"Joseph T. Mayhew, 57, a retired Library of Congress employee and an award-winning science fiction cartoonist, died of complications from encephalitis June 10 at the Washington Hospice."
-- excerpt from obituary in The Washington Post
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We can't end these opening comments without some words to remember a lost friend. For those who didn't know much about him, Joe Mayhew was a member of the local fan club, the Washington Science Fiction Association, and was a very prolific fan artist -- his cartoons were a feature in many fanzines, including Mimosa. He had been nominated for the 'Best Fan Artist' Hugo Award four times and had won the Award twice, in 1998 and again this year at Chicon 2000. Joe was also a fan historian of sorts -- his fan activity dated back to the 1960s, and he was always willing to talk about events long past and people now mostly forgotten. He'd written an article for us featured in the most recent Mimosa, "My Own Personal First Fandom," that we'd hoped would be the first in a series about BaltWash fandom.
Joe was opinionated, but polite about any disagreements he might have with you. He could be irascible and annoying at times, but never so much that you could stay angry at him, or he at you, for very long. He was one of the rocks of Washington fandom, someone who you looked forward to seeing at club meetings or at conventions. It was at Balticon, on Easter weekend, that Joe first showed outward signs of the rare illness that would kill him; soon afterward he was hospitalized and rapidly started to lose higher brain functions. By the end of May he was only able to speak a few words, though he showed some recognition of the all the people who had come to see him. Two days later, he'd lost even that ability, and a few days after that he lapsed into a coma. Joe had plenty of visitors throughout his hospitalization, though at the end it had pretty much turned into a vigil. We'd all realized long before than that Joe wasn't going to get better, even though the doctors hadn't yet found out what the cause of his decline was. When Joe first became ill he had started behaving a bit erratically, so it was assumed that he'd had a stroke. When that was ruled out, the doctors had thought there might be some kind of tumor that was affecting his central nervous system, or perhaps a virus of some kind that was causing a form of encephalitis that was resulting in his dementia. The cause of the illness wasn't determined until a few days before Joe died, after a brain biopsy was done on him -- it was Creutzfelt-Jakob Disease, a relatively rare form of spongiform encephalopathy that causes rapid and irreversible deterioration of the brain.
Joe was one of the first fans we met after we moved to Maryland at the end of 1988, and one of the first friends we made here after the move. It wasn't pleasant to see him just before he died, but as another of his friends said then, that wasn't really Joe at all; the real Joe had already left the building by then. Our memories of Joe will be of happier times. One of them is his visit to our house on a Thursday evening in early March, just three months before he died; in response to our request for help he made the long drive from Greenbelt where he lived around the Beltway and up I-270 to Gaithersburg to do some last-minute illustrations so that we could get Mimosa 25 to the printers on schedule. There was lots of pleasant conversation and a nice dinner expedition.
Hard to believe he's gone...
Self-portrait illustration by Joe Mayhew
Photo by Evan Phillips