Is he dead?
Obviously, to many of us at least, quite a bit. His demise is one clear reason for using the past simple. There are others, as you pointed out, but you seem to suggest that Barb's question was irrelevant. I would have posted a similar message if Barb had not got there first.Sorry, but what does that have to do with it?
It doesn't necessarily make a difference. But it is a way of letting the OP know that such a factor plays a role in the syntax. The OP then thinks about the question, and realises other contextual factors that may be relevant.Sorry, but what does that have to do with it?
Then you knew him for three years.He sadly passed away...:-(