The obit in the Mercury News said he left behind two sons, five grandchildren, a girlfriend and an "ex-wife and friend.” It also listed the two degrees — a BS from Northwestern and an MBA from Wisconsin — that were listed under his picture in the department directory of adjunct faculty.
His death came out of the blue for all of us. Many middle aged men let themselves go to pot, but Lon didn’t appear to be one of them. The obit said that he was a former Marine captain and Vietnam-era pilot. Four decades later, he certainly had the toughness.
Unfortunately, I didn’t know much about Lon, even though he was in the office next door for a couple of years. Yes, he was gruff and taciturn, but mainly I was conforming to the caste system that separates us PhD-holding “permanent” faculty from the lowly lecturers.
Of our adjunct faculty, Lon was the one I most wanted to get to know. His rare comments suggested a hard-nosed pragmatism that academics often need to hear. (Apparently he brought that pragmatism to his role as a director of a Fremont-area homeless shelter.)
Now he’s gone, and I’ll never hear what he had to say, or the story of what he did in the decades before joining SJSU. Life is short, and some doors close when you least expect it.