Even though I have never actually met Edward Zielinski, I feel like I knew him well. We had been in touch ever since he joined this forum back in 2006, Skyping, sometimes for hours at a time. He would be in his office in Illinois, USA, me in my studio at Tamborine Mountain, Australia. Often it was 2 or 3 in the morning for Eddie.
"What are you doing up at this time of night, Eddie?"
"Oh, just doing some book work and playing my guitars. I thought I'd see if you were in."
We'd talk music and guitars mostly, but we shared many other interests. In one of our first sessions, we both opened Google Earth and gave each other virtual tours of our neighborhoods, past and present. I learned all about his youth, where and how he spent it, and he learned of mine. We discussed world affairs, relationships, art, health, our kids, the economy, aviation, politics and, inevitably, we'd wind up grabbing our guitars and playing to each other across the ether.
One day several years ago, I Skyped him for advice. I sell my brass guitar slides online and I had been thinking about branding them with my name and website. I imagined I would get a steel die made that I could somehow whack with a heavy hammer to stamp the writing into the top of the slide. I made some local inquires and came up with nothing. Then I remembered that Eddie was in that business. He owned his own machine shop. He quickly set me straight, pointing out that unless I came down perfectly perpendicular with my heavy hammer, I would get a botched impression and would have to throw the slide away. "Leave it with me", he told me. A couple of months later, a courier appeared at my door with two very heavy parcels. One was the ingenious steel-box-with-20-ton-jack affair, the other was the hydraulic pump, a long tube with a handle. We Skyped and he explained how to hook it all together. You can see it in the video below, shot not more than 6 weeks ago. Pure genius.
Another story he told me that I will never forget: He was in a music store in Chicago and heard a young man playing one of the pianos on display. He described how beautiful and soulful his playing was. Eddie asked him if he owned such an instrument. "Oh no, I could never afford anything like this", he told Eddie. So Eddie -- being Eddie -- went to the counter, bought the piano and told the young musician it was his to take home. "It just made me feel good, Kirk."
Music was everything to Eddie. He loved acoustic American folk music and he played it beautifully and sang it with what I can only describe as a golden voice, the kind of voice that stops time, raspy, untrained, but full of soul and feeling. Golden. It was my pleasure and honor to add some of my playing to his tracks.
His support for this forum and its members is legendary. He has helped financially, making regular donations to help defray the costs of hosting and bandwidth, he has helped members here by buying them instruments and equipment they couldn't otherwise afford, and he has helped with his advice: over 10,000 posts, more than double the number I, the site founder, have made!
Yes, Eddie, you truly are one of a kind. You left us way too soon. I was counting on shaking your hand and sitting down with you, in the flesh, on playing our guitars together in the same space. Not to be. But I'm lucky: I sell my brass slides every day, and I get to think of you every time I use that incredible press you invented and sent to me, to be reminded of someone I'm proud to call a friend.
Wherever it is you have gone, I will see you there.
Your friend in Australia,
All my condolences to the Zielinskis.