I talked to Jerry on Saturday but it was Sunday morning that I felt it. Something wasn't right. The world was a little tilted, somehow. Sure enough, there's a message on my phone from his son Danny asking me to call. Danny's an EE student but I knew from the tone of his voice he didn't want to talk about Kalman filters.

"My dad died yesterday ..."

I met Jerry in 2001 when I started working on the AHRS for the blue mountain EFIS. Jerry's an EE like me, and a Kalman filter wizard. We worked on the AHRS, the Autopilot, some of my projects, some of his. After a while we started trading parts, trading code, and somewhere along the line became better friends than either of us suspected. I rebuild old Porsches. He won't pay more than $500 bucks for a car. We ragged each other mercilessly and slowly picked up each other's cursing vocabulary.

Almost everyone I know has heard "Jerry Stories": when we went to Florida, to Mojave, to Texas, to Phoenix where Len Fox keeps showing up from Oregon damn near every time, but that's another story. I've got a lifetime of Engineers In Paradise stories, and Jerry's in half of them. Seeing the brother laid out didn't get me that upset, though: I was ready for it and I can usually keep it together no problem.

So what made the tears roll? A damn big room full of people I've never met all knew me, that's what. They told stories. Stories I was in. One of his younger kids even called me the Richter-meister. Seems that Jerry talked about me as much as I talked about him and the stories made people laugh as they remembered. I had no idea ...


I recounted some funny stories too, and mentioned that one night late in a hangar somewhere, we discussed what would happen if this airplane or that stuffed it in thereby taking one or the other of us off the oxygen habit, cold-turkey. He told me "I don't want people crying and wringing their hands. If I'm toast, may as well make the best of it. Bow wow yippee yo yippee yay." We were both on an Atomic Dog kick that trip, and laughed like hell about Parliament Funkadelic being such vacuous, blithering idiots. This is the kind of crap we both put up with, and the kind of crap I'm gonna miss the most. Dog dog, atomic dog. The waitress in Melbourne who probably still thinks my name is Lincoln. Cooling Russian vodka with American liquid nitrogen. Six Flags over Sebastian, Florida. Finding the only bar in Mojave that _delivers_ to a hangar after hours. Un-freakin-believable.

So we laughed and smiled, and remembered. It's not easy keeping people laughing at a wake, but that's what my friend wanted, so that's what we did.

This week's development schedule includes flying with Ken Murphy, who's in helping me test some of the new automated features of the autopilot, and some of Jerry's code is open on my desktop. Some things he wrote, some things I wrote, some things that probably grew from seed. Working on your friend's code is the engineer's version of playing his music, improvising a little, making it your own. Looking at a tracking filter mechanization he did I can almost hear him outside snickering: "Dog dog, atomic dog. Bow wow yippee yo yippee yay." Miss ya' my brother, miss ya' a lot.