In Memoriam: Pete Zilliox
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Whether you worked with Pete Zilliox at Hughes or Rockwell in the ‘70’s, Dal Sat in the ‘80’s, Zilliox & Associates or Andrew Corporation in the ‘90’s, or SatProf in the 2000’s and beyond, I can guarantee two things: 1. You learned something, sometimes a lot, from Pete, and 2. You enjoyed your work and time with Pete.
Back in the old days, you looked for a job in the newspaper. As a newly graduated engineering student in 1992, I was perfectly qualified for the job in the tiny Dallas Morning News advertisement for Zilliox & Associates stating “no satellite communications experience necessary.” This was my introduction to the satcom industry in general, and Pete Zilliox specifically. I was now the “Associate” of Zilliox & Associates.
As the Associate, I worked with Pete on everything consulting engineers do like satellite system design, proposals, installation, testing, and commissioning. It took me awhile to figure out that not everybody in the industry had actually worked with Pete at Dal Sat, it only seemed like it. If I had a nickel for every time somebody said to me “Oh, you work for Pete Zilliox? I worked with him at Dal Sat,” I’d have retired in luxury long ago. It also took we awhile to figure out that not everybody in the satcom industry walked around doing antenna gain and link budget calculations in their heads. Pete was one of the few, and when things got more complicated, there was always his trusty HP15C calculator to fall back on.
Not knowing something, or how to do something specific, was never a sin with Pete. You could always learn from him or figure it out together. But with Pete, acting like you knew something when you didn’t was foolish, and that wasn’t suffered gladly.
One day an un-suffered fool early in my career said to me “Your buddy Zeeliox is at it again,” intentionally mispronouncing Pete’s name when he was arguing for something. This quickly became a badge of honor and what I called Pete from then on.
Like many in the industry, my satcom career has had a lot of twists and turns, but it has always been intertwined with Pete’s. I’ve worked for him, he’s worked for me, and we’ve worked together. His favorite job title ever was Senior System Scientist and his favorite group name was The Center of Excellence. Obviously, when he and Ralph Brooker started SatProf in 2004, Pete was the Senior System Scientist at SatProf’s west coast Center of Excellence. It’s been an honor and a pleasure to know and work with Pete, and I’m proud to call him a friend.
So, please lift a glass today to toast my buddy Zeeliox. He was one of a kind, and he will be missed.