A few days ago, I heard that Leonard Nimoy had checked into a hospital for treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. As someone who wept the last time I saw him die, in 1982′s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and who subsequently wore a "Spock Lives!" T-shirt for many years, my first thought was, "I really don't want to live in universe without Mr. Spock."
Today we do.
Nimoy died this morning at 83. You can read the full obituary here. Nimoy had a long career and did many things besides Star Trek, but it is of course for that that we will remember him.
Spock was one of the great fictional characters of the 20th century, anointed as such by NPR. The character was infused with Nimoy's own qualities: He has spoken, for example of how his Orthodox Jewish upbringing influenced the character, even giving birth to the signature Vulcan salute. (As the New York Times obit states, "He based it on the kohanic blessing, a manual approximation of the Hebrew letter shin, which is the first letter in Shaddai, one of the Hebrew names for God.")
But what Nimoy really gave us in Spock is the first nerd superhero, and that is what those of us who grew up geek before geek was cool will honor him for.
Captain Kirk might have gotten all the girls, and he solved many problems with a timely phaser blast, but everyone knew that the Enterprise's greatest weapon was Mr. Spock. Mr. Spock and his logic. Mr. Spock and his intelligence. Mr. Spock and his ability to bend technology to his will.
Those of us who grokked Spock were rarely the ones who would sink the winning basket as the buzzer sounded, and we certainly were not that handy in a street fight (that Vulcan neck thing seemed to work only on TV), but we knew that someday, we might find a way to be a hero anyway, by emulating him. And many of us did - just ask the men and women who built the computer you're reading this on whether they were ever Trekkies.
So Leonard Nimoy has died. And we mourn. But plenty of us will be living on with a piece of his soul.