From the memorial for Gilles Fauconnier, 2021-07-24
Gilles was a wonderful man, an irreplaceable genius. In 1992, when my wife and I were dwelling for a year in an apartment located at Ocean Avenue and 15th Street in Del Mar, Gilles attended a brief after-dinner talk I gave at Ron Langacker's house. We swapped data, agreed on a few findings, and decided to work on a short article. The next morning, I bicycled up the hill to UCSD, for a meeting in the courtyard of the department of cognitive science. It launched a spectacular collaboration. As you know, Gilles's mind was jet-fueled, his spirit playful, his knowledge vast, his curiosity irrepressible. For decades, he focused his exceptional powers on our work. We met everywhere, from research institutes to conferences. I especially remember the universe of cafés and restaurants worldwide in which we dined, talked, often argued, and jotted notes. Between meetings, we burned up every possible platform for distance communication. We spent a year together at Stanford working on The Way We Think. He flew in to Case Western Reserve University to help me establish its new department of cognitive science. When we were under deadline, I sometimes stayed with him and Tina at their house in Del Mar to work, usually out on their deck, facing the Pacific Ocean. Through it all, Gilles was unfailingly rigorous, energetic, honest. And magnanimous!—One time, when I was delivering one of four conférences on blending over the course of a month at the Collège de France, in walked, unexpected and unannounced, The Gilles Fauconnier! He didn't say anything to anybody. In his charming style, he slid into a seat in the lecture hall. You can imagine the myriad feelings I experienced, trying to lecture in French, on blending, in Paris, looking at my friend Gilles. A few days before his unanticipated death, he and I were still swapping new examples and analyses. I miss him terribly. But you will understand my overwhelming sense of indescribable personal luck to have known and worked with such a man.