Johnny Carson / Steve Whitehill

Johnny Carson passed away recently, as you know. His passing reminded me of the time I went to see The Tonight Show taping at NBC in Burbank. I went with my friend Steve Whitehill who, sadly, also passed away recently. Even though I hadn't seen Steve Whitehill for at least 10 years I was greatly saddened at his passing.

I wrote the following note which Eric Olsen read at Steve's memorial:

Hello everyone. Thank you, Eric, for reading this for me.

My name is Steve Willson and I was good friends with Steve Whitehill while we both went to graduate school. We probably spent 8 or 10 hours a day together, five or six days a week, for years, working on the computer systems at UCI.

I learned a lot about programming from Steve. I remember that we would get stuck on a problem and Steve would get out his notepad, draw a few boxes and arrows, and make everything clear. We did a lot of what is known today as “pair programming,” where one person would look on while the other “drove” the computer terminal – and then we would switch roles every few hours.

In all those hours together I learned to laugh a lot. We would both sign up for concerts, hoping to get a date, and rarely get one, so we wound up going together. I remember we went to see Rodney Dangerfield at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Steve was always doing Rodney Dangerfield impersonations.

We would stay up late at the ICS lab at UCI. There was a really old black and white TV there that barely got any reception. We strung a big wire around the room so we could watch and listen to The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson while we programmed late at night. Eric was there a lot too, working on his compiler class.

Steve enriched my experience at UCI so much. I spent so many hours at UCI while working on various degrees that I think I would have gone insane without Steve’s friendship and great sense of humor.

Toward the end of graduate school, we both met the women who would be our future wives, and we drifted apart. But Steve’s spirit and good humor stays with me to this day, 25+ years later, and will for the rest of my life.

God Bless Steve Whitehill and let me express my warmest condolences to his family.

Thank you.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.