Dick Pence Passes at 77

Dick Pence - just before the big game (according to "Two Longs and a Short." Richard A. Pence has passed on… Dick was one of those guys who began using computers before most of us knew what a computer was. He also used computers for genealogy, and is considered who of the pioneers in genealogy computing. Goodness, I really don’t know when I first met him, but I believe it was in the mid-80s, about the time I started attending national conferences regularly. It was less than a week ago that I had a copy of his “Two Longs and a Short, and Other Tales of the Old West” in my hands while working in my library. He inscribed a copy for me in 2001. The book is made up of humorous short stories, all with an historical twist to them, and many having a connection to his hometown of Frederick, South Dakota.

The following is from the back cover of “Two Longs and a Short.” You can find a longer version that was published in The Washington Post in 1991 at his website.

“In deliberate succession, she dialed an operator in Cleveland, asked her to dial one in Chicago, asked Chicago to dial Minneapolis, and Minneapolis to dial Sioux City, Iowa. Sioux City called Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and the operator there dialed one in Aberdeen, South Dakota. At last, Aberdeen dialed the operator in Columbia.

By this time, Philadelphia’s patience was wearing thin, but when Columbia answered, she knew what had to be done.

“The number for the Bob Pence residence, please,” she said, now in control.

Columbia didn’t even hesitate. “That’s two longs and a short,” she declared.

Philadelphia was set back for an instant, but valiantly plowed on. “I have a collect call from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for anyone at that number. Would you please ring?”

“They’re not home,” said Columbia.”

Download the entire 194-page pdf file of Dick’s “Two Longs and a Short.”

Although Dick wrote an award-winning photographic history about rural electrification titled “The Next Greatest Thing” in 1984, genealogists will most likely remember him as co-editor of “Computer Genealogy,” and as a dinner-speaker at at National conferences. He was a friendly likable fellow, and certainly will be missed.

Dick’s website is still up and can be found at: http://www.pipeline.com/%7Erichardpence/

His bio – from the website can be found here: http://www.pipeline.com/%7Erichardpence/family.htm

Dick Eastman has posted a nice blog – including the bio (from Pence’s website). I also wish to thank Tom Kemp for doing a tweet this morning that alerted me to Eastman’s blog, and Dick’s passing.

One thought on “Dick Pence Passes at 77

  1. I write and teach about technology and I just found that Dick Pence’s web site has fallen off line. I’ll republish “Two Longs and a Short” on my own Cryptosmith site. I use it to illustrate early phone technology.

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