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.