Grace Presybterian Church, Houston, Texas, May 18, 2004

George Karker 2000

Well I'm going to smile a lot more than the rest of the people because I remember Thom as my good friend.   Mr. and Mrs. Washburn asked me to talk today and at first I really didn't want to.  I kind of figured it was a conspiracy against me to get me in this monkey suit and to wear the shoes that don't fit and to have people like Rossi make fun of me for the rest of my life for wearing a tie.  But I really needed to stand up here and tell y'all about my friend Thom.

You know it was funny.  I sat down and listened to some music  I thought I'd get some solace and I'd learn something that I could say that would be as eloquent as the previous speakers here, but I wound up drinking too much beer and falling asleep.  I had this dream that the Washburns were going through Thom's stuff and found a note and it said;  "If something should happen to me, I'd like George to sing a little tune at my memorial".  You know, I think y'all better be happy that it's just a dream.  But it did give me an idea for the future.  If anything should happen to me I'd like Simon and Carsten to sing a duet.

Let me tell you about my friend when we first started.  I met Thom on his first day at Lummus.  He came in and we started jabbing each other right away.  We started getting along.  We worked together well. We were on Dom Costagliola’s team.  We made a lot of great friends on that Project.  I think Pat Meyers gave me my first ammunition.  I saw Pat come in here today.  He sent a note to us all that said "I'd like to welcome a new member to our project engineering team:  Thom Washburn, a farmer from Iowa".  He was supposed to say: "formerly from Iowa".  I let Thom have it for about two years.  I'd bring up goats and farm animals at client meetings and stuff.  I got him pretty good.

I think the first time that I really realized what I had as a friend and what I could learn was when we were working on the NROC project together and Dom Costagliola called us in.  It was early on in the project and he said you know you two have different styles.  We were pretty close.  Carol Meyers would mix up our names all the time. We sat right next to each other and Dom called us in.  He said you know you two could learn a lot from each other.  This project is going to be a long one.  Let me give you an analogy.  If you were my lieutenants and I was a captain in the army and I told you George to take the hill with your company of men, I know you would be at the top of the hill.  I know there would be casualties, I know there would be a mess, but I know you would be at the top of the hill, by gosh, and we'd own that piece of real estate.

Now Thom, on the other hand, he said, you'd plan the attack.  It might take you a day or two more than George, but you'd have outposts along the way, and have a resupply thing at the top of the hill and be ready to descend the other side and get the next hill.  Well we thought on that.  I was feeling pretty good.  Dom talked to us a little bit more.  Walking out I thought you know that I would dig Thom a little bit.  I said, "You know, Dom just called you a 'whimp'".  He looked at me and said "What?"  And I said, "Yeah, Dom called you a 'whus'."  He said "No he didn't, but even if he did, I can live with that, he called you stupid".

I stood there and I thought about it. You know, I was standing in the hall as he was walking away and he says "Any moron can take a hill, if you do it quick, it is what comes next, it's what you have to look forward to in the future that's important."  And he walks down the hall shaking his head.  I was saying: "I'm tough, I'm aggressive, I'm not a moron!"  But it was then that I realized that he had vision.  I also realized that I'd probably be working for him in the near future for a long time.

But we goofed around a lot, like I said.  We had a lot of fun.  I think it was Linn Osborn who bought pagers for the job because he could never get hold of us.  We were always out, in the drafting room or in the design area.  I wouldn't wear my pager for the first week or two.  Thom wound up hiding it in my office and putting it on vibrate.  You know this was six, seven years ago when pagers were cool.   He'd hide it in the office and call my number and let it vibrate once.  He had me sitting in my office for about for three days with the lights out trying to find that pager.   You know I thought it was mice in the walls.  He'd sit over in the office next to me and call me once.  I had these little Post-Its all over the walls.  This time I thought it was over here and then over there.  I figure he got me good. 

People talk about him playing golf.  Simon and I used to get so upset.  We'd ride to the course together.  We'd say we're going to beat him this time.  He'd be wild, wild off the tee but he'd have a great recovery shot.  And Simon and I would just fall apart at the end and lose.  So I thought he was going to recover, thought he'd make it....

Anyways, we used to have Thom over to the house. I'm a little concerned about my future.  My wife likes to put on a big shebang and have big meals.  But we don't have a lot of family in Houston, no family around town here.  So she'd cook a lot for Thom.  Steak or hams and all the dishes and I'm awful afraid we're going to be eating at Luby’s now at Christmas and in the future.

I'm wrapping it up here.  I want y'all to learn something from me.  I never really talked with Thom about being my friend.  And I think it is something y'all ought to think about.  Tell people what you think about them.  You know, even if it's just "you're my friend".

I know Thom knew it.  He sat around my house.  And we'd drink beer and watch the kids swim in the pool.  But you need to tell people what you think about them.

Mr. Washburn, you raised a hell of a boy.    He was my friend.

I did hear a song when I fell asleep the other night.  It was kind of a somber song by Pink Floyd on the Dark Side of the Moon album - maybe that dates me.  But I'll think about Thom and wish he was here.

George Karker
Mustang Engineers and Constructors, L.P.
Houston, Texas

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© 2005 Sheila Washburn