Loss of a Legend

Werner Engelmaier, a man I have known for 20 years, died Friday on a trip to Jordan.

News of his passing stunned and saddened me. Werner was a force: a man of unmistakable integrity, commitment, intelligence and fearlessness.

Werner had attained guru status before I even had entered the industry. In the mid 1990s, while on the technical staff at IPC, I often was left with a long list of faxed questions (you read that right: our boss at the time didn’t like phone calls from those pesky customers) from process engineers mystified by one specification or another. Werner became one of my go-to guys, and always took the time to explain the thinking behind the standards. Who knows how many engineers thought I knew what I was talking about when in fact, I was simply quoting Werner.

Appreciating for years his passion for skiing — Werner would often take advantage of flights from his Florida home to the West Coast by stopping off at one of his favorite mountains — I once mentioned how much I liked the Snowbird resort outside Salt Lake City. Werner laughed, and said he preferred a nearby peak, adding he had a saying, “I ski Alta, and I give you the ‘Bird’ ” a tongue-in-cheek reference to the one-finger salute.

That was Werner. He had his opinions — be it Alloy 42 or lead-free soldering — and stuck to them, insisting on data above politics and the path of least resistance. He was patient and respectful, but he carried that trait to which all journalists aspire: He spoke truth to power.

And, as his son Peter said, he was “reliable” in every sense of the word. It was strange not seeing Werner at IPC Apex last week. It was the first time I can remember him missing an IPC meeting (and I know why he did, although I’m not going to write it here). Instead, he gave a two-day seminar in Israel, then flew to Aqaba, Jordan, to go scuba diving. In his absence, he still received a pair of awards for work on newly released IPC standards.

I will miss a lot of things about Werner: his sense of humor and smile, his tenacity, his mind. But mostly, I will just miss him.



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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (pcea.net). 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

6 thoughts on “Loss of a Legend

  1. Thanks Mike–He was an old world gentleman, a patriotic American and a staunch advocate for the PCB manufacturer. I will miss the numerous times we spent sharing good single-malt scotch, discussing politics and talking about PCBs. He was never at a loss for words or opinion and didn’t care what anyone thought–something I truly admired.

  2. A tremendous personal loss for all of us who knew Werner and for an industry gasping for visionary technical leadership. I agree, he will be missed.

  3. Werner was my friend and colleague for 25 years. Through the years he was my go to guy as well. We worked together on many IPC standards documents through the years, always willing to lend his expertice when asked or keeping us honest when he wasn’t asked. Werner made sure that anything we published in IPC related to product reliability was acurate and concise.

    I will truly miss him.


  4. Hello Mike…Just a quick note to let you know I was touched by your spontaneous and heartfelt eulogy for your mentor, Werner Engelmaier; he sounds like he was a great engineer/human being. The word that came to mind when I finished reading your comments was “AUTHENTIC”!

    I’ve had the good fortune to meet and know several ‘Werners’ at the various companies and facilities I’ve worked at during my 25 year (wow!) career; I’m always inspired by their brilliance and passion for their ‘craft’, and I always tell myself ‘I hope I find my ‘sweet spot’ job/career, where I can contribute with same enthusiasm and skill as a professional like Werner Engelmaier, or my friend, (the late) Andy Hoff.

    Thanks again for sharing your tribute…keep up the great editorial work at ‘PCD&F’!

    Jim Sobe

  5. Very nice job, Mike.

    Werner certainly earned and deserve such a respectful eulogy.

    It is a shame that most new comers to the industry never realize the critical role their predecessors, the pioneers, played in their current day successes. Werner will be seriously underappreciated, as are most pioneers.

    Thank you for shining a light on the truth – and for showing the proper respect and appreciation.

  6. Thanks Mike for sharing your experience and thoughts on Werner. May I add to your sincere writing my thoughts since I had worked with Werner side-by-side, as co-chair of IPC 97xx including 9701, for many years. I always appreciated Werner’s thought provoking technical comments even though on occasion my experience was different. He was indeed had deep knowledge and experience and was fearless in expressing them. Recently, I had the opportunity to be with him/other experts on resolution of a key solder joint reliability issue for a space application. At the end of meeting, he told me that “now, I better understood many whys of your space.” I noticed that he summarized his generic thoughts and shared in a blog. I clearly remember that I told to myself, Wow!, the real lesson is: learn and share. At the APEX 6-10d meeting, just couple of day before his passing, a team member approached me and said, “where is Werner since he missed his presence and inputs,” I knew why he was not attending, but I told, hopefully next meeting. Now, I wish that he was there and lead the meeting, hoping that could have avoided such a sad accident. I am slowly accepting the reality of Werner will not be among our technical community and wish peace for his soul and warmth thoughts and support for his family.

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