Remembering Ryan

Posted Thu, Dec. 8th 2011 in News

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.

KansasFest 2011 group photo, courtesy Loren Damewood.Speak softly and wear loud shorts.

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.

A2MP3 auction to benefit @rsuenaga fund

Posted Wed, Sep. 14th 2011 in News

Two years after it was first unveiled at KansasFest 2009, Vince Briel’s A2MP3 card finally became commercially available at this year’s event, bringing MP3-playing capabilities to the Apple II. Attendees of KansasFest 2011 not only had the opportunity to assemble their A2MP3 kit under the watchful eye of its creator; they also got a custom board branded with the KansasFest logo, available nowhere else.
A2MP3 card
Until now! If you missed your chance to get the limited-edition A2MP3 card, you can now bid on one on eBay. This card, which has been built and modified by Tony Diaz to eliminate the need for a zip tie, was donated by Vince Briel and is the only way for anyone who didn’t attend KansasFest 2011 to get their hands on this unique card.

Best of all, 100% of the proceeds from this auction benefit the @rsuenaga Scholarship Fund. Ryan Suenaga was a longtime member and stalwart supporter of the Apple II community who tragically passed away earlier this year. Ryan had every intention of attending KansasFest 2011. In his absence, his friends have created a scholarship to benefit young adults, to whom Ryan, as a social worker, dedicated much of his life. This auction will be added to funds collected at KansasFest 2011 into a single donation that will make a significant difference in a young person’s life.

Please bid often and generously!

Ryan Suenaga Memorial Krispy Kreme Night

Posted Thu, Jul. 21st 2011 in

Come enjoy some warm donuts and cold milk, as Ryan would’ve wanted. A donation jar will be available, with 100% of the proceeds going toward his scholarship fund.

The Ryan Suenaga Scholarship Fund

Posted Fri, May. 13th 2011 in News

Ryan Suenaga and Krispy KremeBefore Apple II user and KansasFest alumnus Ryan Suenaga‘s passing, he expressed the wish to establish a scholarship for students who wanted to follow in his footsteps by studying social work. Now, thanks to some dedicated volunteers, that scholarship has become a reality, helping students of the Kapiolani Community College. KCC is part of the University of Hawai’i system, which includes Ryan’s alma mater, the University of Hawai’i at Manoa.

Anyone who wants to donate to the @rsuenaga Scholarship Fund may do so online with a credit card. Alternatively, checks may be made out to the University of Hawaii Foundation, with "@rsuenaga" noted in the memo field, and mailed to

University of Hawaii Foundation
P.O. Box 11270
Honolulu, HI 96828-0270

If you are an Apple II user attending KansasFest 2011, you will also have the opportunity to donate by cash or check on the night of Thursday, July 21, when we host the Ryan Suenaga Memorial Krispy Kreme Night. Come enjoy some warm donuts and cold milk, as Ryan would’ve wanted. A donation jar will be available, with 100% of the proceeds going toward his scholarship fund.

More details about this scholarship will be shared as they become available.

Ryan Suenaga passes away

Posted Mon, Apr. 25th 2011 in News

Every KansasFest attendee leaves a mark on the event and the Apple II community, but few have attended for as long or have achieved the legacy of Ryan Suenaga.

Ryan attended his first KansasFest in 1996, making the trip from his native Hawai’i at the age of 29. He quickly became known for his trademark apparel, leading him to claim the motto, “Speak softly and wear loud shorts.” A few years later, he accepted the gauntlet Sheppy tossed down: “If you’re a programmer and you don’t have something to show at KansasFest, you suck.” He and the rest of the programming community rose to that challenge, ensuring a steady stream of announcements, surprises, and products for KansasFests to come. Even at KansasFest 2010, the first KansasFest that Ryan had missed since 1995, he submitted a recorded presentation to be played in his absence, announcing the pending release of an email client for the Apple IIGS.

Ryan enriched KansasFest through these and other traditions, both during and after his time on the event’s planning committee. With few opportunities to enjoy Krispy Kreme donuts in Hawai’i, Ryan fell in love with the treat while on the mainland, sharing his passion for the fattening delicacy by buying multiple boxes for his fellow attendees. Even in 2010, he sent funds dedicated to ensuring the tradition continued. Ryan constantly bemoaned his seemingly eternal role as Kirk Mitchell’s roommate, making for an odd couple indeed. Finally, Ryan was an occasional contestant or judge in HackFest, which he one year spun off into his own competition for hardware innovators: CansasFest, challenging attendees to construct their own Wi-Fi antenna.

Sadly, the KansasFest community is left to carry on these many traditions without the man who gave them to us. On Sunday, April 24, 2011, Ryan was hiking Hawai’i’s Olomana Trail with his friends when he suffered a fatal fall. He was 44.

Responses to the news on the KansasFest email list were many and immediate:

“I only got to meet Ryan one time, at my only KansasFest trek, and I thought he was an absolute delight.” –Carrington Vanston

“He was a social worker, kind man and one of those special people that made KFest the place to be.” –Sandra Warnken

“This breaks my heart … Even though we only met once a year at KFest, that was  enough to get me through the rest of the year.  You couldn’t ask for a better KFest roomie and friend.” –Kirk Mitchell

“This is like a bolt out of the blue. I have such fond memories of his sense of humour, and kindness, and all that he did for our close community. He will be sorely missed, and leave a large gap in our lives.” –Ewen Wannop

“Ryan has obviously been an important part of the KansasFest community.  He died much too soon. About the only good thing you can say is that he died with his boots on.” –Bruce Baker

“Ryan’s life was helpful to all in the Apple II and KFest communities. He was especially resourceful and generous to the old beginners, like me. I remember him and will miss him.” –Jack Hays

“I’ve never met a more honest or less selfish individual than Ryan. The Apple II community and the world lost an amazing individual.” –Dain Neater

Ryan was a dedicated writer, programmer, podcaster, social worker, uncle, and friend. He attended his last KansasFest in 2009 and intended to return in 2011, albeit embarrassed by failing to live up to his own standards: in an email dated April 5, he wrote, “Been so busy here, not only am I behind on email and taxes and blogging and working out … I can barely do anything Apple II right now. Looks like no project for KansasFest this year.”

In reality, nothing will suck more than knowing Ryan, a member of our community for decades, will not attend another KansasFest. His absence in Kansas City and in our lives will be felt for a long time, and his life and memory celebrated at KansasFest 2011.

In the meantime, we offer this gallery of 96 photos of Ryan from Ken Gagne’s albums, from 2002 through 2009, in roughly chronological order. We hope they inspire your own memories of Ryan when he was among the people he loved most, doing what he loved best: being a geek.

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