Dad

Dad

Even when it’s expected, the passing of a friend, colleague, mentor is never easy. When it’s your father, all the less so. But the kind words you have all shared here have been tremendous comfort to me and my family. They have helped us appreciate what we already knew – our father and grandfather was a very special person. It’s nearly impossible to reflect on a lifetime of memories in a short space. I beg your indulgence with a long piece.

For an average kid growing up in suburban LA, we had far from an average life. Back then, it was hard to get here from India, England, China, South Africa, Germany, Japan, and Ireland. The visitors that graced our house from these and more places granted me a small degree of childhood prestige with my friends. Mom and Dad’s affection for his colleagues and students gave us great exposure to the broader world. Many of them, like Uncle Rolf (Sabersky), are no longer with us and like Dad live on in our hearts.

You enriched our lives from my earliest recollections. Good meals, wine and heated discussions were a staple in our home.  Dad adored spicy condiments which always graced our table, frequently gifts from colleagues. He had a near-competitive addiction to hot chilis of all kinds. Once, a Korean chef once refused to prepare his order, fearing Dad couldn’t handle it. The milder dish he was served was the hottest he ever ate.  

As in some of your stories, Dad encouraged me, scolded me (usually with due cause), always pushed me, and never held me back. Except once when I was about 10 he refused to let me ride the motorcycle one student had driven to the house.  (Dating was an entirely different matter.)

Before the sailboats we camped and hiked. Dad shared his love of walking with me.  Vigorously. No dilly dallying – walks are serious business and pity the person who couldn’t keep up with those long legs. With Dad’s coaching, I could name most native California tree species along with many flowers.

He was demanding.  But this stern man was also forgiving – after a terrible performance at a violin competition he gave me the perfect fatherly encouragement, and after several attempts at picking a career path he provided wise and loving counsel despite his personal vexation at my circuitous college career.

He was a loving grandfather to my 3 kids, giving them all special, cherished memories. He was a great story teller, they refused to go to sleep without one when we stayed with them. Years earlier, he composed a serial tale of Esmerelda, a princess who lived in the Icy Mountains, that entertained us as young kids during the long drives that summer we camped through Europe. Later that year when he read us The Hobbit, I couldn’t believe the remarkable resemblance many of the characters had.

Dad also passed along his love of music, he had an amazing collection of recordings and loved playing his flute. He enjoyed the challenge of playing with many of you, and just a few years ago Dad, his brother Ed, Ed’s wife, and I gathered in Seal Beach to play quartets.

Then there were the sailboats. What halcyon days! The first was a Cal-20 named Release after the USS Release. Although Mom eschewed Dad’s competitive racing bug, they both loved cruising. The 20 foot boat quickly became too small and was replaced by the Santana 27.

Like most dads he taught me to ride a bike and drive a car. But he also taught me how to row a dingy, hoist a jib, reef a main, chart a course, sail through squalls, and swim through kelp without getting tangled up.

Dad and I hiked all over Catalina. Before the Nature Conservancy took over, buffalo roamed the entire island. Once we came face to face with a massive bull, but Dad calmly had us quietly back up before beating a hasty retreat. I rowed the dingy while he dove for abalone and sea urchins. Once, perhaps stoking my rebellious streak, he put his out of season abalone catch in a gunny sack and told me to throw it overboard if Fish and Game approached.

But I never imagined Dulcibella. Building her was in many ways one of Dad’s biggest projects. 4 years of his and Mom’s hard work just to launch, were followed by nearly 40 more years of pleasure which included living aboard, cruising, and just sitting at the dock.

Reflecting on Dad’s career and accomplishments I find I didn’t ask enough probing questions. To me he was Dad, the one who gave me a passion for hard work, loyalty, dedication, music, and the outdoors. I never did understand the joy in his eyes when he told me calculus would unlock the mysteries of the world. But in adulthood I found the gift of appreciation of the significance of his work and his worldview of science. A few years ago my husband asked Dad what the biggest scientific breakthrough of his lifetime was. Without any hesitation he answered the transistor – because it made everything possible.

For me, your stories combine fond memories with details of his contributions to engineering. They confirm a life well-lived.  He is now in peace, but he did not go gentle into that good night – his ideas and spirit live on. Of all his interests and passions, one of his greatest joys was the deep and enduring friendships with his students and colleagues.

Sail on Dad.

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