Sunday is the memorial service for my friend, Jeff Wagner, who died last week from Pancreatic Cancer. He is an electrical engineer who has a daughter that is the same age as mine. We got to know each other as our kids “orbits” bounced together over the years. I remember the first time that we met at the band concert at the high school a number of years ago. He asked what I did … “engineer” I said… “Oh, so am I,” he said. We then chatted a bit about our jobs… I said that I worked for chip company. He told me he worked as a process engineer at a manufacturing company. A few weeks later when I saw him again he said “Hey, you didn’t tell me that you were EVP of Software at Cypress!”… I then joked that I was embarrassed to spend more time writing powerpoint than doing any real engineering – like him. Later I got into the habit of bringing him Cypress development kits to try. He was very interested in embedded development and actively used PSoC Creator, PSoC, CapSense and Bluetooth. Jeff was interested in machine learning and had bought a number of development kits to make ML systems to do different things both for his work and for his real life. You see, Jeff was a real engineer.
Over the last several years, as our daughters went off to college, we didn’t see each other very much. Occasionally we met for a meal to catch up… or I would send him a new development kit… or we would trade email about how things were going. Earlier this year I sent him a note that I was teaching a class for Mouser and invited him to join. He responded that things had changed quite a lot since we had last talked and that he had pancreatic cancer. What is crazy is that the focus of the email was more about a project that he was working on and hardly at all about the diagnosis.
From the beginning of May – the date of the email – until his death last week, he was a constant source of inspiration for me. How you can be struck down in the prime of life and still keep an awesome attitude, I just don’t know. He said “Fuck cancer.” Over the last months, we saw each other quite a few times … unfortunately, mostly in the hospital. Although he was weak and in pain I would bring a computer and we would write or talk about software together. I showed him beta software, he tried MBED OS on PSoC, we talked about machine learning, we talked about bikes, our kids and all manner of other stuff.
Jeff WAS STILL ACTIVELY LEARNING DAYS BEFORE HIS FREAKING DEATH. He still cared and it was awesome to behold for me. He was a model for what an engineer should be and I will always be inspired by that.
One of the last times that I saw him, we talked about the choices we make in life. He still thought that things were going to work out. He talked about the things he would do after he got clear of the cancer. I’m sure that he was talking to me as much to himself, because I always seem to make the most self destructive choices. In fact, I was sleeping in a hotel the night he died.
I have to assume he was a good father and husband. All the evidence suggests that to be true as he has great kids and a cool wife. But, I know he was a great engineer; he loved to learn and build.
He was often one of the first people to read this website. And I am sad for that to no longer be the case.
I am sad for Sandy, Anna and the rest of his family. I can’t begin to imagine how hard that it will be.
And even though I know it is selfish, I am sad for myself.
Rest in peace, my friend.