By LEEORIE ALTER
Photos by VERDE OTAARED
The sims of the Info Archipelago are quieter by one these days.
Dave Mewhinney (RL name) aka Haldin Koba aka Lena Kjeller took leave of us Feb. 13, 2009, after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 71 years young.
If you didn’t know he/she was ill, don’t feel bad. It wasn’t often a topic of discussion among his SL friends, and not something he was inclined to bring up himself. Rather, SL was his sanctuary from the burden of his real life ill health, and became increasingly so toward the end.
You may also have been unaware that he had a national reputation as a model train enthusiast, with a web site (http://www.davesrailpix.com/) considered by many in the field a national treasure. It is even used as a reference for college classes.
Mewhinney, retired from a career in broadcast television engineering and broadcast television sales, and his wife of 27 years, Holly Peters (RL name) aka Hollyjean Allen, entered SL in 2007.
Holly was the “early adopter” in the family. She jumped in April. After listening to her rave about Second Life, Dave joined her in world as Haldin in July. Lena joined their SL family three months later.
It didn’t take long for the couple to gravitate to the library environment of the Information Archipelago, where Haldin/Lena was a reference desk regular and always willing to lend his/her experience to helping the “newbies.” Holly became – and remains – an Information Archipelago resource. One of her most significant roles has been as the originator of the Infomaniacs, a group of SL citizens with a common love of libraries, librarians, and having a good time. Infomaniacs activities are often informal, spur of the moment parties, but include more formalized events such as an American Cancer Society Relay for Life team. This year, the team will dedicate their run to Haldin's memory.
Haldin and/or Lena were often in evidence, although as the disease progressed, Lena was the most frequently seen.
Lena was able to enter SL without the “baggage” of the cancer that plagued the real life Haldin, Holly said. “It’s important to leave the cancer behind for a while, to feel whole and healthy.”
Unless the subject of trains came up, acquaintances might never learn of the importance of trains in Dave Mewhinney’s life. “His true love was trains…real trains, model trains, movies with trains,” Holly said. “He had some personal business cards with the theme “all trains, all the time.” But SL proved a Godsend, Holly said. “Dave was a very social person, with wide interests. He started connecting with people right away. He had so many friends here (in SL), especially in the last year, when he didn’t leave the house much. SL gave him the world! He could laugh, enjoy music and meet folks from all over. He even had someone teaching him Swedish. Of course, a big aspect for Lena was the shopping! She loved her clothes and costumes. I often think that he created Lena because of the clothes. He soon realized the people were more willing to talk to a stranger if it was a female avatar, especially at the library.”
In fact, Lena became widely known for her elaborate period clothing and a sibling-like rivalry between Lena and Holly was the frequent source of jokes. Besides library-related activities, Lena was a citizen of the Western role play sim of Deadwood. She was on the city council as treasurer and frequently helped out new Deadwood residents and created the Deadwood Public Library. In Lena's memory, a literary lounge has now been opened (see sidebar article).
When Holly shared the news that Dave had been placed under the care of Hospice, friend Rocky Vallejo erected a platform where friends could leave visible memories and thank yous to Dave above Rachelville, a sim Vallejo and wife Cindy Elkhart created part in memory of their daughter, Rachel, who died of leukemia. Within hours the memorial platform filled with flowers, messages of love and encouragement and photos of Holly, Haldin, and Lena in happier days.
The February 13 news of Dave’s death spread quickly across the sims of the Info Archipelago. Abbey Zenith, Director of Library Resources and Services for Alliance Virtual Library, announced creation of a temporary memorial near the Alliance Virtual Library welcome desk, where Haldin and Lena spent so much time. Friend BrianA Corleone installed a device for distributing memorial candles and shortly this space also was filled with mementos, photos and messages. It became a gathering place for SL friends to quietly revisit memories. An American Cancer Society donation box at the site brought in $59,210L, or $228.91USD.
A permanent memorial in remembrance of AVL volunteers who have passed on – including Haldin/Lena – has been created in a space adjacent to Peace Park
Others have created more personal memorials – Georgette Whitfield planted a tree in his honor at Second Chance Trees. “Lena’s Literary Lounge” was established on Umatilla, another Western-themed sim.
A real life memorial service was February15 in Sandwich, Illinois where Dave and Holly made their home. Among the many mourners were Dave’s daughters Heather Mewhinney and Laurel Slawson, both of Minnesota.
Holly recently made her tentative return to SL, and was warmly greeted back into the fold.
Certainly SL will never be quite the same without Haldin and Lena. But better to have known and lost, than never to have known at all.
God bless and God speed to our friend.
By Hawk Auebauch
As most of you know by now, we have lost a dear friend and fellow SL player. Lena Kjeller was the exemplary soul, touching all of us in many ways. Her wit, her thirst for knowledge and her loyalty to her friends are unmatched. She played in many sims as a librarian, role playing, and just being herself. Never bashful of letting you know how she felt (usually in a humorous way), she was never cruel and stood up for the underdog. She disliked the drama that occurred from time to time, choosing to spend her time with folks that more shared her interests.
She adored her library friends, I have just met one of them, and I can see why. The group must be filled with intelligent and caring people. They have built an area for remembering Lena. You should stop by and take a look, and perhaps add something of your own.
I have created Lena’s Literary Lounge in Umatilla in her honor. We had the dedication this past Saturday, February 21, with many of her friends from multiple sims showing up to honor Lena. I was most delighted to see Holly come and share her many real life stories of Lena and how much she enjoyed her time here in SL. Everyone is welcome to come to Umatilla and just sit and share in Lena’s Lounge. That’s what it’s there for.
Hawk played the bagpipes for Lena which brought many a tear to our eyes. We could feel Lena was there with us in spirit.
We should all be grateful of the time that we have spent with her. Although she is now in a peaceful place, she will surely not be forgotten.
See you soon, my friend.