My thoughts are somewhere else today

Every year on this day for the last few years, I’ve read blogs reminiscing about 9/11. 9/11 was horrible indeed, but for many of us on the Exchange team and OWA in particular, 9/12 was a double whammy. That was the day Bob died.

Bob was a developer in Outlook Web Access. He implemented dumpster (recover deleted items) in OWA 2000 SP1, the new calendar controls in OWA 2000 SP2, and many other features. Dumpster always sticks in my mind in particular because that was the first feature I ever worked on in OWA, and that’s how I got to know Bob. I didn’t even know him that well, but in that short few months he really made an impression on me. He was one of those people that everyone liked, always laughing and cracking jokes. And he always wore these crazy loud shirts.

On September 12th, the entire country was still reeling from the attacks. Many of us were at work on the 12th, but not much work happened, we spent most of the time in the hallways talking. At the end of the day, Bob got onto his recumbent bike to make the seven mile trek to his home, like he did every single day of the year, rain or shine. Bob was quite a fixture for those of us who drove to work, riding the recumbent along the road. On that evening he arrived home, walked inside, and fell down, stricken with an apparent heart attack.

I heard about Bob before I even joined the Exchange team. I was told a story about an Exchange team meeting where another group inside the company gave a demo of some cool functionality. It included some nifty ideas in regards to calendaring. One dev stood up at the meeting and asked questions about how it was implemented, and made a comment about how he could implement that in OWA. A PM in the group stood up and said “You are not going to make any changes!” and this guy shouted back “I can have it done by 5pm!”. I joined the Exchange team afterwards and found out Bob was that dev – and the story became even funnier since I knew him by that point and knew how appropriate a story it was. He was so passionate about working on cool projects, writing code that made life easier for customers. Working with him was a pleasure because he was always optimistic.

I didn’t know Bob or his family well enough to do much after his passing, but I did find some ways to help out. I collected stories from his coworkers and friends about him to put in a scrapbook for his family and wrote an article for the MicroNews about his passing. I wanted to share some of those stories here. The first one is from my MicroNews article and gives a peek at the kind of man he was.

He rode his recumbent bike to and from work every day of the week and every day of the year, regardless of the weather. Gering’s constant retort about riding in the weather was, “Are you going to rust?” In fact, he was a man who defied the notion of rusting. A boat builder turned cabinetmaker who came to Microsoft as a tester in 1994, Gering taught himself to program and transferred into a position as a developer shortly after his arrival to Microsoft. He spent several years on the Exchange Server team as a major contributor on the Outlook Web Access (OWA) team.

He was constantly spreading happiness. There wasn’t a discussion that he didn’t start out and round off with a joke. This made everybody like him, but it also made people like each other all that much more when he was around. The only thing competing with his smile in lighting up our meeting rooms was his taste in shirts. Our office is going to be a greyer and gloomier place without him.

Bob and I were riding our bikes, he in his recumbent and me on a normal bike. The path was really muddy and I noticed my wheels sinking in to the mud a bit, so I called out to Bob “Watch out, it’s slippery!”. Right at that moment, I slipped in the mud and fell over. Bob sailed past me and shouted “Thanks for the warning Jim!”

The things that strike me the most about Bob are his dive-right-in energy, his goofy sense of humor, and of course those shirts!  He kept us laughing but also kept us working to keep up with him.  He’d come up with ideas faster than we could track them.  He passionately latched onto a problem and came up with solutions in record time.  We’ll miss his enthusiasm, we’ll miss his humor and we’ll miss kicking back with him.

Bob told us this great story once about his crazy dog that was always getting into trouble. Once, around four in the morning, Bob heard a loud noise in the house. He went downstairs to investigate and found that the dog had dragged in the next door neighbor’s pet rabbit, and it was dead! Bob took the rabbit outside, hosed it off, snuck over to the neighbor’s and put the rabbit back in the cage. He and Peg avoided the neighbors for a few days, but then Peg finally went over to talk to them and they brought up how something really weird happened with their pet rabbit. Peg asked what happened and she said “Well, we buried him three days ago.. but the next day his body was in his cage!”. The dog had dug up the dead rabbit!

Bob recently got a boat.  A couple weeks back, having never fished before Bob decided he and his wife should give it a shot.  He got a book on fishing, trailered his boat down to Mukilteo w/my trailer, and on his way out to a spot he heard was good near Whidbey he decided he’d start reading through the pages he’d highlighted and getting his tackle ready.  He setup the downriggers, and dropped line from one pole into the water.  As he was dropping line from the second he had a fish on the first.  So he had to slow the boat down on route to his fishing hole.  He said it was crazy but he was having trouble flipping through the pages to learn how to fish at the same time that he was piloting the boat, and pulling the first Salmon in.  Basically he was telling his wife Peg to wait as she was pulling it in because he was trying to read about how to do it.  He had to put the book down, because in the midst of all of this he had a fish on the second line.  This continued for a good 40 minutes.  Basically he relayed that they eventually couldn’t walk around the deck which was slick and full of fish, sail the boat, try to read and learn to fish, all at the same time.  He said they had to turn back before they actually got started fishing, and he never got to the chapter on fishing so he could figure out if he was doing it right.


We’re thinking about you, Bob.


Comments (2)

  1. Ricky Dhatt says:

    Oh gosh, I feel bad about mentioning this, but the rabbit story is a documented urban legend. See

    Perhaps it was his final joke?!

  2. KC Lemson says:

    Knowing Bob, I wouldn’t be surprised if it actually happened.