Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Rest in Peace Frank Spychalski

My last photo with Frank in it, taken in July 2011 (Left to right: Phil Sung, Alan Wissenberg, Dan Vogelheim, Frank Spychalski, Me)


When I was assigned to the Munich office in 2008, Frank Spychalski was the first person to take me out for a beer and asked me to join his project. As an Asian who couldn't hold his beer, I couldn't do much drinking, but Frank overlooked that, and  I gladly joined his project and tried my best to help him as well as the rest of the Munich office. We became office-mates and good friends. When I found an apartment, Frank helped me find, buy and then organized a party to move my washing machine. When I moved out, he bought that machine off me.

Frank was an outdoors enthusiast in every sense of the word. He was a runner, a hiker (he'd done the West Highland Way twice!), and cyclist. In the office, he was always up for a quick run, and was always full of energy, frequently biking to work. Others in the office sometimes called him "super-humanly strong", but I knew that he was relentless in his pursuit of fitness. While we'd rode together a few times, we never did manage to sync up on my long trips, including the Tour of the Alps. We nevertheless became good friends and we always managed to squeeze in a quick meeting at least whenever I visited the Munich office.

I was shocked when I received e-mail from a mutual friend that Frank had gone missing. I knew Frank was very experienced and participated in many challenging hiking events. While I knew he frequently did these trips solo, he'd come through every one of his treks without a scratch, which is more than I can say for myself. I was horrified therefore, to hear that his body had been recovered from the Cascade Saddle track in Mt. Aspiring National Park. (Update: Sara Adams provides more background on what happened) (Update: the news reports provide further detail)

I'm very sorry that Frank and I never got to do a substantial trip together, and that we'll never get a chance to do so. I did not expect that I would spend Christmas this year writing his obituary. It stuns me that I will never see his quick smile, laugh at his eagerness to do so much in so little time whenever he was travelling, and hear his frequently sarcastic comments again. I lost a good friend, and the world lost a great engineer, hiker, cyclist, and backpacker. I will miss you, Frank!
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