“…he was just a friend?”   2 comments

Thursday (March 19, 2009), a 59-year-old man and his 9-month old son died in a traffic accident in Santa Clara, Peru. His wife was seriously injured and remains hospitalized in critical condition.   Just another accident?

Yesterday afternoon (March 20, 2009), John Delaney sent an email from Olavarrias, Argentina, informing me that GSE team member, Raul Avalos (Lone Star College – Montgomery Program Coordinator) had received word that his close friend, Gustavo Wensjoe had died in a traffic accident in Peru and that Raul would be returning to Houston.   Just another friend?

As GSE Chair, my first reaction was one of sadness, but “why leave the team and return home – he was just a friend?” Not an unexpected reaction given the little information I had to paint a mental picture of the situation, filling in the voids with generalities. Just another picture?

Feeling a need to talked to John and Raul before any returned trip was arranged, I replied immediately asking John to call me. Hours went by during which time I sought advice and emailed those in a “need-to-know” position.  Still not having any more information, I went to bed.   Just another day?

7:00 a.m. today (March 21, 2009), I received a call from John informing me he had tried several times last night to call using their calling cards, with no success.  As chance would have it, they met this morning with the president of the local Rotary Club and he had a international cell phone. The conversation that followed provided much needed information, not the least of which was Raul’s regret not having returned home months ago when another friend had died.  The circumstances around death are always personal, but it is easy to remain disconnected when your mental picture is one without a face.   Just another face?

After the phone conversation, I sent follow-up emails trying to keep people updated.  While doing so, Joy brings me the Houston Chronicle obituary, “Wensjoe, 59, led center for international studies.”

Gustavo Wensjoe, a University of St. Thomas professor described as a natural leader with an inexhaustible supply of energy, died Thursday in a traffic accident in Santa Clara, Peru. He was 59.

Wensjoe’s 9-month-old son, Julian, also was killed. His wife, Houston immigration lawyer Joanne Houck, was seriously injured.

“He was such a presence on campus,” said Dominic Aquila, vice president of academic affairs at the school and a friend. “Gustavo had a heart as big as the city.”

Sometimes our efforts to act responsibly create disconnects so we can better “see the forest for the trees” — to see the bigger picture. However, when the disconnect results in a picture allowing the conclusion, “…he was just a friend,” going only with the facts, all be they incomplete, doesn’t allow our intuition to see the possibilities. In balance, a friend is never “…just a friend.”


2 responses to ““…he was just a friend?”

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  1. He probably just needs some time to recover from the loss. Gustavo was a good friend of mine, too, and I am still in a tailspin over him and Julian and Joanne. Good luck to him in his recovery. Good luck to us all in filling the gap that Gustavo’s death leaves in this world.


  2. Indeed…


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