Martin Weaver

So long dear Martin.  

I remember I first saw Martin as a professor guest lecturer at ICCROM wood conservation course in Trondheim, Norway in 1986. It was not on the first day and by that time we all had got used to a slightly forgotten atmosphere of university routine, which at first was so nice to feel again after several years of daily professional work for the most of us. Lectures, seminars, laboratory works for all of us it was a half forgotten past connected with brighter and younger days. The subjects we were presented varied from basics (wood structure, tension, compression, bending, etc) to exotics (conservation of waterlogged wood, sophisticated Japanese wooden joints in ancient pagodas, legislation on conservation in different countries, painting on wood, ancient English furniture, etc.). To say frankly by the time he flew in I’ve got quite enough of studying and was looking forward to the promised tour across the country.

His appearance had changed the mood in auditorium. Instead of swallowing and digesting of information more or less useful I felt myself directly on conservation site facing the concrete problem that needed to be solved right now. It was much like I felt in my work at home. He fascinated me and all of us at the first sight. His profound knowledge was mixed with good humor that helped to understand the problem better. He could manage to turn the problem into a fascinating story with lots of important details. The solutions to the problems appeared to be obvious and the best that could be made. He did not simply give a piece of material, but shared his personal experience making us feel like his partners and friends bound together with the same problem we needed to solve. After his lectures we didn’t want it stop and together with few guys I followed him in his apartment to hear his stories more and more. There in a more informal atmosphere with a big duty free whisky bottle we spent hours in friendly professional and private talks after each day of lectures. When he flew away all of us felt that the most interesting and important part of lectures is over. 

Next time we met in Moscow some years later when he was invited to help to solve the problem of Kizhi big wooden church. I was lucky to spend a couple of days together in the office and then invited him to my home. We had a great although very short time together. He impressed greatly my wife and small (at that time) daughter. The language problem didn’t seem to matter much. The problem of Kizhi was not solved, but it was (and is) not a mere technical and methodological problem, but more a passion play of fighting ambitions on another level. 

After that I did not have a chance to see him for a long time. From time to time we exchanged letters and only with the beginning an internet era we could write each other more or less regularly. For me it was very pleasing that despite his heavy curriculum he could find the time to tackle my problems too and give me lots of professional advices. 

The last time we met was in Toronto at the APT conference. We spent only one day and one night together with a good friend of mine Travis McDonald who made my travel possible. He made for us a short tour on foot around the center of that wonderful city that had not been eaten by hungry tall skyscrapers. Ironically our presentations happened to be at the same time in different auditoriums. So all we could was to exchange our papers. I only wished I could write it better and with more humor to fit his style that I always tried to follow. What we spoke about that few hours in our room in the hotel I do not remember – something about similar conservation problems in different countries, about our families, about jokes in our countries, about all and nothing. As always we listened more than he spoke. His departure next morning made both of us sad. 

The news of his fatal disease was a shock for me. We began to exchange e-mails more frequently. What had struck me was the manner in which he reported about the state of his disease and treatment. It was in the same manner as if he was examining a problem in an architectural monument. Again I felt as his student. Thousands of miles separated us. How I wished to come to his place to discuss the conservation problem together with him around the bottle and to enjoy his wonderful company. One more lesson he had given me during his struggle for life against the cruel illness. He never complained. He made of it another story – an account of problems and possible solutions mixed with humor about routine stupidity around it. Each his letter made me feel a bit ashamed of myself. My minor problems gave me more anxiety and dump, while he managed to stay a courageous warrior facing a cruel menace retaining his humor and irony like a real man should. How I wished him to succeed in his struggle, and I know that many people did that too. 

He had left us as usually he did before – too early to enjoy his wonderful and warm company in full. It was in Trondheim, in Moscow and in Toronto. He was always in hurry. But I think besides impact on my professional work he had also given a lesson for me and probably not only for me – to stay calm and sober in any difficult situation, trying to analyze the situation no matter how hard it might seem and try to find the best solution for solving it.

 

Good bye, dear Martin, so long! I will keep on talking to you in my mind as I had used to when we could not meet and discuss problems together – that is the way of my thinking process. My letters and mails were only slight reflections of the inner dialogue that I felt inside. I can’t and do not want to believe that you had disappeared once and for all. You are just in hurry as usual somewhere in the next dimension and we shall keep on our communication further despite the increased distance between us. 

Ivan. July 28, 2004

Our last party with Martin Weaver and Travis McDonald at Toronto APT conference in 2002.


His memorial site: http://www.martineweaver.com/

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