Friday, May 22, 2009

New Things to Worry About

First I want to thank all my friends in cyberspace for their kind and comforting words of sympathy. They really do ease grief.

My two eldest "children" are pooling their worries about composing an obituary for their father. Son Otto is in Port Townsend WA, Candace is staying with me, but electronic communication is wonderful and they have been sending suggestions and revisions back and forth by cell phone, land phone and email. I want to post this version, even though it might not be the final one. I want to share what a wonderful man my husband was and what a rich legacy of memories he left to his descendants. So here is what they've said so far:

Dr Otto J. M. Smith died on May 10, 2009 from injuries sustained in an accidental fall on a poorly engineered sidewalk in front of the recreation center in El Cerrito CA. The accident occurred on May 7, 2009, He is survived by his wife Phyllis Sterling Smith and their four children and spouses, Candace and Clinton Shock; Otto and Kristin Smith; Sterling and Joan Smith; and Stanford and Dianne Smith.

Dr Smith was 91 at the time of his death, a professor emeritus in the department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at UC Berkeley and an active inventor working in the field of energy production and efficiency. He was deeply concerned about global warming and devoted much of his later life to developing technologies and working for policies that would help save the world from this man-made disaster.

Dr. Otto J. M. Smith was an educator, inventor and author in the fields of engineering and electronics. He spent most of his career as a professor at University of California Berkeley. Dr. Smith is probably best known for the invention of the Smith predictor, a method of handling dead time in feedback control systems as well as the invention of Posicast control and the invention of several enabler devices to run three phase motors on single phase power. An early invention was for a circuit to generate square waves that was used in all Hewlett Packard signal generators.

Since 1976 all of his patents have been for devices to generate or conserve energy. Among his many patents are designs for solar electric power plants, wind generators and high efficiency motors. He has been granted at least 30 US patents as well as several foreign patents. At the time of his death he was actively pursuing two more patents which had been applied for but had not yet received a final office action.

Dr Smith was born Aug 6, 1917 in Urbanna Illinois. In 1923 he moved with his family to Stillwater Oklahoma where his father had a position teaching chemical engineering at Oklahoma A & M. He did his graduate work and received his doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University where he met his future wife and life long companion Phyllis Sterling. They were married for 67 years at the time of his death. At Stanford he was in the habit of catching lizards and presenting them to his wife-to-be who would wear them under the collar of her blouse for a day and then let them go in the evening. He was an animal lover and during his life had many wild animal pets as well as domestic pets including snakes, lizards, two different kinds of bats and an albino female opossum named Pogoette (after the Walt Kelley 'possum Pogo). He even set a praying mantis’s broken leg with a toothpick.

Otto was invited to give numerous presentations including such diverse topics as “Bats in the Belfry”, engineering ethics, camping through Russia in 1960, and living in Brazil during the 1950s. An orange at one side of a lot and the head of a pin at the other side could demonstrate the relative size and distance of the sun and the earth to boy scouts whereas slides of rice paddies and water buffalo were more appropriate to discussion of southeast Asia. His inclusion of his family in his overseas adventures introduced his children and grandchildren to the joys of international participation.

Dr Smith was a pacifist, a World Federalist, a believer in the rule of law, an atheist, a humanist, and active in political causes. He participated with his students in strikes and protests against the Viet Nam war and actively supported his wife in her extensive volunteer work with the Berkeley Free Church, the Ecumenical Chaplancy to the Homeless and other social causes.

Among his many awards were:
* Guggenheim Fellow.
* R&D 100 Award in 1999 for technologically significant new product.
* Listed in the “Leaders of the Pack” In Tech’s 50 most influential industry innovators since 1774 .
* Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science.
* Fellow, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
* Visiting Research Fellow in Economics and Engineering, Monash University, Victoria, Australia.
* Honor Societies: Sigma Xi, Phi Kappa Phi, Tau Beta Pi (Engr.), Phi Lambda Upsilon (Chemistry), and Eta Kappa Nu (EE).

The family requests that condolences take the form of gifts to the ACLU or Amnesty International, organizations that he supported. No memorial service is planned at this time.


Marianne said...

Wow. Quite a bit of that I was aware of via your writings/posts, and the rest? Wow...well, all of it.. wow.
Such an exceptional and remarkable human being!
You've been in my thoughts, I'm glad you posted.

Giggles said...

Thank-you thank-you thank-you Phylis for sharing such intimate details of this spectacular human being!! You must be so proud of your handsome husband! I am honored to read and share this obituary with my children! You are so fortunate to have had such a love so rare! What a difference this man has made to the world. I'm sad for your family, yet happy to hear you have a grand support system. What a legacy he has left! I am wishing you peace and love. I hope you find solace in knowing we all care!

Much love
from Sherrie (Canada)

Laini Taylor said...

Oh Phyllis, I am so terribly terribly sorry to read this news. My thoughts and prayers are with you, and always my deep admiration for the adventurous, exiting, thoughtful, and wonderful life that you and Otto created together.

Much love,

alister said...

I’m so sad to hear of Otto’s death. My father died just three days after Otto, on 5/13, of a disease. He was a teacher of music and an accomplished organist. So it seems we lost two good men this May. Otto was particularly accomplished. I’m staying with my mom now so I know the value of Candace being there for you. I’ll be thinking of you all, sending good and loving vibes : )
Miss A

bunnygirl said...

What an amazing gentleman he was! Your husband was probably known or known of at the university where I work. We do a lot in energy research and are developing a new wind energy center.

Love is never lost because energy cannot be destroyed. You're a lucky woman.

Granny on the Web said...

A wonderful tribute to a man who's life was lived to the full, and his achievements in that life, he and his family can be justly proud. Our world is a better place because Otto has been in it.
Sadly, sometimes we don't know the full due of a person, until they are gone from here. A friend of ours, who touched our lives in our group the past 5 years, died recently and it was then we all learnt of his war bravery, and the wonderful things his 90 years on earth had achieved. Modesty was so becoming to him.
You are blessed to have shared his life, and the children blessed with a wonderful father.
Your spirit becomes you dear Phyllis. With your family's support and God's hand on you, you will carry on.
Love Granny...

Maggie May said...

He was quite a man...... apart from being your beloved husband.
Thank you for sharing this lovely tribute that I read with genuine interest.
Hoping that your are finding solace in the knowledge that he will live on through all the wonderful memories you have of him, through your children & grandchildren, and through the many different projects he did and because he will be in everyone's hearts and minds.
Thinking of you, Phyllis. You are a strong lady. I can tell from all the things you have posted about. X

Shyam said...

What an amazing man and what a loss to the world of education, apart from the huge gap he must have left in his family's lives, and in the lives of all who knew him. I wish I'd had the honour of knowing him.

Aleksandra said...

Beautiful.Love from me.Take care.

Understanding Alice said...

what a brilliant and amazing man, its an inspiration to read about someone who was so dedicated to the enviroment, and in such a practical way. His contribution is a fitting tribute and a lasting memory.

anthonynorth said...

An amazing list of achievements. You can surely take comfort in knowing that he never wasted a moment of that marvellous life.

paisley said...

what a glowing tribute.. your children have done a wonderful job of compiling otto's life as a cherished legacy and shared that with us thru this obituary..

still keeping you in my thoughts and hoping that you remain strong and surrounded by love during this difficult time..

Greyscale Territory said...

Such an incredible life packed with preserving all the good in humanity and exploring ways of helping others! An educated and educational humanitarian!

Wishing you peace knowing his love is always with you!

murat11 said...

Granny Smith: What a beautiful man, a beautiful life, a beautiful Romeo to his lovely Juliet. My thoughts are with you.

Life with Kaishon said...

My heart still aches for you Granny Smith! I think of you often each day! I pray that God will give you peace during this difficult time! I am so glad that your daughter can be with you. They have written well about his life. Much love.

gautami tripathy said...

Beautiful tribute for a wonderful person.

Thanks for sharing this. I send my love to you..

Honey And Papa said...

I am the youngest son of Phyllis and Otto. My sister and my oldest brother are providing my mother with the majority of the support. They are two of my angels.

I want to thank all of you for your comments and support. They mean a lot to my mother.

Alister: I am sorry about your father's death. I am sure you are an angel to your mother during this time. (I am also in telecommunications.)

keith hillman said...

What a legacy he leaves behind him. A fitting tribute to a remarkable man, and one I came to know through your writing.

yyam said...

This man has certainly accomplished a lot in his life. You must be so proud of him. Glad you are holding up well. Sending you some warm wishes from Singapore.

linda may said...

Dear Granny, all I can say is WOW! Love and hugs for the coming difficult weeks. You have so much left of him with his achievements, your children and his love.

Momma said...

My deepest sympathy. I've been reading you via Sunday Scribblings but haven't checked in recently. I was stunned to read that you had lost the love of your life. Thank you for sharing your wit and wisdom and your life.

BJ Roan said...

I'm so sorry to hear this news. It has been obvious through reading your posts that Otto was a wonderful man. This post is the perfect tribute to an obviously much loved man. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.

Bobbi said...

You have been in my thoughts and prayers during these trying days. What a beautiful tribute to an obviously wonderful man! The true test of a human is what family and friends remember about them when they're gone.

May God continue to bless you and yours.

b said...

Dear Phyllis,

I will add your husband to my list of heroes. If all of your readers would have one regret at the loss of your husband, it would be that we did not or could not say "thank you" to him in person. What an amazing body of work.

Thank you for sharing your stories. I share your grief.


Jennifer Hicks said...

what a brilliant contribution your husband made to both your family and to our world.
may your love guide you through these difficult times.
Blessings Granny,

Tricia said...

I am so sorry for your loss. I just landed upon your blog and cannot wait to get to know you more.

much love

quin browne said...

i was left with the duty of writing about my father after he passed... it's not an easy thing to do.

i think he'd have liked what i did.

here is to you holding up as best you's difficult, and, words can never convey the things we are thinking and feeling.

at least mine don't.

floreta said...

wow, he sounds like an amazing extraordinary man. he lived a long, happy and fulfilling life!

nonizamboni said...

What a wonderful man with many extraordinary gifts. I am sad to know he is no longer walking the earth and that you are without him. Your family has done a wonderful job honoring his long and fruitful life. Take good care, my friend, and know you remain in my thoughts.
Mary Ann

Marguerite said...

What a fitting tribute to an extraordinary man. You are in my thoughts and prayers. May God grant you comfort and peace during this most trying of times.

Dee Martin said...

Every human hopes that they will leave their mark on this earth before they leave it. Your wonderful husband certainly did that. A wonderful tribute and love to you.

GreenishLady said...

What a wonderful, honourable life Otto led. I had a sense of much of this, and yet to read it all together here makes it even clearer what a remarkable man he was. Thank you for sharing this, dear Phyllis. I hope you are moving easy through the days.

b said...

Phyllis, I just wanted you to know that I posted a tribute to your husband. I do so hope that you will hear from students and those that shared his philosophies.


Janie said...

What a wonderful tribute to a great man. He's given so much in one lifetime.

Linda - Nickers and Ink said...

Just stopped by, as I haven't heard from you in a while. I am so sorry to hear your news.

Praying God's comfort and peace and rest upon you during this sad time.

What an obituary. What a life. What a legacy. What memories you must have.


Lena said...

I've just clicked on your link while browsing and was drawn to your wonderful smile (and I used to have my own granny Smith!) and read of the remarkable man Otto was. While we live, they never truly die.

My father died 5 years ago tomorrow. He had many stories of WW2 in which he was a POW. He was a talented musician and so, so funny. I will be thinking of you tomorrow, too, as I tend his grave.

Anonymous said...

Your Otto was a very blessed man to have you in his life. So sorry to hear of his loss. Your marriage...(love story) is one we can all learn from. Your poetry is beautful. Thinking of you today and wishing you peace. Love and prayers from our family.

Thomas said...

I am very sorry to hear of your loss. Your husband sounds like a wonderful and brilliant man. I am a distant cousin from North Attleboro, MA and wish you and your family peace and comfort in this difficult time. -Tom Wright