Goodbye, Sy . . .
A giant of the furry fandom passed away last night at his home in Garden Grove, California. Sy Sable (Mark Merlino) died with his husband, Rod O'Riley, by his side after battling Stage IV liver cancer that also led to his having a stroke.
It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of Mark's role in the fandom. Along with another late giant, Fred Patten (1940-2018), he founded the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization in 1977. The C/FO was primarily interested in bringing Japanese anime to America, but it also can be viewed as the precursor of the furry fandom because the Los Angeles chapter of the C/FO was the birthplace of furry.
In 1982, he created Tiger's Den, the first BBS dedicated to furry. Next, he cofounded the first furry convention, Confurence, which had its first gathering in 1989 in Costa Mesa, California. When Confurence shut its doors in 2003, Mark started Califur the next year, which ran until 2018. Finally, Mark and Rod created the first and oldest furmeet in the world: The Prancing Skiltaire house party, which was based out of their home. When he wasn't working on conferences, Mark traveled to other conventions, giving talks about furry movies, TV, and the fandom in general.
I am so fortunate that I was able to meet Mark on several occasions. It was at the Prancing Skiltaire in 2008 that I encountered my first fursuiter in person, and although I was already a furry by then, I was hooked after that. My dear friend Bart Swaim, took me to that furmeet, and it was also at that time that I met another important furry, Bob Hill (d. 2018), the first fursuiter.
Mark was a kind, knowledgeable, generous, and sweet man. His passing is a great loss to the fandom, and he will be missed.
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