Heather Messenger suffered a tragic death on Saturday, January 3, 1998. She was a wonderful friend, an outstanding colleague, a superb editor, and a skilled technologist. The editors and staff members of Laser Focus World and its associated publications mourn the irreplaceable loss of someone who loved life to the full and who demonstrated time after time her passion for the magazine and the industry it serves. Heather will be sorely missed by her colleagues on the magazine and her countless friends in the industry.
I first met Heather in the early fall of 1991 when I was considering joining Laser Focus World. The then publisher, Bill Pryor, asked the two of us to have lunch to see if there would be "a meeting of the minds." I have absolutely no memory of what we ate but I do remember that the lunch went on for more than three hours as we excitedly discussed magazines, the world of lasers, and life in general. No matter what the topic, Heather always had challenging ideas that would stimulate endless discussions. That was the first of many lunches with Heather where the ideas flowed fast and furiously. Heather loved to eat but eating came second to the intellectual cut and thrust of conversation. To say that I will miss those sessions is an understatement.
My second early memory of Heather is of trying to walk into the Photonics West trade show in San Jose in 1992. I say trying to walk because we could get no further than the registration desk before Heather was stopped by people anxious to talk to her. She remembered everyone and carried in her head details of previous contacts, work done, family members, and much more. Heather was a walking encyclopedia of information and shared it freely with every person she met.
One has many such memories of a person who was loved by so many and gave so much. I will always remember Heather taking charge of our annual planning meetings where we suggest topics for the following year`s coverage in Laser Focus World. She would stand in front of an enormous white board lined with an empty matrix of months and subject categories and challenge the rest of the staff to keep up with the flow of ideas that poured out of her racing mind. With remarkable speed the matrix filled with a kaleidoscope of colors as Heather deftly wielded a clutch of markers. She would prod us to come up with ideas and we did, but the heart of those sessions was the boundlessly energetic Heather.
Heather is survived by her son Dane, aged five, who was the light of her life, her parents Barbara and Dan Williamson (Northville, MI), sister Hannah (Northville, MI), and brothers Gordon (Clearwater Beach, FL) and Dan (Wheaton, IL). A native of Detroit, Heather was first drawn to science at Southfield-Lathrop High School. She graduated from Northern Michigan University in Marquette with a B.S. in chemistry. She went on to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City where her lifelong interest in spectroscopy was awakened. Subsequently, Heather transferred to the University of Oregon in Eugene where she was awarded a master`s degree in physical chemistry.
At Aster Publishing, also in Eugene, Heather founded Spectroscopy magazine, where she honed her latent editorial skills. Heather joined Laser Focus World in 1989 as a Senior Technical Editor, later advancing to Executive Editor, where she continued to be an inspiration and a painstaking mentor to many editors and writers. She had exceedingly high standards and would suffer no compromises. She also loved to solve problems: I can hear her now, exclaiming, "Sounds like a plan!" as we came up with solutions to finding just the right cover photo or a substitute feature for one that didn`t quite measure up.
But most of all I will miss the whirlwind that was Heather on the days when she came to our offices in Nashua. She would bounce into my office with a cheery "Good morning: so what`s new?" For Heather there were always new ideas, new problems, and new solutions to be discussed. She could not wait to get down to the business of editing her beloved magazine, often calling me from her car before she arrived in the office--and calling me again after she had left. I loved to get those calls as much as her passion for her work drove her to make them.
Goodbye Heather, thank you for lighting my days with your brilliant energy. May you rest in peace.