There are times when I hear a story from the WordPress community and I think “That’s a HeroPress story”, whether it has been or ever will actually be posted on the site. Some stories are just so great that you think “Wow, that’s just really great”. This week’s essay is one of those stories, but it won’t be told by the person it’s about.
Kim Parsell has one of my absolute favorite HeroPress stories, but we lost her before HeroPress was even properly started. I’ve keenly felt the loss of the wisdom and joy she would have brought to HeroPress. I only met her in person once, at the last WordCamp San Francisco. She was so very much in her element, even I could see it, who barely knew her.
I’ve literally spent years now, trying to think of an appropriate way to share her story on HeroPress, and I think this year I found it. The WordPress community was Kim’s family, and she was our mom. I’m going to let some of the people closest to her tell some of her story.
From Jeff Chandler
What did the WordPress community mean to Kim Parsell? Family.
In order to understand how highly valued the WordPress community was to Kim Parsell, you first have to realize her environment.
Kim was a middle-aged woman who lived off a dirt road, on top of a hill, in Southern rural Ohio. She was often by herself, taking care of the property with only a few neighbors up and down the road.
She received internet access from towers that broadcasted wireless signals, similar to cell phones but at lower speeds.
Through WordPress Weekly, Kim gained access to members of the WordPress community where she was able to talk to them on a weekly basis. The show and its after hours sessions provided Kim a chance to mingle with the who’s who of WordPress at the time. It helped establish long-lasting relationships that would open up future opportunities.
In a location where not many around her used or even heard of WordPress, the community was an outlet for her to be around like-minded people. Kim had a blast interacting with people online and at WordCamp events. Many members of the WordPress community became her second family, a responsibility she took very seriously.
From Carrie Dils
When Topher asked me if I’d write a few words in remembrance of Kim, I couldn’t say YES fast enough. I told him I remembered a whole lot more about how she made me feel versus how she felt about WordPress and the community. (I suppose the saying is true that people don’t remember what you say, they remember how you made them feel).
I first remember meeting Kim on Twitter, so I went back and did a search to the earliest conversations of ours I could find. They dated back to January 2013, nearly two years to the date after she passed in January 2015. I will always remember Kim, along with Mika Epstein and Andrea Rennick, for their kindness to me when I was new to the community. They were the first “women of WordPress” to draw me in and make me feel at home simply by sharing themselves and their knowledge.
That’s what community is, right? You share things that are personal, vulnerable even. You share your experiences. In doing that, you naturally invite others to reciprocate. That’s the environment Kim created with hundreds of others, not just me. Affectionately called #wpmom, Kim was an investor. She invested countless hours into the WordPress project (she had “props” for 5 major releases of WP and also volunteered her time for the documentation team). She invested in women who wanted to break into tech. She invested in me.
I still well up with tears when I remember Kim. I’m proud that the WordPress Foundation now offers a scholarship in her memory. She loved this community and this community loved her right back. Her legacy lives on…
From Jayvie Arellano
Kim was a self-reliant person who had a nurturing spirit, and WordPress gave her a channel by which she can channel that energy. I believe that her participation in WordCamps and the docs team enriched her life; every WC she went to, there was always someone she’s known online that she would connect with and check up on. She was concerned with everyone’s well-being.
She wouldn’t be a coder in our common understanding, but she understood coders. She understood the pitfalls of an isolated life and encouraged people to reach out and be concerned for one another. Her record of kindness and generosity have set an example for a lot of others to follow.
From Jan Dembowski
Kim Parsell was the sort of person who made me want to become a better human being. And the reciprocal of that is that I sought her approval for what I did, how I behaved and how I handled myself in the WordPress community and in life.
Just to be clear, she never said or did anything that indicated that her approval was needed. Or that it was a condition for her friendship. But she was #wpmom and that’s just how it was for me. Our online interactions were fun and collaborating with her in the WordPress community was a learning experience for me. I used that experience to become better at my job and it showed.
When I had to deal with a death in my family, she was one of the people I emailed. I needed that interaction and she was there for me with others in the community.
I met Kim in person at WordCamp SF 2014. She was amazed at how everyone was treating her. All these people she had contact with and everyone was thrilled to meet her. When the time came, she gave a video presentation on the docs team. She was nervous, had some laptop troubles and didn’t feel prepared. She did fine and I was there cheering her on from the sidelines.
After WCSF 2014 we stayed in touch and I would send her images of things my children did. When I got the news of her passing it was hard. But she left an amazing example. She taught me and others to take care of yourself, take care of those close to you and be a responsible person. How often do you meet someone like that? I’m so glad for having met her. Just by being herself she made me a better person.
From Drew Jaynes
Kim Parsell was driven. She knew the things she knew, and had a pretty good idea of how to find out the things she didn’t.
You’d be amazed how far the simple quality of that “self starter” attitude can take you as a contributor.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not intentionally diminishing Kim to simply having the will to pull herself up by her proverbial boot straps. It’s merely to demonstrate the point that Kim’s temperament and poise in unfamiliar situations was unmatched, and that is one of the reasons why she was able to affect so much positive change in WordPress.
Kim’s positive attitude and helping nature was infectious. She had the uncanny ability to walk into a room of complete strangers and walk out with a group of new friends – and newly-gleaned knowledge to go along with it.
When Kim visited WordCamp San Francisco (the precursor to WordCamp US) for the first time in 2014, it was hugs all around. Literally. Kim had been contributing to WordPress for years and largely never met many of the people she’d had an opportunity to collaborate with.
The community summit was being held in conjunction with WCSF that year and the only way she could afford to go was on a travel scholarship offered at the time by the foundation – the same scholarship that now justly bears her name.
It was an amazing thing to see, made all the more tragic when Kim left us just a few short months later. She was well on her way to realizing her goal of being able to contribute full time and get paid for her effort.
I’m sad to say Kim never got there, but her spirit lives on in the people she knew and inspired. Here’s hoping that the Kim Parsell Memorial Scholarship will serve to further inspire those who follow in her footsteps.