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In memory of Terry Gillett

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Terry Gillett passed away last Saturday after a three year battle with cancer. If you have been involved in any way with Village Telco, you are bound to have come across Terry through either by using the fruits of his labour in developing Village Telco hardware and software or through the personal support he provided willingly to anyone seeking to offer affordable communication to the unserved.

It wasn’t long after Village Telco got started that Terry reached out to express an interest in the project and to begin to share his expertise. Little did I know that those initial emails would turn into a collaboration that helped Village Telco achieve so much more than I would have believed possible. He was a brilliant engineer who delighted in technical problem-solving. His hard work and commitment, all of which he did as a volunteer, resulted in professional quality software that was the foundation of the project.

But that wasn’t his biggest contribution by any means. Terry helped everyone. He was a passionate believer that everyone deserves affordable access to communication and knowledge and treated questions and requests for support with thought and care. Anyone who has been involved with the Village Telco community for any length of time has experienced first hand what a kind, selfless, and generous person Terry was. He shared his considerable expertise with everyone and was willing to support anyone who asked for help. He was what any open source project dreams of having; a brilliant, committed and generous contributor. But he was more than a contributor. We became friends as we worked through the many challenges that Village Telco faced. It is safe to say that Village Telco would not have even gotten out of the gate without his help. He was also just fun to talk to. We never met in person but had no end of chats, emails, and calls. I could not have asked for a better ally and friend in the work we did.

After Village Telco was wound up, we stayed in contact with his work on the Digital Library Project. He continued to use his considerable expertise in developing affordable access-to-knowledge technologies for unserved regions. I don’t know that I have ever met a more decent human being. There is comfort in knowing that he lives on in the many, many people he touched with his work. As my friend and fellow collaborator Elektra says “We are really only dead if nobody remembers us anymore.” I shall miss him dearly. My way of remembering him will be to try to embody his thoughtfulness and generosity of spirit in helping others. My heart goes out to his wife and family for their loss.

If you would like to leave a testimonial to Terry or share a personal experience, you can visit

– Steve Song