Orr Connected Neighbors, Encouraged Conversations
The public is invited to Village Hall Saturday, Feb. 2 at 10 a.m. to pay tribute to Steve Orr, who died unexpectedly on Monday. Friends and residents are encouraged to write tributes to Orr below.
In today's techno-savvy modern world, where study after study suggests communicating via computers is deteriorating people's interpersonal skills, Steve Orr found a way to use technology to bring neighbors together.
His creation helped residents find lost dogs, discuss their tax bills, debate issues and learn what is happening in their community.
Orr who died, unexpectedly Monday from heart failure, was the creator of Frambors and Framcom, two computer list serves that allowed people to stay connected with their neighbors, their town and their community.
"I remember when Steve first started Frambors," said fellow Town Meeting member Audrey Hall. "He was passionate about facilitating communications so that information was made available to all. His efforts resulted in one of the most active communications vehicles in town."
"To promote accountability, he insisted that everyone sign their real name to every post," wrote Frambors/Framcom moderators Kathy Vassar and Linda Dunbrack.
Orr believed by requiring real first and last names, it provided accountability, transparency and encouraged civil conversations (and debates). (Editor's Note: Patch encourages posters to use their real first and last name but no longer requires it.)
"Steve Orr was dedicated to the town. His time and dedication to Frambors has been phenomenal," said interim Town Moderator Teri Banerjee. "He was a person of integrity and learning, interested in many different subjects."
"Steve’s untimely passing was a shock to everyone who knew him and benefitted from his tireless dedication to the Town. He devoted much of his time as a member of the Conservation Commission and Town Meeting but perhaps had his most important effect on all things Framingham as the creator, owner, and chief moderator of Frambors. He worked relentlessly to keep discussions civil and relevant and will be greatly missed," said Selectmen Chair Charlie Sisitsky.
"When I think about Steve I think how he never compromised his firm belief and passion in the right of free speech. Steve encouraged honest and bold conversation but insisted on taking personal responsibility for what you say. Steve was always fearless in speaking his own mind, questioning what he sees and would often take risks for what he believed in. Steve was a larger than life, sometimes mischievous, character who made Framingham a colorful place to live," said Selectman Laurie Lee. ""Steve Orr was a good friend and I will miss him."
Orr loved to talk about Framingham and he encouraged debate on his site.
In an era where Republicans and Democrats find it hard to be in the same room with each other, Frambors welcomed debate, even political debates.
And, Orr was one of the first ones to jump right into any debate or post something to cause a stir.
"I want to say that Steve and I frequently disagreed on so many political ideologies, and I am not sure that anyone ever told me how wrong I was about so many things so often (except maybe my parents), but the one value that we shared was that of RESPECTFUL disagreement. I loved debating issues with him because he was respectful and just such a nice person. He always listened to me before telling me how wrong I was," said Framingham Board of Health Chair Mike Hugo. "Steve, I am going to miss you. To some degree, I understand how John McCain felt when he lost Teddy Kennedy. There, Steve, I just compared you to Teddy! I wish I could hear his retort."
"In one lively conversation I had with Steve years ago, he said he saw his role as keeping our legislative and administrative leaders' collective feet to the fire," said Nobscot resident William Clapper. "He did that with civility, thoughtfulness and a deep dedication to the well-being of the community."
"More than anything, Steve loved people," said good friend Andy Limeri, a Framingham School Committee member. "He loved to be with friends and make outrageous statements and jokes. Even if what he had to say was mundane, he looked for an outrageous way to say it. His flair for hyperbole caused him a bit of grief, a couple threatened lawsuits, and one real lawsuit over the years. He would call people that wrote editorials just to better understand them and continue to keep in touch with them long after. Even more, he loved to draw you out and challenge your assumptions, and he was remarkably good at it. I loved doing the same thing back to him. We had a lot of very interesting conversations."
Orr was so much more than the creator of Frambors. He was a husband and a friend to many.
Many who heard of the ambulance at his house on Monday, thought it may have been there for his wife Krystine, who has kidney issues. She received a kidney transplant in 2007.
Afterwards, Orr and his wife worked tirelessly to help other organ donor and recipients.
"I was honored to have been able to work with Steve and his wife, Krystine, to change the law to create an individual income tax deduction for living organ donors to raise awareness for living organ donations and to help those in need," said Sen. Karen Spilka.
"Having known Steve for over a decade, I have always had great respect and admiration for his work and dedication to the community. He never shied away from letting his positions known but always did so in a respectful and constructive way," said Spilka. "Over the years, his contributions to the greater Framingham community have proved to be invaluable. I am greatly saddened by his passing and I will deeply miss him."
"He was intelligent, funny, complex, and surprisingly generous. He wasn't generous in the give-you-the-shirt-off-his-back way, but he genuinely cared about people’s well-being. He wanted more than anything for you to pay attention to your world, to really see it and act to improve it," said Limeri. "Steve was one of those rare people who really listened to you because he wanted to know you. When you talked to Steve, you knew he reflected upon and cared about what you said. A teacher I once had said that the greatest gift of generosity you could give someone is your full and undivided attention. That is what you got with Steve."
On Tuesday, Frambors went down. Moderators Vassar and Dunbrack are working on a way to keep the sites going, but it was Limeri who somehow got it back up and running Wednesday night.
"For the moment, we have restarted Steve's computer. If this message reaches you, then Steve, bless his heart, has all the services starting automatically because I don't currently have admin (privileges) to restart them myself," Limeri wrote in the post-Orr era of Frambors.
"Steve did things, such as Frambors, that no one else did and likely did not know how to do. He was an absolute net asset for Framingham, and he was just so easy to talk to and to get to know," wrote Tony Siciliano, on Frambors.
"Steve was great about allowing me to post This Week at the Library every week and I would see him once in a while at a Library Concert or at a political event," said Library Trustee Robert Dodd. "I had great admiration for what he had accomplished with Frambors."
But Dodd said his wife Annabel has the better story about Orr.
"I was so impressed with Frambors that when I wrote the fifth edition of my book, The Essential Guide to Telecommunications I called Steve and interviewed him," said Annabel. "Steve graciously spoke on the phone with me and I included a paragraph long quote in my chapter on the Internet. When the book was published I dropped one off at Steve's house. He called me a week later and told me he was impressed with the book and had started reading it. I thanked him for the call and asked him to let me know if he found any errors.
Steve, being Steve took the trouble to get back to me when he found an error."
Orr is on page 191 of Annabel's book. It reads:
“After moving to Framingham, I felt that there were too many decisions made at Town Hall about which too many people were uninformed. The Framingham Neighbors mailing list was created to give people an easy way to be more informed and to participate in the discussion. After a decade, the list is seen as an integral part in why the town is different today than it was ten years ago. More people still need to be better informed, but their options and their access is better than it was. In the end, the higher the degree of community involvement, the better that government operates.”
Cynthia Laurora, wrote on Framingham Patch, "Steve was my good friend and never failed to make me laugh. Yes, he was eccentric and sometimes a bit unorthodox but he made Framingham government accountable and was not intimidated or afraid to publicly express what others hesitated to do. He accomplished many things for the residents of Framingham, among them, saving the Morrency Woods (located near downtown Framingham) from development and petitioning inspectional services on many issues that affect Framingham neighborhoods. He was super intelligent, humorous and made improving Framingham his ongoing improvement project. He was truly one of a kind!"
"Whether or not you agreed with Steve's position on issues, I think we can all agree he made Framingham a better place. He will definitely be missed and I only hope someone can fill the hole he has left behind," wrote Paul Jasper on Framingham Patch.
Several Framingham residents and friends of Orr posted tributes to him at this link. Feel free to post your thoughts there and or the comment section below.
In memory of Orr, it would be nice if everyone used their real first and last name.
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