Jennifer Paradis, who ran Straight Dope Message Board for over 20 years, has died at 65
She maintained civility among the message board’s devoted followers and oversaw the archive of thousands of columns. And she really loved playing the tuba.
On her Facebook page, she was “Jennifer Paradis, Tuba-American.” Her message board handle was TubaDiva.
To inquiring minds around the globe, she was an intrepid researcher, computer guru, settler of debates and a welcoming online presence. Some talked to her almost every day.
For more than 20 years, Jenny Paradis was the administrator for the Straight Dope Message Board, which bills itself as “Fighting Ignorance since 1973.” The SDMB had its roots in a Chicago Reader column that ran from 1973 to 2018.
Now owned by the Chicago Sun-Times, it continues as an online discussion forum with threads on topics as disparate as “Australian Bushfires” and “Extreme Jell-O Recipes.”
“If somebody needed her, she had time for them,” according to her mother Rebecca Griffin Jesse. “She was loved by so many people. She had friends, acquaintances everywhere because of the kind of work she did.”
Ms. Paradis, who had diabetes and Hashimoto’s disease, died July 1 at her Decatur, Georgia, home at 65, her mother said.
Some in the Straight Dope Message Board community said the news had them mourning a person they never met.
Maintaining civility is a big responsibility on message boards. With the help of an estimated two dozen moderators she managed worldwide, “That’s what Jenny did,” said Ed Zotti, editor of the original Straight Dope column.
She also oversaw the archive of thousands of columns.
People who post on Straight Dope sometimes debate politics, Confederate statues and the Black Lives Matter movement. They also ask and answer questions, such as: Why are onions so big lately? What is the type of German plane shot down in the movie 1917? Extreme Evil 3 Remake. Anybody playing?
Also: “If you shoot someone in self-defense, are you better off (from a legal standpoint) to kill the person rather than wound them?”
One of seven children, Jenny could read by the time she was 4, according to her mother, who said, “She was a very smart person, and she retained what she absorbed.”
Her life was filled with books and music.
“That’s when she was happiest,” her mother said, “when she was playing her tuba.”
She studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where the winter weather required an adjustment for a Georgian. When it snowed two inches, she assumed work would be closed. She once told her mother, “I turned over when the alarm went off.”
Her boss called Ms. Paradis and said, “Why aren’t you here?”
“It’s snowing,” she replied.
“She couldn’t believe they didn’t cancel work,” her mother said.
Before attending Berklee, she worked for Coca-Cola in Atlanta.
“That was her introduction to computers,” her mother said. By the early 1980s, “She was very into computers.”
She had six of them at home and “could type 130 words a minute,” according to her mother.
For a time, she worked in New York City as a copy editor for People magazine before returning to Georgia.
Over the years, she attended SDMB gatherings in Chicago that were known as “DopeStock.”
For about 30 years, she played tuba and did solos in the Callanwolde Concert Band, a Decatur, Georgia, group of about 70 volunteer musicians.
“In addition to being a very fine musician, she was very much a caring individual and had a great sense of humor,” said Glenn Moore, the band’s conductor and music director. “She was affirming of others. She was always the one to share and compliment one another.”
Former bandmate Bob Meehan said after the February death of his wife, Ms. Paradis helped care for him until he could get into assisted living.
“She was super supportive,” Meehan said.
She also participated in other musical groups, including Atlanta’s TubaChristmas, a celebration of the instrument and its musicians.
“She was very devoted to it,” said Don Strand, who helped found the event. “She did all she could to help with the promotion of it, whether through her web skills or her performance skills.”
Ms. Paradis was a regional chief for timing and scoring at racing events organized by Atlanta’s Sports Car Club of America. She enjoyed good Scotch and English mysteries by P.D. James and Elizabeth George. She loved her cat, Samantha.
To remember her, Zotti said, the online community is discussing raising money to buy a tuba to present to a school in her honor.
In addition to her mother, Ms. Paradis is survived by her sister Deborah A. Koma and brothers Edward C. Paradis III, Lawrence M. Paradis, David M. Paradis and Gerald L. Hagar. A future service is planned.
Contributing: Lizzie Schiffman Tufano