He would not have wanted a sad show. Longtime tech promoter, public relations consultant, and mensch Alan Weinkrantz found a reason to smile every day, and an opportunity to offer someone a helping hand or guiding word, no strings attached. His tragic death in a Tel Aviv accident two weeks ago shocked the local tech community, but if there is such a thing, Alan was mourned with joy.
When it came time to celebrate Alan’s life and work Monday night at the Paper Tiger on the St. Mary’s Strip, people gave Alan what he deserved: a celebratory farewell that was a mix of shared memories, heartfelt tributes, Hebrew song, and a moving video from Geekdom, the workplace he called home in San Antonio.
I was honored to emcee the show, which was short, touching and, ultimately, renewing. Afterwards, there was an on-stage performance by the Blue Note Ringos, who delivered a stirring set of Beatles hits. No wonder Weinkrantz remained obsessed with the Beatles. Every song sounds like a classic.
Chad Cary, restaurateur, club owner and host, welcomed the crowd and pledged the evening’s bar proceeds to a fund established to help Alan’s two children defray funeral expenses. People signed posters for Aaron and Lauren Weinkrantz, his two children in from New York, and dropped donations into a bucket. More than 200 others made online donations to the GoFundMe campaign started by Geekdom CEO Lorenzo Gomez that passed the $20,000 mark during the program.
Geekdom Co-founder Nick Longo took to the stage to deliver a homage to Weinkrantz, complete with this video posted to Facebook. Longo also hatched the idea of somehow procuring a microphone autographed by Sir Paul McCartney, who performed at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in October 2014, a concert Weinkrantz reviewed for the Rivard Report. The idea was to hold an auction during the memorial service and add a few hundred bucks to the kitty. Geekdom’s Christian Torres conducted the auction and what ensued stunned him and everyone else watching. The bidding started slow and took a minute to reach $100, and awhile more to pass $500. Then new bidders inched into the room and toward the stage and the pace quickened. Suddenly, three or four people, all young tech entrepreneurs by the look of things, began to bid in earnest, egged on by a boisterous crowd in support of a good cause. Torres was on his knees by the time the bidding hit $2,500, and in between his own laughs of disbelief, he kept the price climbing. In the end, the final bid was $5,000 from Jonathan Kroll, an Israeli youth who said he had flown to San Antonio just to attend the service and to express his gratitude for Weinkrantz’s mentorship.
It was a wonderfully strange night and opportunity to bid farewell to Weinkrantz
Elisheva Swart, the daughter of Winslow Swart, a longtime Geekdom member and friend of Alan, sang an a capella medley of Psalm 37 and a Hebrew lament, “If I forget thee…”
Monika Maeckle, my wife, spoke about her long efforts in the 1990s, before the advent of a tech community in San Antonio, to win Weinkrantz’s business for Business Wire where she then worked. Alan was such a peripatetic producer of tech company press releases from the Silicon valley to New York that he drew national attention. It took months for her to win a meeting with Alan and then his confidence. That accomplished, the connection quickly became friendship and then families making the connection. Like most who spoke, she nearly made it to the end before the emotion of the moment caught up with her voice. She finished with a rousing house toast.
Aaron and Lauren came to the stage to thank everyone, with many in attendance they have known since they were children. Afterwards, people gathered in small groups, on and off the Paper Tiger dance floor, to hug, to share memories of Alan, to offer toasts. Some danced to the Blue Note Ringos. Others lounged outside. It was a gathering of all ages and backgrounds. Alan would have liked it. It was his kind of crowd.
Postscript: I left a dinner party late Saturday night two weeks ago after receiving word of Alan’s tragic death and went home to write a late night remembrance, San Antonio Tech Pioneer Dies in Israeli Accident. After searching our archive for Weinkrantz photos, I turned to Facebook and found the perfect photo of Alan and fellow tech evangelist Nan Palmero slinging guitars in the Weinkrantz garage. That photo accompanied the original story and has drawn a lot of attention since for perfectly capturing the man and the moment. I asked Nan at the service to share with me something he had written after learning of Alan’s death. Here it is:
“Entrepreneurs think they live with risk. Here’s how you’ll know in the end whether the risks you took mattered and it won’t have to do with web traffic or bank accounts.
“Alan was reckless. He was reckless in his love of Texas and Israel. He was reckless in the way he loved his kids. He loved people dangerously around the world. When you do that, there’s a risk. A risk of exploitation. A fear of not getting back your fair share. But Alan didn’t care about that. That’s why you and I love him so much. It’s why there’s a lifetime of stories about how wonderful he was to each of us. He didn’t live too carefully. When Alan decided who to care for and who to help, he drew a big circle around everyone and said ‘you’re in.’
“The love Alan shared with us overflowed our hearts and it modeled and equipped us to love others like Alan in our own unique ways. So don’t just go out and be reckless when it comes to work and making money. Be reckless with the love you give away in being helpful to others, like Alan was with us. Godspeed, El Presidente. Until we meet again.”
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