Two Fathers w/Recap

My place in the Industrial Automation industry is being a sort-of Networking Guru. Talking to you about Modbus TCP, EtherNet/IP, Profinet IO and all the rest. Telling you about our Industrial Gateway product line, our Building Automation Gateway products and all the rest.

I do these things even though I’m not the bits and bytes kind of guy like a Kevin Knake from HMS (the guys brilliant). I’m not a Systems guy like a Carl Henning at the PI (Profinet Interface Organization). It’s really true that Carl knows more about complex automation systems than I’ll ever know. Carl’s way smarter than me too.

But I know my tiny, tiny piece of the world pretty well. And moreover I’m able, I think, to explain things in a way that is easy to understand. Because I’m not the bits and bytes guy or the systems guy I can take what I learn from them and bring it to you guys in a way that’s hopefully interesting and educational. That’s what I try to do and I hit the mark on it more often than I miss.

Well in last month’s newsletter I strayed pretty far from that. Almost as far as you can get. After visiting Matt Kuzel in Ann Arbor, MI, I got to thinking about our Fathers. He lost his recently. I lost mine a few years ago. I wrote an opening to the newsletter called “Two Fathers”.

The response has been exceptional. It’s struck a nerve with many of our readers.

I’ve had guys write me about their dad, how much they miss him and what he meant to him. I’ve had congratulations for being sensitive to the feelings of another guy who recently lost his Dad. And I’ve had a couple of instances where guys called their Fathers after reading the newsletter to tell them how much they love them and thank them for all they’ve done.

Those last one brought some tears to my eyes.

This article made me think some about the future. And in my case, what my step-grandchildren that I love dearly are going to remember about me and my life. So even though I’ve managed to touch a few lives here, I’ve been touched more. I’ve changed more. I’m more aware.

And for that I’m very thankful!


PS – If you aren’t getting our newsletter you can get the printed copy by calling Jessica on 262-436-9299 or using the contacts button on the RTA Home page. For the email version, just click RTA Newsletter.

For your convenience, I’m posting the article here:


Two Fathers….

I had a chance recently to spend some time with a really great guy and friend of mine in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Matt Kuzel. If you don’t know Matt, you should. He’s the owner of Huron Net Works. He a great engineer and knows the CAN physical layer about as well as anyone.  He’s especially skilled at DeviceNet development ( and can probably quote from the DeviceNet specification by memory.

I’ve know Matt, well it seems like forever. I especially remember being with him on September 11, 2001. ODVA had a DeviceNet event at the GM Tech Center starting at 8AM that morning. Matt was speaking when the first tower fell. People had pagers then and one by one, everyone’s pager was going off while Matt spoke. That day’s, of course, a life experience that we all share.

I was sad to learn that Matt had recently lost his Father. Cancer took Matt’s dad. Old age took mine. It was painful and difficult as it was for me. But amid all that emotion there was joy and rememberances that united us.

Both our Fathers, while coming from totally different backgrounds, lived rich full lives. My dad was born on a rural Italian Tobacco farm during World War 1. Things were pretty primitive. No plumbing. No electricity. No newspaper. Little connection with the world outside his town and even seeing other townspeople was pretty unusual. Dad spent a lot of his youth sleeping in the fields protecting the sheep herd from predators.

But in 1934, with less than $25, the clothes on his back and 2 years of elementary school education dad set out for America. It was the last day he would see his parents for over 32 years. Leaving the farm took him to America; a wrecking company job gathering bricks from the destroyed buildings for 16 cents an hour, a World War II Army service in the Pacific; an eventual mechanics job at Miller High Life and a family life with a wife and two sons.

Unlike my dad, Matt’s dad was an educated man. A high school education. An Electrical Engineering degree. Service in World War II in the European Theatre. He lived his life as an entrepreneur, an avid skater and inventor. He had any number of innovations including the plans for a portable tool storage/recharger station for home work benches. That last one is especially poignant as he conceived of it during one of his last rounds of chemo.

Matt’s dad was organized. Really Organized. A list maker all his life he instilled that life trait onto Matt. Matt too makes a lot of lists. He also need to keep everything organized. You’ll know this to be true if you ever visit Huron Net Works which is just down the road from ODVA headquarters in Ann Arbor. Everything is in its place. I always wonder how anyone can work in a place that organized.

It’s tough to lose a parent especially guys like these two. I, at least, got a good story out of it. The morning of the funeral there was a lot to do. I had to run a number of errands, chauffeur people here and there and get lots of things organized. The one thing I didn’t do was to put gas in the car (That probably would have been on one of Matt’s lists). You probably have an idea where this is heading.

Well after the funeral mass, I get in my car with my mother which is parked just behind the hearse. My brother and his four kids are behind us as are about 70 cars. Yes, 70 cars. Dad was an engaging, gregarious, lovable guy and had many, many friends. A number of my cousins referred to him as their second father.

So, I get in the car, look down and the needle isn’t on the E. If fact, it’s not touching the E at all. IT’S ABOUT A ¼” BELOW THE E!!! Oh my God. What am I going to do?

The one thing I’m not going to do is to tell my Mother. No way. No how. Not going to say anything about it. I can’t tell her that we might just run out of gas during her husband’s funeral procession. And I didn’t think I could lead the procession through a gas station.

All I could do was pray.

And pray I did. I prayed for each and every block. I thanked God for every intersection, every sign, every McDonalds, Burger King, Wendys. “Please God, thank you for that block. Can I have another one?”. I prayed like my life depended on it.

And it worked (Well, at least I am going to say it worked).

We finally arrived at the cemetery. And I am the most relieved, happiest, smiling guy every to arrive at that cemetery. Probably any cemetery. I somehow dodged that bullet but the image of 70 some cars stopped behind me as the hearse goes on haunts me to this day.

I now often laugh about that day but it will always be the day I buried my Father as Matt buried his more recently. But we’ll never bury their memories. Though they were totally different kinds of people; one gregarious with an exception love for people and one more intellectual with a passion for gadgets and solving problems.

What they shared with us is more important than their differences. A love of God. A love of life. An encompassing love for their families and friends. Matt said it best in an email to me, “And what is great is that these are the things that we got to inherit…And better still, we get to pass them on”