Try booting up with the installation disk. There is either a 'enter rescue mode' option, or select 'rescue' for the kernel image. You could also download and burn a live distro. You will need to manually mount the systems root partition. Then edit the /etc/passwd or /etc/shadow file and remove the encrypted password entry for root. After that, you can reboot, log in as root without a password, and use 'passwd' to set a new one.
Using the search function on this site will give you more detailed instructions such as how to mount the root partition, how to use the vim editor, etc.
Lastly, I offer you my condolences on losing a co-worker.
Last edited by jschiwal; 05-13-2005 at 10:12 PM.