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Richard Burford Community Spotlight

March 3rd, 2016

Richard Burford (psynaptic) was an active contributor in the Drupal community. After he joined the community in late 2006, he actively encouraged, organized, and mentored other community members, while also posting more than 1,100 commits.

On February 11, Richard unexpectedly passed away while jogging. He’s survived by his wife, Sara, and their three children, William (aged 2), and twins Lucy and Kate (age 1). This spotlight has been a collaborative community project, and showcases just a few of the many qualities and contributions admired most about Richard.

"I got to know psynaptic through #drupal-uk (back when it was still #drupaluk). He was kind, generous and funny," said James Panton(mcjim). " There were lots of late-night chats on IRC where we talked about Drupal, music, anything really. We were​ all very​ excited when he could make it to Manchester for the UK’s first DrupalCamp. He was even kinder, funnier, and more generous in real life"

Richard was active both in his local community, and in the wider Drupal world.

"I first met Richard at DrupalCamp Manchester, my first ever DrupalCamp," said Simon Poulston (soulston). "Richard instantly stood out with his insatiable energy, positivity and that beaming smile we all came to know. That Manchester trip resulted in our trip to DrupalCon Paris where we both made some amazing new friends from the community and had a truly epic time. We worked on projects together over the next few years, roomed at camps together, shared music, and remained friends ever since."

As it turned out, DrupalCon Paris was an important point in Richard's Drupal journey: it was there that he made numerous lasting friendships, and it started his journey to multiple DrupalCons around the world.

"Rich and I both started working with Drupal around the same time and quickly became friends, first on the #drupal-uk IRC channel before actually meeting for real at DrupalCon Paris," said Stella Power (stella). "He was a great guy. Not only was he always willing to help out, but he was also good company, always smiling and great fun to hang out with."

Alex Pott (alexpott) had a similar story to tell. "I went to DrupalCon Paris knowing nobody in the Drupal community. Richard was the first person I met. How lucky was that? Meeting someone so warm, generous and talented is one of the reasons I haven't missed a DrupalCon since."

"I knew how clever, knowledgeable, and helpful Richard was from seeing him online," said Elliot Ward (Eli-T). "But when I shared a room with him at DrupalCon Copenhagen, I found out how much fun he was as well. In that week Richard taught me so much: how to contribute back, how to roll a patch, how to advocate in the issue queues, and what a chicken parmo was. He went out of his way to introduce me to so many people that week, many of whom I've worked with since. That was when I realized how important the community is in Drupal—all because of the actions of one man looking out for someone he'd never met before."

"Always such a great part of the Drupal community"

Even when he wasn't fostering global connections, Richard was still actively helping out his community. A founding member of England's Drupal North East group, Richard left his mark on the Drupal community in every way he could.

"We met at DrupalCons across the world several times, and at DrupalCon Copenhagen we decided that it was ridiculous that we hadn't actually met back home. That was when we started the Drupal North East group together," said Adam Hill (adshill). In the time since the group was founded, Drupal North East has grown into a thriving community with over 100 members. "Richard has left a legacy of being one of the motivated troopers who rallied the Drupal community in his own area of the world," Hill said. "But he did so much more too, supporting people across the world with his generous nature and amazing spirit."

"He was always so helpful and such a great part of the Drupal community here in the UK," agreed Mike Bell (mikebell_). "We will miss him dearly."

Regardless of where he was, Richard's helpfulness was always on display. Whether he was helping new Drupalers find their feet on IRC, evangelizing Drupal with his local user group, or participate in a DrupalCon, Richard was always an important source of information and good cheer.

"I first met Richard and his [then] newlywed wife, Sara, at DrupalCon Denver. I was fairly new to Drupal at the time," said Alex Burrows (aburrows). "He welcomed me into the group, and we wound up attending many parties together, having good laughs, and drinking lots of beer. He was down to earth and always lightened up the conversation. It was a pleasure, and meant a lot."

Mike Carter (budda) agreed. "At DrupalCamps and Cons you couldn't miss Richard towering above the Drupal crowd, happy to chat with all. On IRC, he was always happy to help others with their Drupal questions. He was dedicated, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic about whatever challenge was brought to him."

Justine Pocock (wigglykoala) benefited from Richard's mentoring, and thanks him for some of the best guidance she's ever received. "When I first started with Drupal, I went into IRC trying to figure out what this CMS thing did. Richard (psynaptic) was one of the first people to help me there and show me the way. He was also one of the first to tell me to shut up and get my head down with learning Drupal—which actually is one of the most valuable pieces of advice I've been given! I've always (and will always) look up to Richard as a truly dedicated person."

"Fierce, dedicated, focused, and generous, Richard impressed me as he impressed and helped so many of us in the Drupal community," agreed Jeffrey A. McGuire (horncologne).

"He seemed to have near-limitless energy for getting things done ‘the right way’"

That fierce dedication helped Richard develop a reputation in the community of being an extremely passionate advocate not only for the project, but for programming and web development in general.

"I'll never forget the day that Richard introduced me to Drupal," said his longtime friend Dan Traynor (hitby). "We built a Teacher's Toolkit (in Drupal 5!) in a few hours and I was a convert. From that point on we attended a few DrupalCons together where he introduced me to many amazing developers. That forged my love for Drupal and the community. I can honestly say that without Rich I'm not sure I'd still be in the web development game."

"Richard inspired me to take my business forward in the ‘right’ way, by paying attention to detail and expressing my belief in the craft of programming," said Hill (adshill). "He was someone who clearly believed in the pleasure and value of giving, and he gave so much."

"Richard started contributing to the Textmate project during the pre-PHPStorm era, and he really made it shine," said Moshe Weitzman (moshe-weitzman). "He eventually took it over and maintained it as Drupal core and contrib grew and grew. Maintenance is a non-trivial and often unrewarding task, and it spoke a lot to his character that he would step up like that."

In addition to maintaining the Textmate project, Richard maintained Drupal Contrib API, and worked in a variety of technical roles within the Software Development, Web Design, Drupal Training, and Music Production industries. Most recently, Richard worked at Acquia as a senior software engineer.

"I’ve spoken with many people in recent days about Richard, and many described him as their favourite person in the company," said Alan Evans (alan-evans) of Acquia. "He was hugely popular: always the first person to offer a warm-hearted welcome to newcomers, or help people out with questions. And he had a talent for keeping the team in good spirits with his quick wit and laughter.

"Richard seemed to have near-limitless energy for getting things done ‘the right way’ and would pursue that goal with enviable zeal. His perfectionism didn’t necessarily agree with everyone all of the time, but he was greatly respected for having the courage to stick to his guns," he added.

"He was always there when you needed him"

Whether he was helping with code or with housework, Richard's belief in doing things the right way always shone through. He was always there for those who needed him. Now, the community is paying that love forward.

Poulston (soulston) said of his friend, "Richard was a shining example to us all of how one person truly can make a difference. He helped me and many other people countless times, and you could tell that genuinely enjoyed helping people be the best they could at whatever they did, be it music or code. That’s not only a talent, but a trait of a beautiful human being."

"Rich was always there when you needed him," agreed Traynor (hitby). "His need for perfection pushed into every area of his life. He once came to help me wallpaper a room, a task that I imagined would take about a day. Three days later we finished. I've never seen wallpaper so smooth! Thinking about it, Rich got me into many things: mountain biking, vaping (yes, I have him to thank for quitting smoking as well), music...the list goes on. The world was a better place with him in it and I'm proud to be able to have called him a friend." He added, "I love you Rich, Sara, William, Lucy, and Kate."

Hill (adshill) had wishes of peace for Richard's family as well. "Sara, I only met you twice, and you may not remember us," he said, "but my girlfriend Ieva and I send all our love to you and the kids. We hope you gain strength from knowing that we all saw how special Richard was too —and that he will be missed by friends from across the world."

"Richard was a good friend, a proud family man, and an excellent developer: a larger-than-life personality that left a lasting impression with those he met," agreed Evans (alan-evans). "I know a visit to a DrupalCon (or even the office) is not going to be the same without him. We all miss him very much."

But perhaps everyone's feelings about Richard were best summed up by Pott (alexpott), who said simply: "Richard is one of the brightest stars I've ever met. I count myself lucky to have known him."

Whether you knew Richard personally or were introduced to him for the first time through this spotlight, Richard’s friends would like to encourage you to consider donating to the GoFundMe page that was set up in Richard's memory, benefitting his wife and children.

The Drupal community has lost a valued collaborator and advocate in Richard, but his contributions both to the project and to people’s lives will always live on.

Special thanks to the following Drupal community members for their help with this community spotlight: