Roy Chadowitz, 1955-2005

I started at Sun at the end of February, 1989. I think Roy joined within a month of me. When I made the jump from Customer Services to Sales Support, he was my first manager. I owe him a lot in terms of my personal development. He was always something of an older brother figure and mentor to me. Roy always showed a genuine interest in individuals and their families. He did all he could to make working for Sun more family-friendly. He set a good example of working hard whilst having fun, and without forgetting that there was much more to life than work.

The only criticism I ever heard of Roy was that we was very tight with money. Sometimes he seemed to give the impression that our business expenses, equipment budget and so on came directly out of his personal savings. But he always applied the same control to his own spending — only more so. Even when he was home bound it was hard to get Roy to spend even modest amounts on the equipment he really needed to do his job. I guess the chipboard coffin is standard Jewish practice, but I’m sure Roy would have heartily approved!

But what sticks with me most if Roy’s patience and endurance through so much suffering. He had so many secondary issues to deal with due to his early cancer treatment (I guess they went over the top on that because they didn’t think he had long to live).

I think it is worth telling the story of Roy being given 6 months to live — 10 years ago. I think we need to record his 50th birthday. The story of Roy tripping on a marquee guy rope and the walking around with a broken neck for at least 6 months is remarkable. If I recall correctly, he was in a lot of pain, but they put it down to his cancer. Roy proudly showed me his x-rays (first the beautiful intricate work of the neurosurgeons supporting his broken next, and then the functional rods inserted by the orthopedic chaps). Later he showed me the x-ray of the electrodes wired into his spine for pain relief (something like a cross between a TENS machine and a pacemaker).

He endured so many operations, so much pain, and so many setbacks. But he also made huge progress and frequently amazed us with with determination to bounce back and continue with his work. I will always remember seeing Roy in “The Directors” line-up at the 2004 kick-off meeting in Nottingham.

The last year was hard to watch. It doesn’t seem long after Nottingham that the sudden paralysis came. It was hard to see Roy brought so low. But he wouldn’t give up fighting, even then. Sometimes we felt he needed to stop work, but it had to be his choice. And as we watched, it seemed clear that Roy knew he would decline very rapidly if he had nothing to do, nothing to aim for any more. Very rarely did we hear any complaint.

It was my privilege to be welcomed in to the Chadowitz home on many occasions. Carol always kept me well fed, and Simon was often good company during the long waiting periods which come with certain system admin chores. I remember the excitement around Lee’s Bar Mitzvah, and Roy’s pride in explaining it all so me. What an amazing family! So much practical love. There were dark moments — times when it was clear that Roy was troubled about the burden he had become, but no-one would hear such talk! The love that Roy and Carol shared was an inspiration to see.

I last emailed Roy the day after his 50th birthday (although I didn’t know that at the time). two days before he finally left us. That was the first time I didn’t get a reply. When Greg phoned on the Saturday evening it was the call I had been dreading for years — 10 years. I’d expected it, but somehow Roy’s determination to keep going had lulled me into a false sense of security. It was like hitting a wall.

I had got used to seeing Roy confined to his bed. Even then I’d seen him struggle — and improve! But I’d been away for too many weeks (business trips and heavy colds kept me away). I didn’t see Roy at his lowest. I didn’t see him when he was unable to speak. That would have been intolerable for him. He always had so much to say. So much to give.

His most common parting shot to me was “Keep smiling, Phil”. It’s hard to do that just now, Roy, but I’ll try!

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17 thoughts on “Roy Chadowitz, 1955-2005

  1. Roy’s killer question in interviews or promotion boards was “If I asked your friends about you, what would they tell me?”. Phil’s blog is a perfect example of what many people would say about Roy. Rest in peace.

  2. For all of us that new Roy, he was the example of
    what all SEs aspire to become. He loved Sun cared
    about the engineers that worked for him and was
    always there to prop the rest of us. In all the
    years I knew him,he never had a negative thing to
    say about anyone and always used humor to help the
    rest of us get over difficult times. In this
    business and in life you meet a few very rare
    people, and our friend Roy is the clearly one of the
    most rare I have ever had the honor and pleasure to
    call friend.

  3. Roy loved people, and everyone loved Roy.
    Roy is my definition of a true good samaritan – he was always more concerned about Kate’s trials and tribulations than I was allowed to be about his…

    Roy, as a thought, have you heard about the man who … ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I guess we all have so many memories of Roy …. I remember the first time I meet him, coming all the way from Sweden for an interview, been told that he was a “old fashioned” man … nothing could be so wrong, it was one of the best meeting (interview) I have had ….. Also I remember clearly the question Mike talks about (further up in the comments): “If I asked your friends about you, what would they tell me?” and how I tried to answer ….
    He must have liked my answer …. and I was certainly impressed with him … I just hope he could hear what we all say about him now …. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Somehow you always knew common sense would prevail if Roy had anything to do with it. He was so intuitive and personally involved in what he did – and yet you could never accuse him of being anything less than absolutely objective. He was personal and personable, very approachable. His gentle manner might deceive you into thinking he was ineffective, but he didn’t need to be aggresive to be very powerful and influencial. Roy – what would YOUR friends say about you ?

  6. I too have missed the announcement and was shocked to hear of Roy’s death. He was such an exceptional colleague and a gifted and vital leader that it is difficult for many of us to believe that he is gone.
    Roy was one of the board members to sit in at my promotion review and that I remembered he often closed his eyes for most part of the interview. I was selfishly concerned about my chances of promotion. What I didn’t know and was subsequently discovered that he was suffering a great deal of pain because of his illness and yet he still totally committed to his colleagues and sharing his precious time with us.
    He was truly inspirational and I miss him dearly.

  7. Roy changed my life. Without Roy’s faith in me I probably wouldn’t have got the job at Sun. The other manager who interviewed me obviously wasn’t that impressed, but it was Roy who got the casting vote. I will always be eternally grateful for the opportunity he gave me.

    I was always impressed with the way that Roy, on visits to the offices around the country, would make a point of saying hello to everyone, tell them his (terrible) jokes and ask how they were doing. He knew everyone by name and was genuinely interested in them. He was also an excellent source of advice and guidance if ever you had a problem.

    He made a difference to Sun and I will miss him.

  8. I was also shocked to read this weeks Start the Week. I had no idea.
    I still tell stories about Roy and his interview technique when we have friends round
    for dinner. But my all time favourite was one of the Hawaii Sun Rise trips. (apologies
    to the people who never went – but those were the days!)
    One evening there was a “Concert under the stars” where Gladys (minus the pips)
    performed for us. It was great and we were all provided with little low down
    canvas deck chairs to sit on. Well, we were all so impressed with these chairs.
    At the end of the concert, some of us disasembled the chairs (they came apart like
    camping tents) and carried them back to our hotel rooms. That includes myself and my
    The next day we learnt that we should not have done that. Instead we should have
    left them and collected our allocation (1 per person) from a collection point.
    I am sure that you can guess what happened next. Yes, my wife wanted a pink one.
    So I went down and collected two more chairs, one pink. Later that day I met Roy.
    The conversation went something like this:
    “Hi Roy, how are you?”
    “Fine Tony, did you enjoy last night?”
    “Very much, did you get your chairs?”
    “No” He looked sad “There are none left! Apparently some bastards have taken
    more than their share of 2!”
    “Really? Thats a terrible thing to do!”
    Needless to say I did not let on that I was one of the culprits. I have always thought that
    Roy would see the funny side of it, and I wished that I had had an opportunity to tell him.
    Oh well, So long Roy. And by the way, I still have your chairs!

  9. I admired Roy (show-me-the-money!). He always raised the bar. During his walkabouts to say hi in London, he’d get all manner of topical discussion going – always making sure we were sharp, engaged, and not bored. Above all, he made his SEs feel valued. A measure of a good leader is the ability to make people want to go the extra mile. That, he certainly did.

  10. As a graduate SE many years ago I’ll always remember how touched I was that Roy, SE Director at the time, not only remembered our names, but whenever in the office, would make the effort to come and speak to each of us and ask how we were getting on. He was someone who made everyone who worked for him feel like he really cared about their wellbeing. Very sad to see him go.

  11. I didn’t meet Roy many times, as he changed roles shortly after I joined the SE Graduate scheme. I will however never forget the first time I met a Sun Director. I had only been in the company for 4 days and he approached me at a beer bust, new who I was and asked me how I was doing. After a few minutes I new I had joined the right company !!

  12. Roy was fearless, or at least appeared to be. He consistently demonstrated his courage not only by his ability to ask the awkward and searching questions but also by his principles and determination to stand his ground on the things that mattered to him – the systems engineer community, people at Sun, the success of Sun, and his family. He consistently pushed everyone to get the right balance of work and family life. And after all that, he had a collection of some of the best shaggy dog stories, and jokes, and I believe the worst shaggy dog stories and jokes. Roy was courageous, we should all aspire to be as courageous

  13. I was deeply saddened to hear about Roys death, because like many UK SE’s in that crazy, early 90s period, Roy had a profound influence on me. Roy was instrumental in creating many of the opportunities which I was involved, and often the lessons and benefits from those exeperiences I only fully appreciated later [often a lot later than Roy would have liked] in life. It is the ultimate irony that when I finally got the gig at Sun it was the one panel that he wasn’t able to make. Roy was always a shrewd judge of character. God Bless.

  14. Like everybody above, Roy was a huge influence on me, undoubtedly the best manager I have ever had – you could probably have written a management book around him! Part of it was the genuine interest he took in you, most astonishing being that most of us would have been far more focused on ourselves had we been in his shoes. Roy was an extraordinarily brave and very nice man, we will all miss him.

  15. To my mind it is no coincidence that Roy left us just after his 50th birthday. I am sure that he wanted to achieve one more goal in his life. He was so driven and determined to make a difference in everything he did and he invariably achieved his objectives. It was the way in which Roy succeeded that set him apart – he involved the right people and through his genuine and infectious enthusiasm for their wellbeing, he earned their commitment to deliver. In my discussions with him he was clearly as committed to his family and his beliefs. A truly exceptional man and, apart from being my best manager, someone who has had a lasting and positive affect on my life, and it is clear from the warm tributes that I am one of many who feel this way.

  16. From all the Zworestine’s-we all grew up together a few houses away from each other. We will miss him.

  17. Igrew up with Roy and his elder brother Jack in Bulawayo; Zimbabwe . We shared a fantastic youth and good school days together in Bulawayo. I remember both Ror and Jack Chadowitz as being haed working and genuinely decent honest home grown people. Roy was always mad about engineering in his youth and i always knew he would be top of his field some day.I lost contact with him when we graduated high school in 1972 and am proud at what the man has achieved and that he led a full life. May Hashem shelter him in the Shadow of His wings and my sympathies to his family.Best wishes from an old school friend.
    Reg Bernstein & Family, Johannesburg,Soth africa

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