Johan Lourens, 1955-12-12 to 2008-10-09

Mood: Sad.

I did my Master’s Thesis at Stellenbosch under Johan Lourens. I can honestly say that I enjoyed my post-grad study years tremendously. We had small (five to seven student) classes, continuous evaluation (no exams), and the company of the brightest people around (lecturers and fellow students).

Johan wasn’t one of the ultra-bright professor types who lived in his own world — in contrast, he had an understanding of how things worked in practice, and more importantly, he had a way of imparting that knowledge to young stupid assholes like me (I’m older now).

How he managed to coax me through researching and writing up my thesis without slapping me upside the head in frustration remains a mystery. But he persevered, and I think I learned more from him than from any other lecturer.

So it was a shock to see his face in the obits last week.

I went to the memorial service on Saturday, and it was (not unexpectedly) clear that Johan meant a lot to a lot of people. And I mean a lot. They had 200 chairs put out, realised that this would not be enough, put out more chairs, and in the end some people had to stand. I’d estimate that there were more than 350 people present. All of them deeply moved by the loss of a friend.

Turns out that the doctors told Johan he didn’t have that long to live, so he took his wife Erika to Europe, where they saw some of the places they’d always wanted to see while saying goodbye to one another — *respect*

A pleasant surprise was that Erika recognised me immediately — she last saw me 17 years ago. It was of course great to see her again, in spite of the horrible circumstances. She mentioned that Johan always thought I’d make a good engineer. I’m flattered, although on a scale of 1 to Johan I’d rate myself no more than a five.

The world has lost a good engineer and an even better person.