“It was at Astronomicon I met a character that not only made a heck of an impression on both me and Nat, but also became a good friend for cons to come. His real name is jan howard finder (yes, spelled in the lower case)…but everyone calls him “Wombat.” Wombat is a little more than the professional fan. He’s a published author. He’s an activist for the preservation of endangered species. He’s a world traveler. He’s a Jack of All Trades, known for his mink glove and massage techniques. Most of all, he is a good guy. A really solid individual with a good heart and soul to match.”
I wrote those words a decade ago about a guy that I met in my first year (come to think of it — at the time I had met him, MOREVI wasn’t even six months off-the-press…) as a professional author. I was still new to the genre, still new to the Science Fiction convention circuit. I met Wombat entirely at random, stuck up a conversation, and gradually found out that I was in the company of a legend in the circles of fandom. He could be called a true ambassador of the convention scene, but I never really liked to think of jan howard finder — Wombat — as a luminary of fandom. He was far bigger than that, in my eyes.
To describe Wombat in a single word — passionate. He was passionate about a lot of things, but he was passionate about embracing people and life on a whole. I have known that his health was in decline, but Wombat when I last saw him still remained driven to make anyone’s and everyone’s day brighter. Perhaps this was why I always regarded Wombat as being bigger than the con circuit. Over the years, I have met fans who made certain they knew my place around them and that no matter how much I read or experienced or researched, I would never know as much as they did about Science Fiction and Fantasy. Wombat was none of these things. I knew that every time I saw him next there was another adventure under his belt, another amazing memory he was going to share with me. The only words I ever heard come out from him were positive. If he had a critical thought about a person, he never let it fly. Wombat was everything I aspired to in being a fan of this genre. He was warm, knowledgeable, and approachable. I never knew a time when, if I was down or depressed for any reason, that Wombat couldn’t give me a better perspective.
What I said a decade ago has never faltered. It has been a while since last our paths crossed, but nevertheless I felt his loss when I found out this morning that he was gone, having passed away on February 25 while undergoing chemotherapy. I can assure myself that before his star fell, Wombat knew he was loved, admired, and adored by those in his life. As I said before, he was bigger than fandom circles; and if you were lucky to have met Wombat in any capacity, that is an encounter that will stay with you for a long time.