Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The loss of a great man ...

Enjoying some pre-dinner wine with Nikolai and his family in his home at Gilching, near Munich.

I'll post a more substantial tribute to Dr. Nikolai Dotzek on my website when I get a chance to adjust to the shock of his loss, and return from my storm chase trip. [update: that tribute is now posted here] Over the Memorial Day weekend, my good friends Johannes Dahl and Harold Brooks told me about the devastating loss of one of my best friends, Dr. Nikolai Dotzek.

This is a man whose greatness will only become more obvious with time. He was a passionate and dedicated scientist, whose role in bringing Europe into the sphere of severe storms meteorology cannot be underestimated. He was truly a leader in his chosen field, and people gladly followed his lead because he never hesitated to roll up his sleeves and pitch in wherever it was needed. A towering figure among scientists of his time, truly - certainly not limited to his physical stature (he was an imposing physical figure, exceeded only by his many important scientific accomplishments).

But Nikolai wasn't some 2-dimensional, cardboard cut-out version of a human being. He relished the good things in his life: the love of his wife, Birgit, and his two boys, Gregor and Armin; a good German beer: a tasty meal grilled on the patio outside his flat; his bonsai trees; AC/DC music; and so on. His love of life is all the more poignant for all of us who knew him, with its loss.

There can be no words of comfort to explain the inexplicable death of a man in his prime, with so much that he (and we) had to look forward to. It's a mystery of life I simply don't understand - why a good man is cut down well before his potential is fulfilled. I should not be mourning his loss - that's just wrong in so many ways. Death is a part of life, but Nikolai's was too soon! Too soon!!!

Nevertheless, I want to make sure that we all appreciate the vast happiness he brought to so many and the numerous contributions of this great man, and not to spend too much time dwelling over his loss. Rather, we should be grateful to Providence for allowing us the time we had with him. He enriched the lives of so many, it would be selfish to dwell on the negative part - losing him prematurely. Instead, we need to pick up the pieces of his dreams and work to make them real, as he would have wanted us to do. His dreams were great, and so was he. We would be remiss if we let his dreams die with him.

And we should each do whatever we can to comfort his family, in their anguish. We all share in their grief. It breaks my heart to think about Birgit and the boys ... who will be struggling to deal with this tragedy.


Janelle Janish said...

So sad to hear of this. Paul and I met Nikolai and his wife several years ago in Norman. We have some great memories of him. Can't believe this. Condolences to you, to his colleagues, and most importantly, to his family.

Jens Neubauer said...

Yes it is a shock. I talked to him few weeks ago on the phone and now he is gone. Unbelievable. I wish his wife and the kids the power they need in such a sad moment.

Aurora Bell said...

I am so humble in front of this sad news. I can not process it, I do not know what to with it, how to behave. I start hundred of phrases in my mind, I remember his sunny face, I would like to do something... what? I understand now that I actually didn't do enough to help him in all his projects, that he had to work so much to accomplish thinks that I, me, my people, actually took advantage off. What did I do to help him with all his work? I thought he can manage alone because he was ... a giant.
Nikolai, you did history, you moved things in Europe. I am so much in debt to you. I wish, from the deepness of my heart, that your wife and kids find the strength to endure this not understandable, impossible loss.