Zack

RIP LOON

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RIP Don Wetzel (Loon Audio). I received a call this morning from one of his friends today that Don passed away the morning of July 10 from complications brought on from diabetic conditions. 

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Ouch what a shame. I love my Loon pole and found Don's customer support/answer on a stupid modding question to be rapid and earnest. RIP Don.

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R.I.P Mr. Wetzel

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How very, very, sad. For all the Loon 'eccentricities', they made damned good product.

About 2 years ago my Darling Emily and I made a fantastic vacation 'noodling' around the US in a hired car, About a week after we had left the area, I realised that we had literally driven within 500yds of their workshop. I so, so, wished that we had gone to visit........

RIP Don, sb

 

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I'd always wanted to buy one. Hope his great work will be continued. Rip Don!

Verstuurd vanaf mijn Nexus 6P met Tapatalk

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As you are now aware 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 six 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, July 10th.

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 more demanding 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.

Jim Bartell

BarTech Engineering

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Thankyou Jim for an enlightening post - I never knew that Don had so much fascinating history. Is there any chance at all that someone might take on the Loon Boompole designs and continue to make them?

Thanks again, Simon B

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Hi Simon,

I do know Don was planning on introducing some new poles and had been working towards that when he passed.  It is my understanding from conversations with the executor of his estate that there are one or more individuals interested in purchasing the supply of parts Don had in his possession at the time of his death.  The only use for these parts would be to build more poles so I would have to think that the answer to your question is yes. 

Jim

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Thanks for that story Jim, all unknown to me.

So sad when such a talented person is lost to us.

Best wishes

mike

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Jim I'm so sorry you lost your best friend!  Thanks so much for telling us what was going on behind the scenes.

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+1 thanks for the history Jim, and condolences.

I just noticed - Reid Fleming, World's Toughest Milkman. I was thinking of this just the other day. I'm a big fan. Likewise American Splendor; the following cover hung above my sink many years ago,

"Poor dishwashing has always been my Achilles Heel. If only I could upgrade my dishwashing skills I could really disarm my enemies."

Best, Jez

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Thanks to everyone for you kind thoughts.  I just wanted to put a story to the name so he wasn't just remembered as the guy with good products but bad service.

Jez, I've had that icon for over a year on another board and not one person commented on it.  Reid's a personal hero to all us follicley challenged.  You have to love his attitude.

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Wow, thanks for all the added details, Jim. Loon had been discussed several times here over the past 10 years, and now I begin to understand why all these problems happened. Great product, doomed because of a lot of business problems. Sad deal. 

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