One of my favorite features in the old Reader’s Digest magazine was the Unforgettable Character column. Each featured person would be celebrated for their contributions to their community and their lasting influence on the author. Sadly, I do not actually remember any names or details of the people described in those columns, but I like the concept enough to use it in this blog.
I have met many memorable characters in the gear trade, but since this blog will be posted on his birthday it seems appropriate to start the feature with noted gear consultant Ed Hahlbeck. Ed was my boss at Milwaukee Gear from 1989 until his “retirement” to full-time consulting in 1994.
For those of you who know Ed, retirement is not something he would ever willingly engage in. The man is a force of nature and a source of many interesting stories; most of the stories are even true.
When I first interviewed with Ed something about his name stuck in my mind; just minutes before I went in to talk to him my memory kicked in. We had both apprenticed at Falk but he was the only one to have been featured in the local newspaper for building his own in-ground swimming pool. At my mention of this honor he suspected someone had tipped me off, but he couldn’t think of a mutual acquaintance.
He remains in my top-ten most talented list — just on the breadth of his interests and skills. When we needed a crown template for a hobbing machine, Ed hand filed it. A daughter’s boyfriend struggled with a beat up old guitar; Ed built one from a pile of wood. The backyard pool got replaced with a hand-crafted gazebo in time for another daughter’s wedding. Ed may be the first to ever make cast aluminum-powder-coated gingerbread trim for a neo-Victorian house he and his son built. All of these projects were done while working well over 50 hours a week at gear engineering!
Since launching Powertrain Engineering, Ed has traveled the world solving gear problems and designing interesting machinery. Everywhere he goes he leaves a lasting impression on those he works with.
Happy Birthday, Ed. And I wish you many more years of good health and interesting projects.