29 January 2013


Tamela Trauth, 1975 - 2013, R.I.P.

Tamela (Tamie) Trauth was someone with so much love for life that her passing this past Sunday leaves me and many more sad, upset, somewhat adrift. She was someone who, when she was on, had so much downright joy for living that it was hard not to love her. I don't know anyone who knew her who knows of her passing from this life that doesn't have a feeling of loss, of what-the-fuck?, of what a joy it was to know her.

Tamie was one of the 2004 computer engineering program graduates at ERAU, so I met her when she was a junior in my Circuits I class in fall 2002. She, her always companion Shannon Albers, and their friend Todd Sherman were all in that class and its accompanying lab, among others who collectively (I am not supposed to say this) remain in my heart as my favorite bunch of students who ever came through our programs (not that there haven't been other individual students who struck me as smarter, or better students, or more professional). 

It turned out that Tamie and Shannon and Todd—and Brandon Rotavera, who hated circuits, and left the program to do mechanical engineering at UCF before Riddle ever had an ME program, and went on to get his doctorate in ME at Texas A&M—had all taken calculus and physics classes at Daytona State Community College with Mack, so he knew them all first. I kinda sorta remember telling Mack about the day that these two women who had transfered to Riddle from DBCC came to my office hours, one with a clipboard with a big lambda on the back of it, with me saying, "I like that lambda on your clipboard", and then us doing the "You know what that means?" dance. When I was at the University of Memphis, I wasn't a total closet case, but I also had played my cards close to my chest; when we moved to Florida for the ERAU position, we had decided we would be out as a couple among my colleagues on the faculty. I was already a co-advisor to the ERAU LGBT student group, GALBA at the time, so I had an excuse to talk up the lambda to Tamie and Shannon, to invite them to a GALBA meeting, and to come out to them.

Tamie turned out to be an extraordinarily smart young woman in a class that had its share of smart young men. She didn't take any gruff off those swine, to borrow a phrase. She wasn't ashamed of being smart, of wanting to learn, and of wanting, at that time, to become an engineer. I had that cohort, including Tamie and Shannon and Todd, in that Circuits I class, then Circuits II, then Signals and Filters (as it was then called), and then Control Systems. I became the confidant to that group as they went through the two-semester capstone design sequence, the design project for which is all they talked about before and after any of my classes. 

Of course I took special interest in and concern about Tamie and Shannon, since they were so obviously together and part of something. I don't think anyone, in my classes at least, ever thought about giving either of them cheap shit for not conforming to norms. Besides, Tamie would've beaten the shit out of them if they had.

She was athletic! She loved to surf, and she loved to ski. She had already accepted an offer from Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids when she got an offer from a company in Melbourne, Florida. She was concerned about the ethics of punting the Rockwell Collins job so she could stay in Florida and surf. I told her not to worry about it: She hadn't moved, hadn't taken a paycheck yet. 

So she stayed in Florida, at least for a few years. She worked on projects like the Direct TV to the back of the Jet Blue seats and other cool stuff, and she loved it as far as I could tell. Eventually, though, her relationship with her employer turned sour, the house she had bought was way upside down, and she didn't get to spend time in the water like she liked. As much as she and Shannon loved each other—and it was plain and simple to see that they did—a mercurial streak that lived in Tamie made it hard for them to be together. Shannon ended up in Washington state working at Microsoft, then back in Florida working for SAAB, married, secure except for not being able to be with Tamie. Tamie, as was her way, tried to shrug it all off, be hard about it, but she knew she had lost something valuable. Eventually, after her father back in Pittsburgh passed away, Tamie just split her job and split her house and split Shannon and split Florida. 

She went back to Pittsburgh and to the waitressing and bar-tending that she had always loved. Yes she was smart, and yes she was a great engineer, but in many ways I don't think she was ever happy with it. She was happy in that role as barmaid/serving wench. (She shoulda had the gig at Medieval Times: "Hello, I am Tamela, and I will be your wench.") We kept in touch on Facebook, of course. I never really understood why she left, what had led her back to her mom's house. I figured a combination of job dissatisfaction, relationship distress, financial total piss offedness, and a loyalty to her mom (that had always been there).

I didn't know she had been sick over the last year or so until I got a message from Shannon this past Friday saying that Tamie was in the ICU. Stupidly believing in the power of modern medicine, I believed that sometime this week I'd be chatting with Tamie on Facebook, catching up again, finding out what was wrong.

I was wrong. Tamie left this world Sunday morning. I didn't find out until this morning when Shannon changed her Facebook profile pic to one of the two of them together. I checked out Shannon's profile, and I saw the status update from Sunday that Tamie was gone.

Even though they weren't going to be together, Shannon had kept Tamie's interests in her heart, had chatted, had visited. She's up there in Pittsburgh now, with Tamie's mom, trying to help Tamie's mom understand this loss, trying to understand this loss herself.

We all are. It was gut wrenching to find out she was gone. Even though we hadn't been really close in years, we had kept in touch. While I never felt I really knew what was going on with her—from the time we talked before she left Florida to the time we talked when I was in Pittsburgh once—I came to accept that. If it mattered to her to explain anything to me, she would let me know. 

And Tamie didn't have to explain anything to me. She didn't owe me anything. She was so in love with life, so full of joy and energy, so much fun to be around (yeah yeah, excepting the mercurial turn), I still feel lucky to have known her, to have loved her like a father loves a daughter, to have loved her like a brother loves a sister, to have wished nothing but good things for her, to have wished her love, and to be so very very sad that she is gone from this world. But I wouldn't take anything for the joy of having known and loved her. She will always have a special place in my heart. With lots of love, I have to say goodbye, but I don't like it.

Tamie, Shannon, Todd, and me at the 2004 ERAU Commencement.

Tamie, Shannon, Todd, and Jordon Scott at the party Mack and I threw for the 2004 BSCE graduates.

Shannon and Tamie, front, myself and Mack, back, at my 50th birthday party.

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