Jennell Jaquays passed away early on Wednesday, January 10. She was 67. She was recovering from Guillain-Barré syndrome. From the GoFundMe:
“On Sunday evening on October 15th, she fell ill and with[in] 36 hours she was barely alive and hooked up to a respirator. After numerous X-rays, cat scans and blood work finding nothing, they determined she is suffering from a neurological disease. She is responding to the blood treatments and has started regaining motion in her hands and feet, she is looking at a minimum of 2 weeks (more like 4) in the hospital and six to twelve months of rehabilitation.”
Jennell was a legend in both the Role Playing Game world and in the computer gaming world. As such, many different website, blogs, and sub stacks have posted wonderful tributes and histories of her. (Like this, this, this, and this.)
I won’t repeat all those things. Yes, they are matters of Fact. But Jennell was my friend as well as being a legend. I want to write about that- the Jennell I knew. One facet of an incredible person. I know whatever I write won’t capture how I feel or who it is that we’ve all lost. I’ll try though.
I first encountered Jennell’s work years before either of us transitioned. In 1993, I was working as a freelance editor for TSR, the company that created and published Dungeons and Dragons. My assignment was to edit an adventure module called Swamplight by Jean Rabe. I did general editing, including checking illustrations, etc. One piece I was sent was the cover, which was by someone named Paul Jaquays, whom I knew by reputation only. I knew they’d written some epic adventures for other companies as well as art for TSR.
Decades later, I heard about someone in the gaming industry who’d transitioned. I was building up toward that myself, so I messaged her on Facialbook, and she was kind enough to reply. She let me ask her a lot of questions, and eventually we became friends. We bonded over our common gaming interests and our time working for the gaming industry (which, for me, was in the past.) We shared tips for painting miniatures and sent each other goofy memes. I was honored that she asked me to do editing work for her, including writing a piece for her new Central Casting book, which will be published posthumously.
When she fell ill, everyone who knew her was concerned, and were willing to do whatever we could to help. Her wife, Rebecca (a computer legend herself), set up a GoFundMe to defray the huge medical expenses. Jennell seemed to be slowly recovering, then… she didn’t.
Like so many, I was stunned. I’m still numb. I can’t imagine what her wife is enduring now. As per her wishes, Jennell will be cremated wearing her Viking helmet and outfit. If nothing else, this tells you all you need to know about her.
Jennell was a true polymath- a genius in so many ways. She was a beautiful soul, and her life touched so many others that she never even met. I will treasure our friendship, and miss her dearly.
Sleep well, Jennell. May the four winds blow you safely home.