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Dianne Louise Ouderkirk

November 28, 1945 ~ May 4, 2022 (age 76)

Obituary

    It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Dianne Louise Ouderkirk, of Woodland Park, CO. Dianne was 76 years old. She was born November 28th, 1945, and passed away May 4th, 2022. She was a pioneer for women in engineering, an educator, a rock, mother, grandmother, and our inspiration The below article is from Mothers' Day, 5 years ago. It is still the best picture we can give of who Mom was. She is survived by 4 sons, 2 grandsons, 3 granddaughters, her sister, and her brother.

    Dianne has been laid to rest in the Woodland Park Cemetery, next to her husband, Andy. In lieu of flowers, you may donate in remembrance of Dianne to her favorite charity One Nation Walking Together: https://onenationwt.org/.

Pioneer, Engineer, Educator, Rock, Inspiration
    Imagine keeping up with the appetites of four growing, competitive swimming boys. My brothers and I ate like ranch hands. Swimmers burn, and thus consume, a tremendous number of calories. Mom had four competitive swimmers, and she cooked for all of them. On a typical Saturday morning, after swim practice, Mom could be found working all four burners on the stove with a spatula in each hand. Sometimes it was numerous iterations of full skillet sized pancakes. Sometimes pounds of potatoes, bacon, a dozen or so eggs, and toasting a loaf of bread or dozens of rolls on cookie sheets. And this massive operation did not happen only at breakfast. Dinner was an epic event at our house every night. Friends who were in attendance, especially if they were non-swimmers, were in awe of the copious quantities Mom cooked up, and to an even greater degree of awe, that we finished. Mom was damn good at feeding her “little” army.

    That is how I saw my mom when I was young. She ferried my brothers and I along with other swimmers in our carpool, back and forth once, sometimes twice a day, to swim practice, five or six days a week, in the massive, full size, “Country Squire” station wagon, a.k.a. the family truckster. And there was no rest for her on the weekends, when she ferried us back and forth to swim meets. She also prepared and brought along what amounted to a chuckwagon full of mostly home made vittles to keep the army fed throughout the meet. And when I say home made, I do not mean she mixed a couple store bought ingredients together and threw it in the oven. Mom ground her own wheat. She did it all

    One of the things she would do, that I failed to appreciate at the time, was to leave many questions unanswered. Why wouldn't she just tell me the answers? Educate me! Fill my head with knowledge! Mom's strategy was not one of educating us directly, but of keeping us on track and dropping just enough bread crumbs to get us to educate ourselves. To teach us to be independent, yet still manage to instill within us the paramount importance of education. She motivated us to seek out and find our own answers.* It did not matter if it was a question about how birds fly, why stars flicker, what makes cars go, or even politics or religion. My parents did not give my brothers and I a forced indoctrination into organized religion, nor did they just spoon feed us facts and data about the world. They pushed us to seek out, acquire, and evaluate data to gain our own knowledge and understanding. They wanted us to think for ourselves and find our own paths. If either parent would have answered too many questions, this method would have failed; both parents had to have this approach for it to work. They educated us far better than giving us the answers would have. They motivated us to go out and find the information, evaluate it, and think through what it meant—to find data and information and transform it into knowledge. This education has served us well both in our careers, and in life.

    . . . or maybe she just did not know the answers? What you learn as you go through life always seems to make one's younger self look like a complete ignoramus. So who is “Mom” and what did she know? Our “pancake maker” has a bachelors degree and two masters degrees. Yes, this is impressive on its own. Now consider that Mom did this many decades ago, despite all the additional barriers and obstacles that existed for women at that point in history. Also consider the fields of study she chose. What did Mom get her degrees in? The Culinary Arts? Pancake making?! Psychology? Humanities? Some stereotypically soft, “touchy, feely” field of study? Mom majored in engineering, and not just any engineering, hard core engineering—electrical engineering. She earned her first two degrees from two prestigious engineering schools: Northwestern and UC Berkeley. Then, after massive room-filling computers became table sized and eventually “personal microcomputers”, she went back to school and earned her second masters degree, this time in Computer Science from Colorado. She worked for companies like Lockheed and Hewlett-Packard. She worked on sophisticated technologies like satellite communications and designing data algorithms. So while she may not have known every answer, certainly there were a lot of questions she could have answered, but purposefully did not.

    When Dad was hospitalized suddenly in 1999, then passed away unexpectedly, I was most worried about Mom. My brothers and I were all grown and off doing our own things, but we needed to somehow manage to get her through this. I was not sure how we were going to do it, or how it was possible. I was worried . . . What an ignorant fool I was. My brothers and I took the loss hard. Mom was The Rock. At that point in life, I already had great respect for my mom, but I could not believe how solid she was, and how much she helped us get through the worst experience of our lives.

    When we were all through it, did she then kick back and retire to some maintenance-free, senior living community? Not hardly. Mom wanted property up in the mountains in Colorado. Her criteria for the selection read like engineering specifications. The land had to be a minimum of two rows of mountains back from the main road, so it would be very quiet. It had to have a magnificent view from a spot of buildable grade at least a few hundred feet from any property line. It must have lots of trees. It had to . . . She spent years searching, watching properties come up for sale, visiting each, crossing each off for one or more specifications that had not been met. Eventually she found the property she wanted.

    Let someone else design and build the house? Ha! Mom designed the house, working with an architect to get her vision captured in the blueprints for her new home. Some architects like to design things into the house that they like, instead of listening to the customer. She is just a little ol' lady, right? A pushover, right? Fat chance. I do not remember the final count of slain architects before she found one that would do what she wanted.

    Once designed, she started hiring contractors, inspecting the progress, and ensuring everything was correct, or in some cases, got corrected—to the way she wanted it, not the way they felt like doing it. Of the contractors, she had the full gamut: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. There were plenty of rough spots. Along the way, as I heard some of the stories, I “offered” to go have discussions with a few of these contractors to straighten them out. No @#$%^& was going to treat my mom like that! But she insisted on handling the issues herself. She worked her way through all the issues and built the house she wanted.

    We all went to visit Mom in her new place when it was completed. Many things stuck out as different than other houses. The cabinets in the kitchen and pantry go all the way to the ceiling, instead of stopping at some predetermined height. Her explanation: the space above the cabinets in most homes is just wasted space that collects dust. My mom is relatively short, yet the counters in all the bathrooms are tall, and the shower heads are also abnormally high. Dad was 6'-6” and in the family there are many tall brothers, uncles, sons, and now nieces and nephews. Mom's explanation: those were things that used to bother Dad, and she wanted her family to be comfortable when they came to visit. The house is at just the right angle, at just the right location, built into just the right spot on the side of the ridge, at just the right height, so it is aligned perpendicularly to the view of Pikes Peak, which is unobstructed by the treetops below on the ridge. On each floor of the house, and in each room on the side of the house toward Pikes Peak, are massive windows, each one looking like a giant, living post card of Pikes Peak. On that side of the house, on each floor, there is also a deck. On the decks there are no balusters on the railings, but rather tempered glass, so as to not interrupt the view, for either folks sitting on the deck or inside the house. I took the above picture from the deck the last time I visited Mom. Well done, Mom!

    The house is about 8,600 feet above sea level, so she knew there would be days she would be snowed in. There are many large windows that make for a lot of passive solar heating. Solar panels harness as much green power as possible. She designed in an automatic backup generator, and a large enough propane tank to make it well into Spring, just in case a blizzard knocks out the power. She keeps the provisions stocked appropriately to weather any Colorado blizzard. She has her own plow. She is in her 70s and she still plows her own driveway. Still thinking ahead. Still engineering solutions. Still going strong.

    On this day, as we go about our careers, our ventures, our lives, take some time to think about, recognize, and appreciate what mom taught you, how she inspired you, and how those lessons are connected to your success. Perhaps things you did not appreciate until later in life. Perhaps things you have yet to realize. To the pioneer, the engineer, the educator, the rock, the inspiration, the pancake maker, and the family truckster driver:

    Happy Mother's Day, Mom! You are Mom #1. Proud to be your son. Thank you. Love you.

* this was before the internet existed, so you couldn't just “Google it” and find the answer! We are talking libraries to which we had to physically travel, drawers and drawers of card catalogs, the Dewey Decimal System, rooms and racks full of books . . . and ya, paper pages we had to search through one at a time using only our eyes!

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/pioneer-engineer-educator-rock-inspiration-shawn-ouderkirk/

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