Aahz Maruch (1967–2021)

Aahz Maruch, aged 54, passed away on October 14, 2021 after a long illness. He was diagnosed in December 2020 with an extremely rare degenerative brain disease.

Aahz, né Dan Martin Bernstein, was born in 1967 in Hawthorne, California, to Mel and Aviva Bernstein. The family moved to Palo Alto in 1976. At the age of 5, Aahz was diagnosed with hearing loss, and wore hearing aids until 2002.

Aahz began attending science fiction conventions when he was in high school. This was the beginning of a lifelong love of the science fiction fandom community, especially the activity of writing and singing parody lyrics to popular songs, known as “filking.” Throughout his life, he attended conventions all over the West Coast and occasionally further afield. He particularly enjoyed the PotLatch, FogCon, and WisCon conventions.

Aahz sometimes joked that he was a computer programmer since before he was born, because Aviva was taking programming classes while carrying him. He studied computer science at University of California at Davis for several years, choosing not to receive a degree, and then began his career at Borland Software. Prior to starting the Borland job, he had commuted everywhere by bicycle, so he learned how to drive via his daily commute from San Jose to Santa Cruz over the daunting Route 17. Subsequently he worked at several software startups in Silicon Valley and on the Peninsula.

In the 1990s, Aahz spent time on Usenet, an early form of online social media. There he encountered polyamory (which, he insisted, was not a lifestyle, but a way of living one’s life), and met his primary partner, Stef, and his sweeties. Aahz and Stef lived together in San Jose starting in 1993. Their “outlaw marriage” took place in 1998, after moving to San Carlos. Aahz also maintained long-term relationships with his sweeties Paula and Kai. 

Aahz was a passionate evangelist for the programming language Python. He participated in the activities of the Python Software Foundation and taught at Python conferences. In 2006, he and Stef published Python for Dummies, the first book about Python in the long-running series. 

Aahz’s hearing grew worse throughout his life, and in 2002, he received his first cochlear implant. Although it helped him hear better, he quickly realized that it did not reproduce the full range of sound. He could not hear anything lower than A below middle C on a piano. This meant he could not enjoy the music he loved, and he searched for a better solution, taking the unusual step of choosing a second cochlear implant, for his other ear, from a different company. He received this in 2014.

Aahz had a lifelong love of singing, folk dance, contra dance, and square dance. In 2012, he became the world’s first deaf square dance caller. He belonged to local club Bows and Beaus and the international groups CALLERLAB and the Gay Callers Association.

In recent years Aahz and Stef enjoyed taking cruises, particularly to Alaska. Aahz chose photography as a cruise activity and enjoyed making his way to the Lido deck at dawn and snapping literally thousands of photos of the sunrise.

--Stef Maruch, 20 October 2021