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Obituary for Don Wetzel

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#1 JimBartell

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Posted 13 July 2017 - 12:15 PM

It is with deep sadness that I have to announce that Don Wetzel, the designer and manufacturer of the M-One lens drive motor and Loon Audio boom poles, has passed away.  He began to feel ill about four weeks ago and was soon too weak to work.  When he finally saw a doctor they discovered he had a severe abdominal infection.  He was rushed to the hospital and emergency surgery was performed to remove the infected tissue but the infection was too widespread and he passed away Monday morning.

 

Before I continue let me assure everyone that this will have no effect on the delivery and support of any BarTech products.  I have a large backlog (several years’ worth) of the parts Don made for me and I see no problems in continuing to manufacture my products with no drop in quality or delay in delivery.

 

For those who have M-One motors and need service, contact Peter Hoare at Hocus Products (http://www.hocusproducts.com), as he has been doing M-One repairs for some time now and is working to acquire the supply of parts Don left behind to allow him to do all repairs.  If you had already sent a motor to Don contact me as I am compiling a list of motors that should be in Don’s facility so the person handling Don’s estate can see to returning them to their rightful owners.  Any information you may have, especially serial numbers, should be included in any e-mails you send me.

 

I met Don in 1990 when I first started at Cinema Products.  He was the VP of Engineering and my boss.  He was the most talented mechanical designer I have ever met.  He had little formal education in engineering and worked from an innate understanding of mechanical function.  Don had a great sense of humor and a work ethic unlike any I have ever seen.  He thought nothing of working 60 hours a week and frequently worked 100 hours a week.  He was always happiest when working.  In the 27 years I knew him he took one vacation.  Other than work he loved cats, guns, and fast cars.  He had, at one time, the fastest car in Montana, a state with the most lax speeding laws in the nation.

 

I know there are many people who were justifiably unhappy with Don due to his poor customer service and long repair times in the last few years.  I can assure you it bothered him tremendously.  If you doubt this check the postings prior to 2011 and you will see nothing but praise for his prompt customer service.  In 2010 his company had to downsize and it left him with no staff.  Trying to do everything himself was nearly impossible so he relocated to Temecula in Southern California to work with another person who was going to take over a large segment of the work load.  Unfortunately, after spending a tremendous amount of time and effort to relocate his entire manufacturing facility to Temecula, the other person backed out of the deal and left him high and dry.  Since the only reason he had moved to California was to work with this person Don decided to move back to Montana.  This was when everything began to go wrong.  The effort to move back was even greater than the move down to California had been as he had to do it by himself and while under severe time restraints from his landlord.  This totally exhausted him and he never fully recovered physically or emotionally.  Numerous attempts to hire help always failed for one reason or another.  Don attempted to simply work harder to get caught up but he was now in his mid 60’s and he simply couldn’t work that hard any more.  He also began to develop some health problems, such as diabetes, that slowed him down even more.  This began a downward spiral he never recovered from.  He tried valiantly to meet all his obligations but things just got worse.  Eventually his health problems caught up to him.  All I can say is it he never ignored his customer’s needs because he didn’t care, but only because he could not put in enough hours to do everything that needed doing.

 

Don was born and raised in central Texas.  He learned his mechanical skills from his father who worked in aerospace and as an instructor teaching various manufacturing skills, such as machining and welding.  Almost no one knows that Don was also an award-winning trumpet player.  He believed this saved his life when he was drafted to serve in Viet Nam as he was able to get assigned to the Army marching band instead of being sent into the jungle to retrieve blown up armored vehicles, a job that, as a machinist, he was initially assigned to that had a very high mortality rate.  After the Army he worked for various companies, most notably Xerox, working on the design of a x-ray mammogram machine.  When Xerox cancelled this project Don went to work for Cinema Products in 1988.  He left Cinema Products in 1995 to work as a consultant and later co-founded K-Tek, the boom pole manufacturer, in 1996.  Some of his boom pole designs are still in production today.  He parted ways with K-Tek in 2000 and started Palomar Engineering and designed the M-One lens drive motor.  In 2005 he joined with Clay Bradley and started Kintla Corp. which consisted of Loon Audio, making boom poles, and Loon Video, making the M-One motor.  He was still designing new boom poles up until his death.

 

He was my best friend for almost 30 years and I will miss him terribly.

 

I would appreciate it if someone could re-post this on the facebook Steadicam page as I do not have a facebook account.

 

Jim Bartell


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#2 David A. Wolf

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Posted 13 July 2017 - 12:39 PM

Very sad indeed.  Don will be greatly missed.  I have two M-One motors that are 15 years old and they work flawlessly!

 

David Wolf


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#3 StephenSiegelNTA

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Posted 13 July 2017 - 12:44 PM

Thank your for writing this Jim.
I have reposted on The Steadicam Group on facebook.


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#4 Marc_Abernathy

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Posted 13 July 2017 - 11:45 PM

Jim, thank you for educating me on his history. 


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#5 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 14 July 2017 - 09:05 AM

Thanks for posting Jim and sorry for your loss.  Don always treated me exceptionly well.  The M-1 motor is brilliant.  RIP Don.  My thoughts are with you Jim.


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#6 Richard W. Davis

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 02:01 PM

So sorry to hear this....  Jim so sorry for your loss.  Thank you for your remembrances and your thoughts to all at this time.  

 

Best,

 

Rich  Davis


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#7 Andrew Stone

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Posted 22 July 2017 - 05:56 PM

Sorry for your loss Jim. The way you describe Don and his varied and remarkable achievements, he was obviously a very dear friend.


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#8 jamesfball

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Posted 15 August 2017 - 07:16 PM

Hi Jim:
Many thanks for this bio of Don.  I was a happy owner of a Bartech system with an M One motor for many years. So wonderful to hear about his life.  Not so great about the hard times, but good to hear the backstory on his later years.  What a guy.  Thanks so much for sharing.

 

 


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#9 David Allen Grove

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Posted 24 August 2017 - 08:07 PM

I haven't been on the forum much and only saw this today. 

So sorry for your loss Jim.  


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#10 JimBartell

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Posted 26 August 2017 - 06:39 PM

I haven't been on the forum much and only saw this today. 

So sorry for your loss Jim.  

 

Thank you David and thanks to everyone for their kind words.  I am glad so many of you enjoyed hearing Don's story.

 

Jim


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#11 Osvaldo Silvera SOC

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 01:18 AM

Thanks for writing this Jim. I just came across it now.  very Sorry for your loss, and peace be with you and His family. His motors and your focus units still go with me everywhere I operate. And they have saved the day on jobs where other units have failed.

Best,

Ozzie


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