Over the last couple of months, Keith has brought us joy every Sunday with his interviews. Today, the burden of responsibility falls on Keith’s shoulders to bring us tragic news…
It is my unpleasant duty to report the passing of our friend and fellow builder Nate “nnenn” Nielson. Nate’s death was the result of an automobile accident earlier this month. A resident of Tekoa, Washington, Nate was a father, an artist, and a professor specializing in graphic design. Nate is survived by his beloved wife and two sons ages 3 and 8.
It is important to Nate’s family that he is remembered by our community, one that he took great joy in participating in. Above all they want Nate to be remembered as a devoted husband and father, and for us to know that his interest in the brick was inseparable from his love for his boys. Nate was notorious for his brevity, and when I was searching through his models, interviews, and comments for inspiration, this quote jumped off the screen:
“Ha! Spring break a week ago. Rainy day today. No friends. Two boys.”
Nate’s other great passion was teaching the principles of design and graphic art, something that should seem obvious to our community. It was Nate’s goal to encourage others and to push people to their creative potential. In our small corner of the universe, I think it is safe to say: mission accomplished, Nate.
I didn’t know Nate very well, certainly not as well as I would have liked. We did however share a love of the brick, 70’s sci-fi and being a father. I always imagined I’d run into nnenn at a convention…that he’d slip out of the crowd on public-day looking like a dead ringer for Christopher Walken. In this fantasy he would walk up to my model on display and say something like:
“Guess what Goldman?! I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription… is more cowbell”.
I’ve always been a fan of Nate’s models, even when I initially disliked him in a superficial way for his heretical tendencies with my sacred bricks. In time I grew to respect him for his uncompromising stance and commitment to form over purist devotion. It was my distinct pleasure to interview nnenn last month, and in the process we exchanged some fun emails; I only wish I’d asked better questions.
You know a builder is big-time when he not only gets an entire scale named after him, but an element as well. Nnenn’s consistent level of quality and production since his debut in late 2006 is nothing short of extraordinary. I can say without exaggeration that Nate influenced a generation of builders, and even an old man or two like me. Nate had 1347 contacts on Flickr, 1347 students for a guy who loved to teach. I think time will prove that he taught us well.
For those of you missed it, James Wadsworth of LAML Radio conducted an audio interview with Nate last summer. Tom over at Masoko Tanga also has a wonderful interview with Nate on his site.
Missing Man Vic Viper Formation – BrickWorld & BrickCon
I’m organizing a fly-in style community build for the Brickworld 2010 fan convention in Chicago, and potentially at BrickCon 2010 in Seattle. Anyone who is interested in celebrating the life and models of nnenn is invited to bring or mail a small space-fighter in his iconic Vic Viper style to the convention. The vipers will be arranged in the traditional “missing man formation” common to air forces around the world.
Nate drew inspiration from his father who served the US as an F-16 fighter pilot, making the fly-in seem even more appropriate. So if you’d like to participate in the formation, contact me at Legomankeith AT aol DOT com for further details.
It only seems fitting to close this tribute to a legend with a word or two from some familiar voices in the community. The Brothers Brick and I invite all of you to add your thoughts to this memorial guestbook. There is no rhyme or reason to these first 20 fans; they are simply friends that I reached out to, to help make sense of Nate’s untimely passing. The one exception is Peter L. Morris, who contacted me after speaking directly with Nate’s widow and graciously invited me to participate in this tribute. Pete was closer to Nate than most of us, and his insights into Nate as a friend have been invaluable as we prepared this tribute.
Rest in peace nnenn, you’ll be missed.
Read the guestbook and leave your own comments after the jump: Continue reading