On Wednesday,April 29, 2015, my good friend and business partner of 40 years passed away from pancreatic cancer. The end came sooner than expected, but at least he is no longer suffering. I will miss him terribly … hell, I already do!
A future blog post will address partnerships. Most of the time I advise against them, as I have seen too many go sour. But when they work, they are absolutely wonderful.
Such was our partnership, and a major reason our consulting firm was so successful. And so much fun!
Although many of you didn’t know him, here is the eulogy I plan to deliver at his funeral this week. I think it captures the essence of this gentle man.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Daryl Gerke, Bill’s friend and business partner for almost 40 years.
When Bill’s daughter asked me to say a few words, I told her it would be a privilege. But when she told me I only had about five minutes, I knew it would be a huge challenge.
You see, I could go on for hours with wonderful stories about Bill… and given the opportunity, probably would. Those of you who do know me know that’s true.
As an aside, Bill and I spent many pleasant hours telling, and then retelling stories… often to the chagrin of our wives. I will miss that.
So what can I say in just a few minutes? As I reflected on this, I was finally able to distill it down to three key points I’d like to share today.
(1) Bill was highly respected
The highest accolade an engineer can give to another engineer is to say, “So and so is a good engineer.” Sometimes for emphasis, one is called a “darn good engineer.” We engineers are such an emotional bunch.
As the emails and phone calls poured in after the news of Bill’s passing, those phrases were repeated many times. Often with examples of how Bill had jumped in to difficult situations… helped out… and even saved their bacon.
Past students lauded his abilities to take complex concepts and make them easy to understand.
Of course, I agree with those sentiments… Working together for 40 years, I know of no better practitioner of the engineering profession.
(2) Bill was extremely gracious
In a business where giant egos sometimes reign, Bill was modest to a fault. When I shared a comment with him several weeks ago that someone had called him a “rock star”, he chuckled and replied, “Gee, I just thought I was doing my job.” … Classic Bill.
Bill also willingly shared what he knew. Not only with clients, but with colleagues and even complete strangers.
An e-mail from a professor in the UK told how, in the middle of his battle with cancer, he took the time to discuss the impact of some new standards. It was much appreciated… He was literally known around the world.
A phone call from a vendor told how he took the time at a trade show last fall to talk with the woman’s son about a career in engineering, and how much it meant to both of them… She had only met Bill earlier that day.
(3) Bill was a friend to ALL
I’m biased, of course… What started out as a couple of young engineers collaborating on some moonlighting projects blossomed into a friendship that lasted almost 40 years… Personally, I can think of nobody else who would have been a better friend and a better business partner.
He also leaves behind a multitude of friends in our engineering community… The many emails and phone calls in the past week have constantly expressed this sentiment… About what a good friend he had been, and how much he will be missed.
In closing, I’d like to share one particularly eloquent e-mail I received from one of those friends just after Bill’s passing.
I’m not much of a reader, but one time my Rabbi lent me a book to read. It was by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, the author of “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People”. I never finished it, but I remember one passage:
As most clergy do, the Rabbi liked to learn about other faiths. He was at some kind of convention or conference, and he heard the Buddhists talking about how you shouldn’t get attached to anyone, because you would only lose them eventually…
Rabbi Kushner disagreed… He said that isn’t living… Rather, we should allow ourselves to love people even though it will be painful when we lose them… That is living.
So I’m doing a little living right now, over Bill. (Thanks – Jeff Silberberg)
Right now, I think we are ALL doing a little living over Bill… REST IN PEACE, my friend!
Click here to see Bill’s on-line obituary.
P.S. Changes are coming, so check in from time to time. Initial plans are to ramp upJumpToConsulting, and to ramp down Kimmel Gerke Associates. And to spend more time just goofing off – grandkids, reading, writing, traveling, and playing with the dog.
The goal here – helping “newbies” become consultants, and helping “oldies” become better consultants. Like the underlying goal Bill and I always had with our consulting practice – helping engineers become even better engineers!