Monday, September 12, 2011

Gary Cook's Retirement Party

Ex-Farmers Insurance Group employees, Ex-IBMers, and current CSC employees, and their families and friends gathered and celebrated Gary’s retirement. His 50 year career compassed all the facets of the data center business.

As most people can imagine how stressful the data center business is. If we screw up, the systems wouldn’t come up. No systems, no profits, no company. In the old days, mainframe computers came down often enough. Don’t I know it? It was a pretty lonely job struggling to bring a system up in the middle of night. Besides, we all had our life stresses, and top of that, we were all independent thinkers with different traits. Who could manage all those stressful situations without looking stressed out, and actually creating a fun and games among employees? That was Gary, and I confirmed that he is still the same.

When my mother was alive, I told her I had a good boss. Without him being my boss, I didn’t think I could raise my kids, commuting about two and a half to three hours a day, going through my medical treatments and divorce. I told her he smiled when he became angry. My mother was impressed. She said he was a big person. I also told her if I were in Japan, I could never become a system programmer. Period.

There are many managers operating their data centers throughout the world. Some must be successful at it. But I wonder how many are successful in creating and having fun among their employees and colleagues doing it. At the party, I converse with my former colleagues, and we agree that Gary's been good at it. We all know how hard it is to manage systems programmers.

Tching always makes an impact as she is doing here.  One of her way is to pronounce “Hollerith” with her French, Chinese, and Vietnamese tongue.  It still sounds wonderful.  I still mix up Wally and Warry, but I can pronounce Hollerith.  Thank you very much.  But Gary still cannot tell us apart.  I was the one he gave a free day off time to time, not Tching.  Tching didn’t work for Gary. 

They haven't changed a bit.  On this photo, Tom looks like having more fun than Gail.

My important picture.  Gary and me.

Thank you for hosting this party, Randy.

Network and data base people.  Modesto, Ulrich, and Ben.

The former OPSYS members.  But not enough gathered because a few are working behind the scene organizing this and that for this party including fixing a toilet, and others are still on the way to the party, and some won't show up for various reasons.

Randy, Gary, Modesto, Bill, Tching.

Tching and Eric

I see my cousin's house from here.

 Ready for his speech.

Mark makes his welcoming speech and narrates the highlights of Gary's life and accomplishments.  But this is not an ordinary narration.  It is unique, unpredented although I have heard it a number of times.  Still I heard a woman in the audience asking the person next to her, "Is that true?"   I used to ask that question.

Gary patiently waits for his appearance.

Lyneius is adding his comment.  I think by this time Gary has been on the center stage.

Here he is.

Roland makes his appearance.  Gary exclaimes, Hammer. 

Through up and down in our careers and personal lives, Gary's been there.   No one can be Gary, but because we know him, we are still able to have this outrageiously fun time!

Continuing his speech.

His brand is Lucky Strike. Ironically, Farmers Insurance was bought out by British American Tobacco while I was there. Lucky Strike is one of the BAT's products. We were all shocked then. Because of the change, a big application project was launched, BTS. He is probably talking about that period. After I left the company, a Swiss company bought Farmers.


This is the climax of his speech.  I still don't understand why it is so funny, but it's like a lullaby to my ear.  For some reason, we can't stop laughing.  Just looking at this photo, it makes me smile.

I think Roland has gained weight. I'm glad he has because I've gained also. Let's do diet together.

Right around this time, I run out of the battery of my camera. I'm sorry Dave, Jennifer, and others that you do not appear here. But the photographer must have taken many fantastic pictures, much better than mine.

The battery was gone I thought, but next morning, just in case I clicked my camera. It let me, and I took a few more shots. The evening before, Gail had given me a ride from Pasadena to the party, and I stayed with Tching and Eric in Santa Monica for the night. In the morning, after our oatmeal and coffee breakfast, Tching makes a call to her mother in France. The oatmeal breakfast is one of our connections, and about mother and daughter relationship is the other. Her 85 year old mother is in an assisted home in France. She says the mother seems panicky talking because it's Sunday. Services are off on Sunday. My aunt became like that, too, I say. She calls one more time before we head to the beach.

After I say goodbye to Tching, she still worries if I can make it to the bus stop okay. It's only a half block away. I walk a quarter block and look back. I don't see her crossing the street or on the other side of the street. I walk further and look back again. I see no one wearing the pink t-shirt. This is weird. I wonder what has happened to her. She must be there, and she cannot fly. I examine the half block distance right and left. Over sudden, the pink t-shirt appears in front of me. I guess she's been following me to make sure I reach the bus stop. My goodness. We burst into laughter. Maybe, this is why Gary still cannot tell us apart.


Vincent said...

Thanks for this Keiko, I was surprised to find myself so moved by it, and I much appreciated the detail, and the many photos. It helped me feel as though I was there. I'm probably Gary's age though he would have started his computer career before I did (in 1965, with International Computers, IBM's rival in UK and British Commonwealth countries).

It sounds as though Gary spent his career in one place, and I envy that for the camaraderie of the retirement party. I went the opposite way, spending much of my career as a contractor.

You have inspired me to post a photo of a little impromptu "retirement party" I had when I was working at Fujitsu (same company as the one I started in, different name) for a few months in '07. Soon after I started there, it was my 65th birthday. They had kept asking me when it was my birthday but I didn't want any fuss. In the end I told them and they bought a cake.

You see that the entire team is wearing "Visitor" passes. Even my boss was a contractor. He's the one in the white shirt, & half my age. He left soon after and I was eight months with no boss at all to protect me. (I was the database administrator, so everybody bossed me!)

Here is the link to the post I wrote on my birthday (I only just now added the photo):

Springtime (March 3, 2007)

keiko amano said...


Thank you for this comment and link.
Your comment triggered an update to this post. I added the fourth picture from the bottom. It's about Lucky Strike, and a British company bought Farmers while I was there.

Yes, Gary had been like a fixture to Farmers, but finally, the data center went to CSC. I also think you and Gary are similar in age. I don't keep up with exact years.

This was a great reunion especially for some of us and me because we didn't make it to all the parties in recent years. He gives out great parties, and people play volley ball in his backyard, and in his Xmas party, we used to dance all around his house and after midnight, he cooked panckakes. He is a legendary man among us. When I got a great job in Japan although I didn't stay there too long, I called him and thanked him. I cannot quote what he replied, but he is been that kind of person. Even the people who didn't come to the party say the same to me.