Wendy Knuth Author of Moore Zombies, blogging about the human experience.

Daily Archives: July 5, 2017

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In Memoriam: My Dad

               This isn’t so much of an obituary, but rather some fun memories and thoughts of my Dad who passed away July 4, 2017.  What to call him:  Scientist, engineer, oceanographer, diver, genius.

By the time my Dad hit high school, he was two grades ahead, which he claims was just enough to make things very socially awkward.  At the age of 16, he then went to I believe Yale, or it may have been Harvard, where he claims he majored in billiards and flunked out.  But, he went on to get an engineering degree, and really was a genius.

You didn’t want to watch Jeopardy with my Dad.  He took it very seriously and basically made you feel like an idiot as you watched him answer almost every question.  He actually tried out for the program two or three times, but his pitfalls were sports and pop culture.  I always thought it was too bad that he never made it on, but then if you didn’t have cakewalk categories, there would be less of a viewing audience.

There isn’t a book he hasn’t read.  I’m exaggerating a little bit but he was quite the bookworm and he read fast!  If you were reading the same page with him, he would turn the page before you were halfway down.  His fav was sci-fi.

My Dad alternated between being genius engineer with some dough and broke student at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

              Dad loved the ocean.  He was a commercial abalone diver and we had shells all over our home.  I recall going to the back doors of sea food restaurants and he would receive cash in pocket for his catch.  Not sure if that practice still works these days.  When the abalone was overfished, he had to switch to sea urchins – ouch – he hated that.

 

             I was very spoiled seafood-wise as a young girl.  I have gotten over complaining about buying a lobster tail at a restaurant – but as you can see from the pictures, I am not exaggerating about what my Dad used to bring home for dinner.

 

One time my Dad found a white abalone and knew of a lady at Scripps who was studying them, as they were rare.  So we were sitting in a parking lot waiting, when the lady drove up, and she looked kind of a little scared but I could tell she felt much better when she saw me, a young girl.  My memory is that it seemed like a sketchy back parking lot abalone deal.

                One time, my Dad caught a large shark and came home with it in the back of the pickup truck.  He was very proud and wanted a picture of his young kids sitting on his catch.  I thought the dead shark was disgusting, slimy, oozing and smelly.  I unhappily ended up sitting on that yucky dead shark, and I don’t recall ever seeing the photo, but I imagine the look on my face would be priceless.

            When my Dad had his engineering hat on, he worked for the companies IVAC and Pancretec.  He worked on IV medical pumps in their infancy.  His story is that he made the prototype for what IV pumps have become today.  Even ill in the hospital he spoke of the major dilemma being how to get over the issue of different medicines having different viscosities and how to make a pump that would work to factor in that problem.

I searched online for the history of medical pumps and would have loved to see my Dad’s name in glowing lights.  I found info on early IVAC pumps that used drips or syringe action that had issues.  My Dad spoke of coming up with a two wheel idea to push against the tubing, which is kind of what we see today.  But, I’m sure he was at Pancretec and back in the day companies often took credit for what their engineers came up with.

              A highlight of his career was a cancer patient who took the time to find out who had made the pump he was using and called my Dad at our home.  We’re talking rotary telephone, before telemarketing, before answering machines.  This man was dying, and he thanked my Dad for creating the medical pump that allowed him to spend time at his home with his family.  Dad was very proud.

Flip

When my Dad was doing the oceanographer thing, he made several scientific excursions including going to the North Pole and South Pole including visiting South America, and I wish I knew where else.  He was even on Flip and Alvin the submarine.  I did an 8th grade report on Flip with pix, that are long gone.  Flip was a vessel that literally would turn from horizontal to vertical so experiments could be done.  So, everything – toilets, sinks, beds were on the floor and also on the wall so that things were usable when the vessel would fill with water at the bottom as a ballast and flip.  I believe it was scientists in Alvin who first discovered hydrothermal vents with their own ecology of interesting and never before seen deep sea creatures, which was huge news at the time.

Flip https://youtu.be/4dftaWQLtPQ

             One funny story I always loved was one voyage where the King of Sweden was on board.  You have to realize that these scientific excursions always carried nerd types from numerous different countries and various communities: people studying salinity, polar bears, tides and currents, etc.  I don’t recall everything my Dad was studying but I do know at one point he was interested in sediments at different ocean depths.  So my Dad has the story of how one day, some scientist from another country rolled a marijuana cigarette and passed it around – we’re talking the 70’s here, and the King of Sweden said that it tasted funny, unlike a typical rolled cigarette.  He didn’t realize what it was.  No one told him.  How many people can say they smoked a joint with the King of Sweden?

              Speaking of nerds, my Dad did have the pocket full of nerdy stuff, the glasses, and yes, a slide rule.  I learned how to use it as a young girl.  When I was taking calculus in college, my Dad actually helped me when I was having difficulty with problems.  There aren’t too many people in their forties that can help their kids with math homework past algebra.

            Anyone remember bulletin board systems before the internet?  A fond but now funny memory is my Dad and I downloaded a current satellite image of west coast weather.  It took about 45 minutes, and we thought that was just amazingly cool.  Circa 1991?

Speaking of high tech, other memories include when Dad brought home our first ever microwave, our very first computer (Kaypro with tiny green screen), and our first dot matrix printer.  This was back when a floppy disc really meant floppy for those of us who know what that means, way before thumb drives.  Oddly enough, in his older years, even though he enjoyed the internet and would email, he never fully embraced the use of cell phones, including smart phones or texting.  He went back to basically living off the land for his retirement, and enjoyed answering to no one.  I believe he loved it, and I am happy for that.

Last picture with my Dad

Now that he is gone, I wish I had learned more about his excursions and his engineering work as an adult.  I guess you don’t think of these things until it is too late.

 

Love and miss you, Dad!