Ken Lamb

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.

23 thoughts on “Ken Lamb

  1. Thank you for sharing this Brian, especially the photos. You are definitely a chip off the Ken Lamb DNA, that young family photo could pass for you except for the wardrobe. And in all it shows your Dad’s gusto for work, life, and family. That’s the first time, after hearing the stories, seeing what the spectrophotometer looked like.

    And also thanks for the details of your Dad’s life, him, like you an innovator, for Ken in forecasting climate change and doing something about it.

    I don’t have all the words to appreciate the small bit of experience I had with Ken, Nettie, CJ, and you in Mexico, and it means that much more now.

    My heart goes out to all the Lambs as you deal with the loss of Ken and, keep his stories alive.

  2. Condolences to you & your family, Brian, and thanks for sharing this. Your father led a remarkable life. I agree with Alan, the resemblance in those photos is so strong.

  3. “steadfast integrity and good humour” .. you and your Dad – guided by the same light. Looking forward to hearing more of Ken’s stories in the times to come.

  4. You and Harry are in our thoughts, Brian. Thank you for sharing pieces of your father’s incredible life — like others, I can’t believe the resemblance. Take care.

  5. Wow, your Dad sounds so interesting and wonderful. Such incredible contributions to the world, both professionally and personally. I am so saddened for your loss, unfair, sudden, and too soon. May these stories be the light through your grief. Much love to you and your family, Brian.

  6. Ah, Brian. I am so sorry. This is so very hard.

    What a sweet collection of memories and reflections you’ve assembled here. What a rich life, from major science to growing a sweet family.
    And “Vodka time with Russian scientists”!

    Love and hugs to your entire family.

  7. Thank you for these stories and images, which help those of us who never met him to get a better sense of who he was. I am so sorry…what a difficult thing for you and your family. Thinking of you…

  8. What a beautifully written tribute to a great man. We loved Ken and Nettie and shared great times at their home in Donna, Texas and in our lounge at the park. He was a kind and gentle soul. Dale and Ken had a lot of fun golfing together. Especially when it was cold and the flasks were passed!

  9. We knew ken for a short time, but didn’t take long to like him he is a wonderful man and we will miss him dearly …Brian what a nice write up of him he would be very proud..IN OUR HEARTS forever

  10. Hi Brian, Sorry to hear of your loss. Thank you for sharing stories of your dad, sounds like he was pretty awesome. Enjoy the stories you’ll hear the next little while – they will help carry you for a bit.

  11. My condolences to you and your family, Brian. Any loss is difficult, but even more when it comes out of nowhere. Through the stories, it is more clear the impact and the footprint that he left on your family and the world, beyond the incredible resemblance! Thanks for sharing and please take care.

  12. Brian,
    Endings are so hard. What you wrote was beautiful, as ever. I send you and Harry hugs.
    Barb

  13. CJ an Brian, I feel honored and humbled that I shared a hearty meal and a common love for Country music with your Dad and Mom. On my way out, I your mom doled out a bunch of country music tapes!! That crowned the day. Thank you Brian, for sharing such an iconic stories of you dad, he will be remembered for a very long time, all the wonderful work he did. May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace. Hugs

  14. Dear Brian, my heart is full and breaking. I am so very sorry for your loss and send my condolences to you and your whole family. Your tribute allows me to know something of a great man I never met, and helps me to understand you better too. Both of these are gifts; both of you are gifts.

    I lost my parents many years ago. I could tell right away I’d never recover. But I learned I would go on, and I knew they were counting on that, as I now count on that for my children.

    Thanks for saying goodbye with such love and care, and thus for giving me the chance to say goodbye to him as well.

    With love and sorrow, Gardner