Goodbye, Sean

I’ve known Sean McShefferty less than a year. I feel like I’ve known him my whole life.

Upon our first meeting, Sean spent a solid 60 minutes – unprompted and uninterrupted – delineating the entire story of his battle with cancer, intertwined with stories of his kids, people he had met, surfing, and various other escapades. That the rest of us were nearly falling off our chairs from red wine and fatigue didn’t matter. He had something to share and he was going to share it.

That was Sean: Always sharing.

The next day, and the next several times I saw him, he apologized for his monologue. That was Sean, too: Considerate, sensitive and sincere.

As my friend (and Sean’s colleague) Tom Forsythe said to me, “Sean lived the saying, ‘A stranger is a friend you’ve never met.’ ” And did he have friends. Sean told me how, while undergoing treatment for stomach cancer, he met another patient. The two struck up a conversation – Sean was a pro at this – about cars, and it turns out the fellow was a collector. He invites Sean to see some of his “toys,” and naturally Sean went along.

The collection of vintage autos and rare sports cars was amazing. As Sean admired them, the man made Sean a deal: take anyone he liked and drive it for a couple weeks. Then bring it back. No questions asked. Just have fun. (He did.)

Sean had a knack for inspiring that kind of blind trust from those he met. His sincerity carried him a long, long way. As a cancer survivor myself, I admire those who have faced down what can be a wholly debilitating disease with dignity and strength. Sean never publicly complained about his bad luck. In fact, I suspect he never looked at the hand he was dealt as bad luck at all. It was just one of God’s challenges, and he was going to face it. I didn’t even know he was sick again.

I’m sorry Sean is gone. I’m sorry for his family, for his colleagues at Kyzen and in the industry, and for his friends. But I’m also sorry for all those strangers who never had the chance to become his friends.

(Kyzen is requesting those who have “classic” pictures of Sean to forward them to the company for inclusion in the retrospective. Digital copies may be sent to [email protected]; prints photos can be sent to the company’s Nashville address (attention SeanPhoto) for scanning and will be returned. Questions regarding the education fund may be submitted to [email protected].)

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association ( He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow