At 1701 hours on September 26, my old friend Lewis G. Aide, West Point graduate, IT Wizard, Convention Magician and actual magician, first responder, senior center volunteer and NeighborRide driver, left this life.
And he left it better than he found it.
I met Lew in 1986, probably at a committee meeting for our Star Trek convention, ClipperCon. I don’t recall the exact circumstances or what we talked about. I know I first heard his name on a phone call with Marion McChesney. I was doing the con program book and needed to verify the spellings of all the staff and guest names. “Oh, there’s two people you haven’t even met yet,” she said. “They’ll get a kick out of being listed as committee members.” Marion played fast and loose with formalities. She had met these guys somewhere, and just decided they should join us. Lew Aide was taking over my old slot as “assistant film chairman,” also known as the poor schlub who threaded the 16 MM films and, more and more in those days, popped the VHS tapes in and out. Marc Lee was the other new “hire.” He was filling the new committee position of Being Marc Lee.
Lew and I bonded first, I believe, over video technology. We were both geeks who believed that BetaMax was superior to VHS. It took us a while to get around to geeking out about computers together. That was mostly because I, the former President of Atholton High School’s Computer Club, didn’t like the damned things very much. I don’t know why I joined that club, in fact, or why they made me President. I just remember playing a lot of “Odyssey” on an Apple IIe. But, for years, I cringed whenever anyone suggested that a job could be done better if it were done on a computer. I thought that was just faddishness. But, by 1990, because I had discovered how much easier it was to be a writer if one had access to a word processor, I had broken down and bought my first IBM PC. It was Lew, in fact, who introduced me to Computer Shopper, where I could find the best deals. And then it was Lew who showed me how this here thing called “Windows” worked, after I had stubbornly clung to DOS until about 1993.
Come 1993, I had started a new science fiction convention called Farpoint. Lew was one of the first to pony up cash to be a lifetime member of my new venture. He built the first farpointcon.com website. He offered us the use of his—very expensive—desktop publishing software so that we could create more professional-looking program books. Beginning in 1986, my Fandom friends and I had begun producing a few plays a year for the convention stage—parodies of Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5—nothing was safe. The credits for our shows were made by photographing black-on-white prestyped or typed pages, and then using the photographic negatives as slides to create “spacey” looking images. In 1995, Lew looked at that process, shook his head and said, “Really?” And from then on, our credits were beautifully rendered on video, with green screen and CGI. And, at some point in the 2-oh-oughts, I decided to do a multi-media Superman parody, and challenged Lew to direct an actual film. “The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Professor” was a parody of the 1950s George Reeves Adventures of Superman TV show. I scripted it, and Lew shot it on several locations. It’s still one of my favorite projects we ever worked on. And when we decided we wanted to be live radio performers, Lew bought us the microphones, mic stands, cables, and sound effects library that got us going.
If you’re getting the sense that Lew Aide was one hell of a generous guy, you’re getting it right.
Lew came from a wonderful family. In 1995, I had the privilege of meeting his parents, Major (retired) Fouad K. Aide and his lovely wife Sue. Spending time with them, it was clear where Lew had gotten his generosity, his sense of adventure and his love of fun. The first night I had dinner with Fou and Sue, (along with Lew, John Colicos, Mira Furlan, and Joe Motes), Fou looked at me and said that he liked me. Then he clasped my hand and said, “I swear to you I will write you into my will if you’ll do one thing for me.” “What’s that, Fou?” I asked. He looked across the table at his son. “Will you find a wife for my Lewie?”
I did not get written into the will. Lew was as lovable as the day is long, and that’s probably part of the problem. So many women considered Lew their special angel that I believe I would have been lynched if I had fixed him up with just one of them.
Lew took care of people. When a friend was out of a job and needed a little help, Lew’s checkbook came out. When someone was lonely, he took them to dinner. If a friend needed a ride to the doctor, whether because she couldn’t drive or just needed moral support, Lew’s taxi service was on duty. When Farpoint was on the rocks after a terrific snowstorm, Lew made a sizable loan until the con was in the black again.
Lew retired as an IT Professional only last year. At first, he talked to me about finding another job, so he wouldn’t be bored. But then he started driving for NeighborRide, and volunteering at the senior center. He said to me a little while later, “You know what? I’m all right. I don’t need another job.”
And he was all right. Until he wasn’t. Lew fought health problems. He fought them tooth and nail. When he had his first stroke, I’m pretty sure he drove himself to the ER. And then, because we were having our annual Hallowe’en party that night, he called me. “Steve, it’s Lew,” he said in his deliberate voice. “I’m afraid I won’t be attending this evening. I seem to be having a stroke.”
“Oh my God, Lew, how can I help?”
“I’m fine. I’m in the ER. They’re taking care of me. You guys just have a good time and raise a glass for me.”
It was the calmest I could imagine anyone being about having a stroke. Diabetes followed, and kidney issues. And Lew rarely said a word about them to us. He just dealt with them, and he continued to live his life and enjoy the hell out of it.
So no tears, my old friend, and no regrets. Your life was a gift to everyone who knew you. When you get where you’re going on this bold new journey, give our Dads my best, and raise a glass for all of us back home.
Rumor has it they serve the good stuff where you’re going.