Sunday, March 29, 2015

A memorial tribute to my colleague and friend, Ron Pryzbylinski

This is more or less the text that eventually will appear in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society this coming June.  Thanks to the AMS for graciously granting me permission to post this ahead of its formal publication


This image is from the National Weather Service, St. Louis, MO.

The severe local storms community, including both research and operational meteorologists, lost one of its most distinguished members, Ron Przybylinski, on 12 March 2015. Ron passed away as a result of complications arising from treatments for cancer, which came as a terrible shock to everyone as he appeared to be recovering from his illness and was about his normal business at conferences and work until his untimely passing.

Ron was born in South Bend, Indiana, in 1953, and obtained his B.S. (1977) and M.S. (1981) degrees in meteorology from St. Louis University.  His full-time professional life began in 1981 when he joined the staff of the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Indianapolis, Indiana.  In 1991, Ron was selected for the position of science and operations officer at the St. Louis office of the NWS, which he held right up to his passing.  Although his service to those offices was at the highest levels, his influence and knowledge went well beyond them, spreading throughout the nation and the world through his publications and his many presentations.

Ron was a forecast meteorologist dedicated to the science of meteorology, applying scientific principles to his forecasts as well as contributing to that science by his research.  His primary interests were bow echoes and quasilinear convective systems (QLCSs), especially when those systems produced tornadoes.  Not only did he do the research, he served that science whenever the opportunity arose:  he was a project leader for the Operational Test and Evaluation of the new WSR-88D Doppler radars in the 1980s.  Ron also helped to organize (and participated in) the Bow Echo and Mesoscale Convective Vortex Experiment in 2003.  As part of the COMET Cooperative Project with Saint Louis University, he investigated severe wind gusts from convective systems, starting in 1994.  Ron also made time in his busy schedule to volunteer as a tornado damage investigator as a member of the NWS Quick Response Team.

In addition to numerous scientific publications and conference presentations, Ron served a term on the Severe Local Storms Committee of AMS, as well as two terms as a Councilor of the National Weather Association.  He was awarded the NWA Operational Achievement Award in 1989, and in 2003 he received the NWA’s Fujita Award for his research achievements.  The AMS awarded Ron the Charles L. Mitchell Award for outstanding service by a weather forecaster in 2012, and in 2013 he was recognized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with a Distinguished Career Award for his forecasting and research achievements.

Another important facet of Ron’s career was sharing his passion for storms.  It seemed he could always find time to talk at length with anyone who shared an interest in storms:  with youngsters, students and NWS interns, and his professional colleagues.  He helped to develop COMET training materials, particular those related to bow echoes and QLCSs, and shared his abundant experience and knowledge with many younger forecasters, helping them learn how to deal with diverse weather situations.  Ron’s infectious passion for storms was irresistible to those around him, inspiring everyone who knew him to work a bit harder and learn a bit more.  He had an engaging manner that endeared him to all his friends and colleagues, and he also had a delightful sense of humor.  Ron was a serious meteorologist, but he didn’t take himself too seriously.

Ron Pryzbylinski can never be replaced, but those of us who had the distinct pleasure of knowing Ron and working with him are grateful for the legacy of professional dedication and knowledge that he left us.  We miss him and would like to convey our deepest condolences to his family and close friends.


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