Life has a way of smacking you when you least expect it. I was worried when my Dad underwent knee replacement surgery, then relieved to learn that it had gone well and he had been discharged from hospital. That night in the hotel, he had a massive stroke. Harry and I barely made it in time to say our words to him before he slipped into unconsciousness. I was there for his final breath a little more than a day later.
I don’t have it in me to write anything that would do justice to him. He was kind, generous, big-hearted, fun-loving. He was a doting and supportive husband, father, grandfather. Without the advantages of wealth or connections he built a business that made immense contributions to ozone research, and he enjoyed the benefits of collaborations and friendships around the world. Those are just words. But right now words and memories are all I have of him. It has been good to be among family this week, sharing stories and learning more about him and about each other.
I did manage to write an obituary for the Winnipeg Free Press. Text below.
Ken Lamb died in his sleep in the early morning of Thursday, May 25th 2017. In his final days and hours he was surrounded by his adoring family: his wife Nettie, his son Brian, his daughter CJ, and his grandson Harry.
Ken was born to Bob and Isabel Lamb February 7th, 1946 in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, following his brother Keith. Shortly after Ken’s birth the family moved to its farm near Moline, Manitoba. It was there that brother Dennis was born.
Ken grew up working hard on the farm, but there was time for fun. Cousin Grant Tweed remembers Christmas when they were both five years old, getting their first skates and being out on the frozen pond before the others were up. This was the beginning of a love of hockey, playing into his forties (including oldtimers tournaments in Europe) and closely following the game all his life. Ken was also an avid golfer, a welcome addition to any foursome.
He went to Winnipeg to get a certificate in electronic technology at Red River College. While studying, he met a fetching nursing student named Nettie and a year later they were married. He shortly after began work at Bristol Aerospace in Winnipeg, and he and Nettie quickly started a family. From there they relocated to Saskatoon for a job at SED Systems, working on projects including rocket launches, high-altitude balloon payload engineering in Texas, and deploying measuring instruments to study the Northern Lights near Gimli, Manitoba.
Eventually Ken and some colleagues made the decision to begin their own endeavor, founding Sci-Tec to manufacture the Brewer Ozone Spectrophotometer. The Brewer was by far the most accurate and effective device to measure the ozone layer, just as awareness of its degradation was growing in the 1980s. With hard work and some good luck, the Brewer became known as the superior instrument in the field, and Sci-Tec manufactured devices and built partnerships with scientists around the world, including the Soviet Union (before the fall of communism), China, and countless other nations. Brewers were also placed in the furthest northern outposts, lava fields in Hawaii, and Antarctica.
Beyond commercial success, Ken built enduring friendships with his global partners, which continued after he left Sci-Tec to found a consultancy with International Ozone Services. For decades, Ken traveled the world calibrating Brewers, enjoying epic meals and sharing stories. His steadfast integrity and good humour ensured beneficial and treasured relationships worldwide.
Through it all, Ken remained humble and happy to enjoy convivial times wherever he went. He and Nettie returned to their prairie roots by moving back to Carman, Manitoba for retirement. For the last ten years, they spent winters in Donna, Texas, developing many more treasured friendships.
If you ever shared a meal, a drink, a funny story, a golf game, or any other experience with Ken Lamb, you can understand how much he meant to his loved ones. He lives on in the memories of his family, extended family and friends.