We now know that Greg Franta, FAIA, who disappeared February 9 in Colorado, is gone. His car, having skidded over a cliff early that morning, rolled out of site into a ravine. He died on the scene. This tragedy occurred only a week after another, in North Carolina: Gail Lindsey, FAIA, succumbed to cancer, her husband at her side. Both Greg and Gail were founders of the AIA Committee on the Environment and both had committed their careers to future generations. Besides those entirely serious elements, both had a true joy of life—not just of theirs, but everyone's.
Greg was 58; Gail, 54 ... still young and full of vigor. One couldn't miss the sense of humor, even playfulness that made it a memorable experience to interact with either of these two people. Bring up the topic of environmental responsibility, though, and the serious sides would show through: Gail with well-paced, fact-laced explanation; Greg, often beginning with a silent pause and light-blue-eyed stare, would invariably launch into rapid-fire reasoning.
"People know her across the country for the energy and spirit that she brought to the environmental movement," says AIA President Marvin Malecha, FAIA, dean of the North Carolina State University College of Design, of his 20-year colleague Gail Lindsey. "She convinced you to do the right thing because she was so enthusiastic about everything."
Of Greg Franta, Malecha notes: "The fact that he never lost heart and pressed on is a testament to his faith, his commitment to service, and his sure understanding that sooner or later the rest of us would catch up with him."
"I will miss him," exclaimed fellow COTE founder Bob Berkebile, FAIA, of his friend and colleague. "Just as with losing Gail, this strengthens my resolve to live each day, each moment to the fullest, and to do everything I can to collaborate more effectively to create the future Greg was working toward."
"Greg exuded vitality and energy," notes BuildingGreen Vice President Nadav Malin in remembrance. "He embraced and energized those around him, literally all over the world. If someone with that strong a presence in the world can die so unexpectedly, what does that mean for me? A reminder that we're all here on borrowed time—at least in our current form. An invitation to use this time well."
And, perhaps—if there is any point to life, or to death—this is it. We have all been born; we all will die. To take a cue from two such as these, it is what we can share with those yet to be born and yet still alive that makes our existence worth this time on Earth.