In Memory of Rob deKieffer
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
My dear friend Rob deKieffer passed away in Boulder two weekends ago. Some of you may not have known Rob, but virtually all of us in the home performance, high performance new construction, and building science industries are touched by his legacy and contribution in some way.
As those of you who had a chance to work with him are most likely aware, Rob could be a giant pain in the neck in his quest to get people to just do the right thing. But he also was incredibly generous with his knowledge and expertise and worked hard to make that knowledge accessible to anyone who was willing to learn. As a teacher, Rob had an enviable ability to translate complex concepts into terms we could all understand and remember. As a mentor, he led by example, offering a helping hand to anyone who was willing to accept it.
Rob was instrumental in helping me develop the original technical standards and certifications for BPI when we were first engaged in creating the home performance program in New York in the early 2000s. Without his help, and a little bit of tough love, I would have been lost. Although those standards were far from perfect, they were good enough to help support the growth of an industry for the better part of a decade and much of that work still provides a basis for many of the newer standards in development today. Rob shared his knowledge and contacts freely, called me out when I used too much “weasel language” in what we were writing, got me through my crisis moment when I came to the realization that the 300+ page document we’d been working on needed to be sent to the circular file, and even went so far as to invite Jim Fitzgerald and me to their home in Boulder so his wife, Kitty, could tutor us on the right way to run a non-profit organization.
Perhaps more important than anything else, working with Rob over the years taught me some important lessons about how to be a better person. Our lives and careers progress in fits and starts. Rob helped me navigate the sometimes fine line between knowing when to hold the line and knowing when to accept that a course correction is in order. He inspired me to share my experience and my own knowledge freely, to strive to support the next generation to carry on the work that we started, and to not lose sight of the legacy of others we have built upon.
Over his career, Rob was deeply supportive of the weatherization assistance program, was widely recognized as an expert in combustion safety, and trained thousands of technicians, builders, and contractors. In recent years, he struggled with injuries and other personal pain that ultimately took him away from us far too soon. Rob was a friend and mentor to me of the best kind and I am heartbroken.
I circulated an email about Rob to my contact list last week, and I am struck by the impact he had on so many others. I received responses from so many people, telling me of Rob’s acts of kindness large and small or just the general positive influence he had on their lives. His own life may have been cut cruelly short, but he leaves behind a legacy in me and so many others. I hope the family he leaves behind can take some comfort in knowing that his light shines on in so many of us who were touched by his influence. It is also my hope that we can all continue to remember those lessons and “pay it forward” because I think Rob would want it that way.
A memorial service is planned for July 12 at 3:30 pm at the Boulder Country Club. An obituary appeared in the Boulder Daily Camera on July 5th.
“A big guy, in many ways. Big heart, big smile, big energy. He knew how to cut to the chase. Never seemed to care much about getting credit, as long as things moved in the right direction. I can picture the way he used to pull those giant sheets of paper off the easel, back when we had paper and easels. He would vigorously rip the sheet away with an energetic full-body flourish and toss it down behind him, moving immediately on to the next thing. Kind of like the way he did other stuff.” –Dave Keefe
Rob was a giant in the field, I remember him teaching us duct sealing in Palm Springs in 1992. After an hour of presentation that was not reaching the HVAC techs, Rob got up and got their attention in his inimitable way: ‘now we're going to talk about sucking and blowing’ and proceeded to get the whole thing on track. It wasn't until a few years later that I ever thought much about teaching, but Rob was definitely one of my earliest inspirations.” –Bruce Harley
“Rob was truly an original gem. A conversation with or a presentation by Rob was bound to be filled with not only excellent information but also a humorous take or two that made you realize that no matter the situation, it is ultimately a funny world we live in. I will miss my crossing of paths with Rob.” –John Davies
“He truly laid some very important bricks in our foundation that are still being built upon, and they are still secure and dependable. Much of the time I spent around Rob doing building stuff, presenting, and conjuring up possible procedures, reminds me of a couple of kids in candy store on a Saturday afternoon, looking, poking, discovering, trying out, keeping some, and all the while on an extreme sugar-high!” –Joe Kuonen
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