enthusiasm. All Waldek’s hard work and achievements as president of an unruly bunch of user groups – we were very, very lucky to have him. A truly great and unforgettable gentleman.
Institut Jules Bordet& Common Europe Executive Committee Member
After attending Waldek’s mass and funeral. It was a very moving ceremony at the church and at the cemetery. Both places were full of people, about 300 to 400, perhaps more, with flowers and more flowers. I could see, he was really loved by everybody. Colleagues, we have lost a very nice, loving friend.
i-UG – Secretary/Treasurer
Board of Director – Common Europe
Through my position of i-UG’s representative in Common Europe, I was lucky enough to have known Waldek for a number of years.
He was passionate about Common Europe and the communities that it represents in so many countries. I think anyone who met him would agree that he was unique. He had such a laid back style that meant any potential crisis or argument could be diffused quickly. I believe this came from his upbringing in Poland through oppressed times. After living in those conditions he knew that the only way to work was through: honesty, friendship and openness.
Waldek liked to work hard and play hard. It was really important to him that any event or meeting he was involved in had a large element of fun.
There is a song which says “Only the good die young” and unfortunately in Waldek, that statement could not be more true.
Publisher of PowerWire and organiser of International i-Power conference
Over the too-short years that I knew Waldek it was always a pleasure to work with him, he was always serious about his work but brought a sense of humour and lightheartedness to it too. I will miss him attending International i-Power conferences and working with him in producing European Common events.
My thoughts go to his family and friends that he left behind.