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December 20, 2010 / shawnbrookwilliams

Ode to a Comics/Gaming friend: RIP Derek Belter

Neil Gaiman, Jim Lee, Gary Gygax (monsters of late eighties comic book and role playing game culture) have nothing on Derek Belter. My longtime friend Derek influenced my interest in comic books and gaming more than other person on this earth.

Every time I draw pectoral muscles on a character I think of the how Derek used to draw them on cat faced people in his many full sketchbooks.

When I cast a Force of Nature in a casual game of Magic the Gathering, to me it might as well be called Force of Derek.

He had a pretty good nerf football arm too! Thanks for humoring us all those years ago tossing the old foam pigskin around, it left an impact on me more than you will ever know.

Dereks early childhood dreams led him to master several martial arts including Hapkido as an adult. He even studied sword fighting in Japan. Always a quick wit in English, but very much on his own, he also became fluent in Japanese and German as well – immersing himself in these cultures about as far as anyone could go.

Derek, his brother Blayne, and I went to the Wizard World comic book convention in Chicago the summer of 2010. It was a great 3 days! We’d hoped it would be the start of an annual trek. Derek had several comissioned sketchs done in artist’s alley that trip, and generously almost all were to give to his friends.

He was an old soul, but at the same time he was a kid at heart. Derek unexpectedly passed away of a heart attack December 13th, 2010 at a much too early 37 years old.

Derek Belter, photo taken by Derrick Juengst outside Wakiyama castle in Japan.



Leave a Comment
  1. T J / Dec 25 2010 4:54 pm

    wow. well said and so true. He was quite the force

  2. Juan Carlos Cordero / Jan 15 2011 6:18 pm

    Had the pleasure, better said, honor of getting to know Derek for almost two years. We (hisThunderbird friends) called Derek the most interesting and honest person in class. Señor Belter, as I called him, was always willing to spend time, regardless of the hour, helping fellow students. Always interestedly listening and learning from every of my words, he went above and beyond to make me comfortable and this priceless my fried.
    My thoughts are with your family and friends. You will be greatly missed.
    Hasta pronto mi amigo,

  3. Scott Thomas-Fitch / Jan 17 2011 2:52 pm

    I met Derek at Thunderbird. A couple of things I especially remember about him. He always sat in the front of class. He was intelligent, wore a tie the first day of class and enjoyed swordsmanship and Japanese culture. There are hundreds of other interesting things I learned about Derek too, but I fear that I had only skimmed the surface of the profoundness of Derek. I will miss Derek. He was a gentleman, a scholar and a friend.

  4. Daniel Kilgore / Jan 17 2011 7:28 pm

    Mr. Williams,

    I am greatly sorry for your loss. I was a student with Derek at Thunderbird, and as a fellow gamer, he and I got along famously. He was always working hard and brought wonderful insight to the projects we shared. We all at the Uni loved the hilarious stories he would tell of his travels and adventures, and it was always great to see him at all the campus events, camera in hand, recording the good times.

    I am going to miss him. My thoughts are with Derek’s friends and family.

    Dan Kilgore

    My favorite Derek memory:

    Once Derek gave a glorious instructional speech at our public speaking club at T-bird a few days before Halloween. The speech was titled “How to survive the Zombie Apocalypse”, and it was everything you can imagine it was. He had even dressed up in an old, ratty suit with extensive makeup to give him the appearance of a zombie. Like everything else he did, he did it with style, humor, and great work, and had the room doubled over in laughter by the end. I wish you could have seen it.

  5. Diego Rogers / Jan 18 2011 3:37 pm

    I will always remember Derek as one of the most candid people I have ever met. Cool, calm and so serene a human being. A great listener, and a great friend.

    The moments that will stay with me:

    1- When I first saw a blond man, with japanese robes and a camera in his hand…priceless.

    2- Going out to sushi at good old “Sakana” outside of T bird, and getting a lesson on japanese dinning etiquette, including table seating positions and their meanings.

    3- Having pints of beer at the Pub just us, sitting outside and talking about business, life, and other cultures.

    Saionara my friend… till we meet again.


  6. Jihoon Kang / Jan 22 2011 9:16 am

    When I heard the news about him, my mind was a blank and I couldn’t believe it.
    I met him at Thunderbird. I remember him as one of the most decent guys I’ve ever met in my whole life. I wasn’t the closest friend of his in the campus but he always amazed me with his knowledge and passion about Japanese culture and history. I remember I once made a joke about how come he doesn’t love Korea (I’m Korean) as much as he does Japan. And he said “Well, I don’t know much about Korea, but I think we could still be good friends and I like you.” He made me smile.
    I also remember making a conversation with him about his strenth against the cold weather. It was still cold in winter time even in Arizona. And he often wore just a t-shirt in winter season and I asked him why he didn’t feel cold. He said, “I’m from Wisconsin.” I had no idea where on the earth the Wisconsin was. But it was just a very interesting conversation to me.
    Now he’s gone but I believe he rests his soul in heaven. Or he’s meeting those famous Samurai in heaven and having a good time there.

  7. Tim Belter / Jan 29 2011 12:57 am

    Shawn, The family is personally appreciative of this site. Derek as a force and my good son, unfortunately he left before we could complete all of our adventures together! All is true that he was a unique and caring person. Tim

  8. shawnbrookwilliams / Jan 29 2011 1:09 am

    I’m glad you guys have shared your memories and feelings about Derek here.

    I wanted to share how I felt about our friend, but I feel like human words don’t accurately describe the more-than-human Derek, but I did my best.

    I miss him too. Tim, Maxine, all the rest of the family and friends; I’m so sorry for your loss.

  9. Rwasibo Tele. Indekwe / Feb 5 2011 6:23 am

    I briefly met Derek during my last trimester class at Thunderbird (A Conflict management / Mediation class). We did not have a chance to meet much beside the classroom, I guess due to our busy schedule ahead of graduation. And I did not share any group work with him; but I remember seeing a crispy cleanly dressed guy, with a custom made look white shirt and the most beautiful tie, in an classroom. He was attentive in class, and a really good student in addition to being friendly. What did strike me the most however was this American guy, with a GQ magazine type of look in an american classroom, with a bright nice white shirt, a tie, a premium suit and a handcarchief in a classroom and around campus. I thought he was a great guy, he enjoyed life, humble, and a true international type of a guy. We did not get to meet or know each other much, apart from a quick hi, a brief chat and a smile but his passing comes as a surprise and saddens me. My condoleances to his family.

  10. Erin / May 19 2011 10:27 am

    You were a love of my life when we were both too young to know what to do with it. You taught me to be honest, to think beyond the surface, to write love letters, to eat sushi, and how to drive from Chicago to Plymouth. You constantly made my heart skip a beat, and you were a force in my life that I will never forget. You are gone too soon.

  11. Matthew Haselow / Sep 17 2011 9:50 pm

    Thank you for posting this picture of Derek.

    I had heard of his passing, but my brain would only let me think it was some mix up. I was hoping that I remembered his last name wrong, that it wasn’t really him. Sadly … this picture confirms it.

    I was not sure when, but always thought I’d see him around and looked forward to that possibility. I am saddened that I won’t get the chance to cross paths with him again.

    For a couple years, around 2003 or so, we went to the same Aikido dojo on Atwood Ave. in Madison, WI, and I was lucky enough to get to know him. He struck me from the get go as being very good-natured, unusually confident, and obviously intelligent. He also seemed to have an affinity for mischief; tamed and muted … but there.

    After practice, we would frequent the next-door pub, the Harmony Bar, for a beer, or beers, if it was Friday. One of those nights, he imparted some memorable and random wisdom. He leaned in, glanced around the room, and said to me, “There is a hormonal substance that can make a man grow breasts with one minute drop.” He told me this with an even mix of humor and caution. Derek then just leaned back with satisfaction, watching my face as I processed the information. I laughed at his amusement, and he broke a big gleaming smile. He was so funny!

    After another night like that one, but not so close to bar time, I dropped him off at the nearest intersection to his apartment on my way home. It was dark, only a little bit of traffic. He gathered his things and slid off the passenger seat of the little truck to stand on the pavement in the open door. As if having an afterthought, he said somewhat excitedly, “Oh! look at this quick …” He extended his cupped hands to me like he was holding a fragile bug. I squinted in the darkness to take a look. GLARE!!! Pocket LED flashlight to the face! I muttered some crude word, I’m sure, as I shook my head at him, struggling to regain my sight. Derek just belly laughed, again quite satisfied with himself as he wiped the beginning of a jovial tear off his cheek.

    Derek’s enthusiasm shadowed any apprehension he may have had about the move to Japan. He was a skilled, ambitious artist who often seemed effortlessly dedicated to his various pursuits. Derek appreciated his life and was good at living it! He spoke fondly of his family and friends from back home. He had heard me refer to my wife with her pet name and asked me about it more than once. “What do you call her, Leelee?” “No,” I answered, “it’s Lee-Dee.” He cocked his head and smiled thoughtfully. I think he was imagining himself in the future, with his own cute pet name for his spouse.

    As part of a pep talk of sorts before I was about to take a kyu test at the dojo, Derek told me about the same kyu test he had taken. He said that he only remembered one thing from the half-hour ordeal. Toward the end of the test as he pinned his opponent, time seemed to move in slow motion. He perceived a single drop of sweat slowly roll off his nose and fall, as if suspended, to the mat.

    Even though he was a bit younger than me, I always looked up to him. I will continue to admire his approach to living and learning.

    Thanks for the insights, my friend,

    Matt Haselow

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