It is with great sadness and sense of loss that I announce the passing of my friend Gene Meeks.
Gene was living with his daughter and in generally good health. He suffered a stroke on Wednesday, last and actually made it out of ICU and was in a normal bed in recovery, but flatlined last Friday and all efforts to revive him, failed.
I last talked with Gene a couple of weeks ago. He seemed in fine spirits and was very happy to hear from me.
I met Gene in 1999 when I went to Fort Wayne to interview four of the Team members still residing there. Gene was a major team player on the original Farnsworth team. We bonded very quickly and his memory was one of the best of all the team members as he was very involved, even though he was but a technician on the team.
Gene acutally pre-dated all of the team members as he helped Phil Farnsworth start to setup a fusor lab in his State Street home back in 1958-59. This private effort was before any funding by ITT was forthcoming. Gene worked after hours at Phil's home and Phil paid Gene out of his own pocket. Gene literally became part of the Farnsworth family as Pem would often fix midnight snacks and even full meals for the pair as they labored in the basement nightly and on weekends.
Gene was a young technician at ITT and Phil recognized that Gene was multi-talented and kept him at his side throughout the whole project, having him transferred from his asigned ITT post over to the fusor project as the very first team member, once the project became funded.
Ultimately, Farnsworth would allow Gene his own fusor station and he worked independent of the others in his spare moments.
Bob Hirsch speaks very highly of Gene as being one of the "best pair of hands" he has ever known. Gene turned ideas into hardware and shepherded systems for any and all team leaders and members.
Gene's life was very tough back in those days with many personal troubles and difficulties at home and financially.
Gene was often viewed by some at ITT as being a bit obstinate and troublesome. He seemed to not function well within the more rigid ITT corporate idea of what a technician class person should or should not say or do. Suffice it to say, any issues involving Gene were put aright by Phil, The Admiral, or Bob Hirsch, supporting him fully. They knew Gene's true worth was in his ability to perform very well if just nudged instead of being pushed.
I have had many hours sitting in person with Gene in three visits I have made to Fort Wayne. I have also spent many, many hours on the phone over the last 8 years. Each time I called he would offer up more information on his time as a team member.
Alas, his vibrant personality and his ability to supply useful insights and closely held personal information are now part of history.
I will fondly remember Gene as a man with a beer in his hand and a smoldering cigarette close by. I never saw him, but what there were not a lot of beers on hand which would be consumed one after the other. Still, I never saw him drunk. (Or, if he was, he functioned normally and without apparent impediment)
I remember during one interview, when he had finished his last beer in the fridge, he told me it would resume only after we took him out to eat and then to a store for more beer and smokes. He was a product of his times; a sort of likeable Marlboro-Budwieser man.
Gene was, at all events, his own man. He did not equivocate or complain. He was always immediately friendly, very much alive and once he accepted you, could really open up about many things that would both amuse and amaze.
I will miss him mightily
P.S. I append an image from 1999. Taken in front of the Pontiac street plant.
left to right Myself, Gene Meeks, Freddy Haak.
- meeksmehaak.jpg (65.25 KiB) Viewed 946 times
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.