KansasFest 2011 was, by all accounts, a success, with an impressive number of attendees, a memorable keynote speech, and many days and nights of sessions and camaraderie. But through it all, the absence of one long-time Apple II user couldn’t help but be noticed. Ryan Suenaga, who attended every KansasFest from 1996 through 2009, passed away earlier this year, resulting in a loss that was felt by all, even those who had never met him.
But KansasFest was intent on not letting him be forgotten. Upon check-in, every attendee received a pair of loud shorts, which Ryan was famous for wearing. Everyone proudly wore the questionable attire for the annual group photo later that week.
That gesture just scratched the surface of the meaning Ryan’s life had on the event. Ryan started the tradition of hosting a Krispy Kreme buffet every Thursday night at KansasFest, inviting attendees to indulge in the fattening doughnuts. That tradition continued this year as the Ryan Suenaga Memorial Krispy Kreme Night, with a donation jar set up in which participants could contribute to the @rsuenaga scholarship fund at Kapiolani Community College in Hawaii. A whopping $375 was raised in this fashion, which an anonymous donor then matched, doubling the amount to $750.
KansasFest attendee Vince Briel then donated one of his rare A2MP3 cards to be auctioned, with the proceeds benefitting the scholarship. The eBay auction closed at roughly $250; when added to the previous donations, the contribution to the scholarship totaled $1,000.
KansasFest 2011 culminated with the annual formal dinner and roast. Although Ryan had already been roasted by his friends in 2002, this year seemed a good opportunity to revisit the memories, hi-jinx, and hope that Ryan inspired. It was this community’s way of showing their respect and affection in a way that Ryan would’ve appreciated. The roast closed by bestowing upon Ryan the Apple II Forever award. That plaque has been forwarded to his family, along with copies of the Juiced.GS tribute to Ryan, which was also included with the scholarship donation.
These many acts, remembrances, and donations show how much Ryan meant to the community, and what the community can do in return. Although KansasFest will never be the same without Ryan, Apple II users will always remember him and will ensure that his life has meaning for many KansasFests to come.