In Memory of an old Friend and Co-Worker

I knew Roy Ashlin from my earliest days at the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC). We were co-workers during the early days of the first SCADA system that WSSC installed.

Roy wasn’t in the best of health. One of his legs had to be amputated just above the knee due to a blood clot. He was outfitted with a prosthetic leg. This was 30 years ago. By today’s standards, the prosthesis was probably quite crude.

Nevertheless, Roy was tough and determined. He insisted on continuing to work in the field. And that brings me to this story about him:

One day, while walking through the penthouse of an office building to work on some phone circuits, he slipped on a puddle of water on the floor. It was probably condensate from the air conditioning systems. He tumbled to the floor, breaking the straps that attached his prosthesis to his leg. He was working alone. This would have been a very bad day for most people in his situation. Keep in mind that this was before people routinely carried cell phones.

But Roy had a cart of equipment and tools behind him. Using wire cutters and some telephone wire, he calmly spliced the straps back together, got back on his feet, finished the job, and then returned to the office. He got back a few minutes late and apologized that he had to repair the straps on his prosthesis with some phone wire.

The other guys heard about this and started kidding with him about having a “bionic leg.”

Roy continued to work in the field for many years after that. Finally, his health took a turn for the worse and he could no longer get around as reliably as he used to. He retired on disability. But even then, he continued to remain as active as he could, never mind the disabilities.

He passed away on December 31, 2018. May he rest in peace.

With more than 30 years experience at a large water/wastewater utility and extensive experience with control systems, substation design, SCADA, RF and microwave telecommunications, and work with various standards committees, Jake still feels like one of those proverbial blind men discovering an elephant. Jake is a Registered Professional Engineer of Control Systems in the State of Maryland.