Dear Jill, Jess and Matt
My name is Robert; you might have heard from me although we never met each other. However, I feel I know you a lot because Josh always was so full of stories about his family and kept us continuously updated.
I am that Dutch guy that lives in Ecuador and worked with Josh for years setting up the regional Paramo project. I am proud to call him my friend, and after he (and you) went back to Wisconsin and after I started working in other fields outside Condesan, we kept continuous contact. We had some email exchange earlier this year; I attach a message Josh sent me last February. I was short, but I have read this message about 20x the last week because he was so positive; even speaking about Jill and himself travelling to South America later this year. I knew he might have been overly optimistic then, but I never thought things would go so fast. I received the sad message about 10 days ago, and I really couldn’t set myself to writing this message before; I was quite in shock and so sad, but can only imagine that my feelings are only a fraction of what you must feel these days.
I send you this message as a sign of emotional support and to assure that Josh’ spirit will be alive here in the Andes. I know Josh since 1998 when he directed Condesan and I directed a páramo conservation project in Ecuador. He was the guy (well, together with Elias of course) who had this ambitious idea of taking Condesan at a level beyond agricultural research and develop a line of work in applied ecosystem management. Therefore, they proposed that an international programme, extending “our” páramo experience in Ecuador, would a nice idea. After that, we worked for four years to get this programme financed, and then for several years more to actually set it up. Once we had it up and running, Josh and myself had already left Condesan but we kept being involved with the project and be assured, it became one of the most successful international ecosystem management projects ever implemented in the Andes. For myself, this was the vehicle that Josh gave me to start my international career. Therefore, he is one of the most important persons for my professional life.
But beyond the professional level, I very much remember Josh at personal level. Over the last 14 years, we have spent a lot of time together in all kinds of settings, in the different Andean countries. I am full of wonderful memories: how much he liked hiking through high country, but complained (in his own funny way) about “us biologists” that always searched for the “impossible” terrain; how wonderfully mistaken he could be with his Spanish (that he never fully managed but nevertheles insisted Condesan should be Spanish spoken - quite revolutionary in CGIAR environment!); dancing Salsa in Quito with a bunch of young Ecuadorians and Colombians who were trying to get his hips moving at 2 am; debating Andean rural development while lying in the hot springs in Manizales, etc etc. But besides these anecdotes, there also are so many memories about the endless conversations we had on work and private life. Many of these together with Elias; in so many ways an opposite pole from Josh but therefore making up a perfect couple. Josh was such an open, friendly person, beloved by everybody that worked with him - he really was the person that kept us motivated to create this international monster project. He learned me to be patient with other people, showing me that actually you can keep on good terms with everybody.
Also, he was an example of a man who was very considerate about the influence of private life on professional life. When in Quito, he normally tried to make a family visit before going into the work agenda, and we loved to exchange news about or personal things. Therefore, he know my wife and daughter a lot and we know, through his stories, all good and not-so-good that happened to your life. Therefore, we were continuously updated and worried about what happened to Sophia and later, about the development of his own disease. But most of all, we know the deep love he had for all of you and the wonderful memories you must have about him.
The picture below was made literally the last time we met; during the Condesan meeting in late 2010. Its Josh, Elias, Andres Felipe (now Condesan president) and myself. I attach another picture, which from July 2003 during one of those hikes in páramo; Here appears Josh with various students and collaborators of the Paramo project from Colombia, Netherlands and Venezuela. On the left (in a white jumper) Maria Victoria, my wife.
I finish this note wishing you all the very best; I imagine this new configuration of having to live without Josh’ physical presence will be difficult and sad. However, there will never be “life without Josh”; he is present everywhere and will always be so