In a very roundabout way, I learned over the weekend that a very old friend of mine had passed away last year.
Why is this important to a process automation blog?
I first met Tom Cooke in the late 1970s. He was sweeping up in the wastewater treatment plant in Fortuna, CA. He’d had some hard times, and they’d hired him as unskilled labor on a work relief program to get him and his family off welfare.
Over the next couple of years, I watched him become, first the laboratory director, and then the water and wastewater department supervisor. He grew into each job as if they were made for him.
With no formal training, and no engineering degree (sounds familiar doesn’t it) he learned the job of automating and running a water distribution system, water treatment plant, wastewater collection system, and wastewater treatment plant mostly by doing it.
In fact, the Fortuna wastewater treatment plant was one of the best run wastewater plants in all of Northern California. This was a good thing, because its outfall is located right at the mouth of the Eel river. In fact, Tom’s predecessor as wastewater treatment plant supervisor and I would go fish for King Salmon right off the outfall from time to time. Lots of salmon go past that plant.
Later, Tom became the Public Works Director, and even later, a councilman, and at the time of his untimely death, the Mayor.
Not bad for a work relief kid with a bad record.
Tom had a heart attack and died in his early 50s.
He was a process automation professional, whether he ever was certified or not.