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Ezra Zygmuntowicz has died
429 points by milesf on Nov 30, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 69 comments
Ezra Zygmuntowicz, a founder of the rails hosting company Engine Yard and original developer of the web framework Merb, passed away Wednesday, November 26th. No details yet, but what was a rumor on twitter has been confirmed by Stuffstr.com's VP Steve Gutmann, the last company Ezra work at as their CTO.

Will update as more information is known.

One time I was working on doing some tricky distributed routing for a freelance customer that was using Merb. At the time I didn't know Ezra and we'd never personally met, but I explained my problem over email and asked if he had any suggestions. I wasn't really expecting a reply -- it was essentially a cold call.

He immediately dropped what he was doing and emailed me back, "that sounds like a really interesting problem -- can I call you and we'll set up a screenshare?" He then spent two hours helping me get it right, free of charge, and he never asked for anything. (I eventually had to email a few of his colleagues to figure out his office address to send him a thank-you present.)

I think that is the sort of thing that epitomized Ezra, from everything I've heard from his many other friends: he was funny, patient, and most of all kind.

That sounds just like the guy I met at RailsConf in 2006. We were starting Kongregate and I saw Ezra's talk on Rails Deployment. It was amazing and after talking to him I decided to try to use Engineyard for Kongregate hosting. We were one of their first five customers and unfortunately the distributed filesystem didn't work well for us. We switched off to our own colo but Ezra helped us at every step of the way, long after it was clear we weren't coming back.

Such a loss.

Link describing the talk:


This is Ezra's brother, Eli Zygmuntowicz. Thank you all for you kind comments. I know he valued his programming and tech community immensely. He will be sorely missed by his family, friends and son. If any of you are interested, we are having a memorial service for him in Portland this Wednesday, Dec 3. We are also setting up a memorial trust fund for his son, Ryland. Please email me at eliziggy@hotmail.com if you would like details about either the service or fund. Best. Eli

Thanks so much for the info Eli. For those that want to attend the service, do you have a time and location available? Or should they contact you to get that? I'd like to pass it along to people who have asked on twitter.

Yes it is ok to share with friends on twitter. The service is for family and close friends of Ezra's.

Service & Burial - 1:30 pm, Weds. Dec. 3 River View Cemetery - Adams Chapel 0300 SW Taylors Ferry Rd Portland, OR 97219 503-246-4251

We will be setting up and sharing info about a trust fund being set up for his surviving son Ryland soon as well as central place for people to share their comments Ezra.

Thanks for all of your kind words and support

Here's an etherpad collecting the articles, tweets, and other links in memoriam of Ezra:


Ezra was the first to start making Redis popular, wrote the initial implementation of the Ruby client, gave the first talk I remember at lightning conf. One time I met him at EY office with his family, with the 2 months old child. At some point he started to disappear more and more, we were supposed to meet in Portland at a Redis conf and he was not able to make it. I was concerned about him every time I saw a rare tweet. I'm sorry Ezra.

When I was first releasing Haml, I remember that Ezra piped up and encouraged me. Actually, thanks to the Internets, it's still there https://groups.google.com/d/msg/rubyonrails-talk/UqYlo_N59zo...

Seeing someone as brilliant as Ezra saying he liked my project (Haml was the first thing I ever released) really encouraged me to continue on in OSS development. And, of course, we added iterators to Haml shortly after Ezra suggested it.

Also, Ezra was super helpful when we built m.wikipedia.org using Merb... helping me get everything set up so that we could scale that project to 2 billion pages a month through the three dinky machines I had!

I'm totally surprised and gutted to hear that he's passed. :(

He used to fly little radio controlled helicopters all over our office at Engine Yard. Playful and fun. The real tragedy has little to do with his departure from the world of technology. The real tragedy is that his son, who must be no older than six, has lost his father. So so sad.

Hello everyone. Here is the link to my Brother Ezra's son Ryland's Memorial fund. If I know one thing at this time it was that my brother loved and wanted to provide for his son. Please help us do that any way you can. Please share via Twitter or any media or with friends who want to help out. Thanks for all the support.


Best, Eli Zygmuntowicz

Ezra was so good to me. He helped write Chef, tool our idea and ran with it as a critical part of Engine Yard cloud. We wrote chef solo together . He and his wife made my wife and I feel warm and welcomed in San Francisco. Rest well, big guy.

If you didn't know Ezra, some of his talks are available on Confreaks:


In particular, his last talk at RailsConf 2012 is a fascinating history of Ruby on Rails:


He moved to Portland, Oregon for a new job, but I believe mostly to jump back into the glass blowing scene he helped create in the 90's. Ezra was a innovator in the glass pipe world. A world class artist that reinvented lampworking.

The way I will always remember Ezra: https://www.flickr.com/photos/adelcambre/2932034431/in/photo... (MerbCamp, 2008)

Those photos bring back a lot of good memories. I believe MerbCamp was the first time I had met Ezra in person. Really enjoyed hanging with him and the other members of the Merb team. Ezra has impacted my life in a very good way and will be missed.

me too.

Ezra hired me at Engine Yard about two months before he left. I loved discussing infrastructure and software with him. He did a lot for the Ruby community and brought to light lots of great tech (redis and nginx). He had a big impact on my career and for that I will be forever grateful. Prayers and thoughts with this family. Rest in peace Ezra.

I shared a cab ride with Ezra from the New Orleans airport to the RubyConf hotel in 2010. In the very short time we spent in the car talking about his new role at VMware working on Cloud Foundry, his enthusiasm and passion for Ruby and the community's future left a huge impression on me.

Ezra, you will be missed.

When I was getting started with Thin (the Ruby web server), Ezra sent the first few patches, talked about it at confs, used it at his company and helped me debug it on IRC for hours. Only because, he thought it was cool tech. His passion was contagious.

He's the reason why my tiny project became popular and I'm sure many other tech we use today. Thank you Ezra!

What do you say about a man who embodied everything that is good and precious about the culture of sharing in software? When we all got that Rails was the next big thing in '05 and '06, Ezra was there in IRC and freely gave of his time and expertise and all but tutored me in Rails and Ruby. I was so deeply moved by his generosity, that on meeting him at the first Rails conference, I just had to hug him.

Goodbye, friend. The kindness you showed to me and to so many others lives on. Thank you.

Right there with you. I can't count the number of times he helped me on IRC.

If you were building Rails apps in 2005/6, more than likely you were reading Ezra's blog post on how deploy to your VPS. It was tricky to get right, but Ezra made it so that it was no longer impossible. He was always there to help people with their own tricky configurations too.

I meet Ezra at RailsConf 2007, this was pre Engine yard if I am not mistaken. At this point he was all merb. He was fun to be around, very positive attitude and extremely smart.

Sad day…

When I was very new to Rails, I heard a talk Ezra gave at a RailsConf about the work he had done setting up and configuring servers for EY when they were just starting out. He spoke about the technical details with great enthusiasm for a few minutes and then stopped, laughed, and said "Can you tell I love my job?".

Ezra agreed to co-found Engine Yard in January 2006, and was full-time in August or September I believe.

Merb was built to handle a high-traffic endpoint for one of our customers. :-)

So Merb's genesis was in response to a customer's need? I remember Rails, Ruby, and the hosting stack being mighty slow back in the early days.

Merb started as essentially a wrapper on top of mongrel handler. Merb = Mongrel + erb. Mongrel had concurrency and it was super lightweight. However, it did not have goodies like routing or templating engine. Ezra write Merb as modular framework which did not care if you used datamapper or active record. Haml or ERB.

Yes, it was 100% in response to our customers' needs.

I woke up this morning to Regan's post on that old photo.

It's an incredibly sad day: a great hacker, founder, and community member has been lost forever.

Goodbye Exra, I'll miss you.

In the early days of both Engine Yard and Kongregate Ezra and I worked closely on solving some problems during high pressure moments. He was smart, dedicated, and genuine. He worked hard to not just solve problems, but to communicate and teach everyone around him.

We lost touch over the years, chatting occasionally and always saying "hey, we should meet up sometime." I'm sorry now we didn't.

Ezra was a playful hacker who was never afraid to strike out and build something crazy.

He taught me how to deploy Rails apps, and with his help I figured out what I needed to get a production environment running on Windows. Then he asked me to contribute what I know to https://pragprog.com/book/fr_deploy/deploying-rails-applicat... (out of print now).

He's one of three people responsible for turning my career completely around back in 2005. He always paid it forward, and I have always done that myself since.

He was amazing. Honestly, we need more of that and less "you're doing it wrong."

I met Ezra back at RailsConf (2007) after a talk he gave. Scary smart, yet friendly and humble. The man left us way too soon.

I too would like to echo the sentiments that already have been expressed here. I remember discovering nginx through his blog post about how to easily set up rails with it. I had issues with backgroundrb and he was so kind to help me out over irc and countless other moments. I also remember him bringing Redis to my attention I think he did so for a large number of us. I followed his work as I had a deep respect and admiration for him as a person. So tragic to hear this news. Really gutted. I will never forget him.

Never had a chance to meet him in person so Thank you Ezra.

This was horrible news to wake up to last night. The importance of Ezra in the Rails and related communities cannot be overstated. He was a great guy with a big heart; always busy making things whether in the programming world, with glass, or 3D printers. A true hacker. I wasn't lucky enough to call him a friend, more of a professional connection/acquaintance, but I'm glad I reached out to him during his darkest moment and got to know him a little better in the process. He will be missed.

It looks like Ezra has been battling an illness for over a year: https://groups.google.com/d/msg/trinitylabs-talk/f8XOageAwcY...

I'm very sad to hear such bad news about a great person. :( I learned a lot about developing by hanging out in #merb and #engineyard chatting with Ezra and the crew.

Do you know what illness that was?

His colleagues and family went to considerable lengths keeping it out of the spotlight - so we can assume he didn't want people to know. That means it's probably an illness with a significant stigma, likely something with a strong mental component.

While personally I think it's a missed opportunity to raise awareness of a potentially fatal disease, and a missed chance for the people who admired him to make a final human connection (cause of death is generally considered a necessary element of reaching closure), it's their prerogative to keep it a secret. And if he wanted people to know, he'd probably have addressed the issue.

Was it diabetes?

"I'm also not jumping back in too quickly as the stress had agravated my recently diagnosed type 2 adult onset diabetes which is what landed me in the hospital." -- Ezra Zygmuntowicz

"@inetdavid type2 adult onset. too much hacking for 18 hours a day drinking red bull and eating fast food. lost 118lbs after diagnosed!" -- Ezra Zygmuntowicz



How can type 2 diabetes kill a person after only 1 year of being diagnosed? What the hell? :-(

There can certainly be complications, but diabetes is usually considered manageable with an otherwise healthy patient. There's really no point in speculating without more information, so I'd drop it unless/until more is made public.

No idea what happened to Ezra; sad to see him go. I am not in anyway speculating about what happened to Ezra.

That said, as a diabetic myself, I am answering this really only to your question, "How can type 2 diabetes kill a person after only 1 year of being diagnosed? What the hell?"

First - there is a very high correlation of age and aggression of disease progression within people with type 2 diabetes. What I am saying here is, on average, the younger you are when diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, the higher the likely hood of early/severe complications.

Second - uncontrolled high blood sugars can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis which can be fatal. This can come on very quickly. Additionally; if a diabetic goes into diabetic ketoacidosis and pulls through they become at a much greater risk of having this happen again in the future.

Third - Dead in Bed Syndrome - This is the sudden death of a diabetic in their sleep and accounts for the deaths of 6% of all type 1 diabetics under age 40. This one is highly tied to Type 1 diabetes, but can also occur in Type 2 diabetic that require insulin therapy.

I'm terribly sorry to see him go and not for the Ruby/Rails or programming community that so looked up to him, but for his family and his son to him he will always be irreplaceable.

I'm very sad to hear this.

In the very early days of Rails Ezra was one of the most helpful people on the IRC channel. When he mentioned that he worked only a few hundred miles away I helped hire him at a small software outfit in Spokane, WA and worked closely with him for over a year.

From there he left to co-found EngineYard.

He did so much for the Ruby community and will sorely missed.

I'm glad I had a chance to know him.

He left us to early. It is very, very sad. RIP you will be missed :/

Wow, this make me really sad. I remember interviewing him about Engine Yard on my old podcast.

He always impressed me and I was so happy he took the time to talk: http://web20show.com/2008/07/episode-47-ezra-zygmuntowicz/.

I'll miss Ezra and his outgoing spirit. Goodbye, old friend.

Ezra was a pioneer in the glass-blowing/pipe industry. Here is some of his work: https://www.facebook.com/jason.lee.16568548/posts/1020460894...

I am deeply saddened by this news. I remember trying to convince Ezra to join us to help out with CloudFoundry. I, like others, knew Ezra through the Ruby community where he was a larger than life presence. My thoughts are with his son, his family and friends.

Ezra was an inspiration to me. My first ever OS contribution was to merb, and his was so helpful, it inspired me to keep going. It was great to work with him on that project, and later at Engineyard. So sorry to hear of his passing.

Wow... Very sad news. His twitter page shows him living in Eugene, Oregon, my hometown. I wonder what he was doing there.

He was getting in touch with his glass blowing roots. He had a studio that he opened down there last march or April.

The Ruby and Rails community has lost one of its kindest souls. Ezra has left behind a legacy everyone must aspire to.

Ezra was a nice guy. Very approachable and even though he was probably smarter than most he talked to he never came across superior.

He is also the one who introduced me to nginx and I think he was instrumental in making nginx a western webserver that is now used all over the place.

Condolences to Ezra's family. He'll be missed my many lucky people whom he influenced.

:(( What happened ?

All just speculation right now, but apparently there will be a service on Wednesday December 3rd in Portland, Oregon.

This is terribly sad. Profound loss for the Ruby community, among many others.

Ezra is an upstanding human, a generous and helpful spirit. He will be missed.

Oh wow. So sad to hear about a pillar and pioneer in the Ruby community.

With my brief encounter of him, he was one of the nicest guys I've ever run across. He took everyone seriously despite the level of customer. He always helped like jx5 was saying. Damn.

Rest in peace, Ezra.

RIP Ezra!

Thank you very much for your contributions and Merb.

shit man! that sucks, you will be missed :-{

He left us too early. So sad to hear it.


Sorry to ask, I know it's a very personal thing, but was he ill? :(

RIP Ezra.

Such a big loss. May you rest in peace.

What was the cause of death?

Seriously: it's really uncool that you keep asking this.

I'm sad that you're sad, but you're not taking the hint.

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