By Adrian Perez
We have gathered here today because Manny is gone, and we all miss him. Each of us have a spot in our hearts wearing his name. Our hearts brought us here, got us into our fancy clothes, so our Manny-spotted hearts could gather to bear witness to his life and what he meant to us all.
Manny grew up a country boy in paradise. His two sisters were already adults, so his tightest familial knots were tied with his cousins; a crew as thick as thieves who have all led full, impressive lives. It’s wonderful to see so many of you here today.
When he was 14, things went sideways a bit, and so he found himself on a plane, by himself, en route to America to start a new life staying in a boys town. His family was able to join him here in time, but as we take our measures it is worth underlining that he came to this country, quite literally, with the shirt on his back.
Manny worked his way through Stevens Tech in Hoboken. He went there intending to study mathematics but was compelled by contact with computation into changing course slightly, towards a then-nascent field of punch cards and mainframes. Mathematics as Clockwork. It was also where he met and fell in love with Maria, a kindred spirit and stalwart defender with whom he built a marriage of fifty years, and a family.
The universe is a very subtle muse. What we call providence, or kismet, is the lived work of searching for ones’ part of the bigger plan, revealing it, and then executing on it, tirelessly and faithfully.
That searching brought him to the personal computer. The transformative effects of computation being available to everyone are myriad and still happening, nearly a half century later, and Manny saw his part in it early on.
He bounced me on his knee in the attic while he built the first version of a piece of software, he called TM/1. Success may have taken a _little_ longer than he originally sold Maria on, but the product found its legs, growing gradually from that attic, to a company of a dozen people in Warren, New Jersey, to acquisitions, international conferences, Cubewise, to being a part of IBM. Forty-odd years later, TM/1 is still growing, and per the Plan, has become an essential element of the machinery of global business.
The successful execution of one’s life’s work, being a critical part of something much larger than one self, is a plum that cannot be denied or minimized - when George Washington passed in 1799, The British Royal Navy hung their flags at half-mast. Because game respect game.
Manny lived his life in a vast, fascinating house, throughout which had a swirling kaleidoscope of images, ideas, abstractions. The corner of this house had two small windows, through which he could occasionally see you, me, and everything else in the world.
There is a distance inherent to being stuck on his side of those windows; It wasn’t a choice - he came out of the factory like that. He didn’t buy into it or let himself become aloof or lonely. Seeking closeness and connection with the people in his life was hugely important to him. He would find ways for his care to break through, to cross over that distance, like smoke signals across a canyon.
His seeking of closeness and connection had a thousand faces we all got to experience in our own ways. It may have been through egalitarian collaboration on technology or cuisine; through the simple act of breaking bread or the complex act of breaking family out of Cuba. Or just building a treehouse with his son. The generosity, the passion, and the clarity always made it to us, with a youthful reverence for the sacred over, under, and in-between all things. It has really stayed with me. I know I’m not the only one.
One small example of this seeking sticks out for me, that I would like to share with you in closing. When I was 9, Manny took the four of us, some family friends, and their son on a driving tour of the southwestern US. We saw the painted desert, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, but what has stayed with me is something he showed us in between.
One very clear, crisp night, with a new moon, we were driving through the desert in New Mexico, still an hour from our next hotel stop with literally nothing around us in any direction. He chose that moment to pull over to the side of the road and turn the minivan and its internal lights off. We weren’t quite sure why; Manny wouldn’t say until it was time. After four or five minutes, our eyes had adjusted to the darkness, and Manny instructed us all to get out of the car and look up.
For context, I was a jersey boy. The stars in _my_ sky were Orion’s Belt, the two dippers, and a small assortment of “other”. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw above that thin desert sky, what Manny wanted to show us, something above and in between and always there that we just couldn’t see. The most nine-year-old me could get out was a question about why the painted dome at infinity above us had a thick stripe going across it. “That is the arm of our galaxy” he explained in his way, at once meticulous, mundane, majestic, magnanimous, Manny.