By quite some accident, many colleagues of Tom Lenartz have stumbled on this web site when they've searched for 'Tom Lenartz'. Tom did not have a large online presence, and this was one of the few web sites to mention him by name.
Tragically, Tom passed away on September 5th, 2021 after a four-month long battle with complications following his second heart surgery. His obituary is available on legacy.com.
I feel like I should explain why this web site exists.
Tom interviewed me for a position as a software engineer at Smiths Aerospace (now GE Aviation) back in August 2005. I had just graduated college, and I was pretty nervous. I remember liking him from the start - he had a certain way about how he presented himself, where he was both a bit intense and a bit silly. I remember we walked back to his cubicle as he gave a personal demonstration of FMWorkstation to me, and he was showing all of the various displays that the software supported (like the ND and PFD). He pointed out the landing gear lever on the Gear Panel, and said something along the lines of "this sure does look like something out of looney tunes, but the important part is that it works."
Thankfully, Tom saw some potential in me, and I started work just a couple weeks later. That fall, I heard rumors and mumblings of Tom and his spatula. You see, when Tom started working at Smiths Aerospace back in 2001, the source code was a complete mess. Bad naming practices, nonsensical directory structures, and general confusion were the normal.
As Tom would later tell me, his first action as the software lead in the sim group was to organize the software into something vaguely coherent, and to enforce coding standards and practices for the software developers to follow. Somehow, I never did learn how, Tom's coding standards enforcement led Tom to threaten people with a plastic spatula (technically a flipper/turner). Intense and silly. I believe he may have actually playfully struck a couple engineers for not starting any local variables with 'l' or if they used tabs instead of spaces.
All of us young software engineers thought this was HILARIOUS. "You better watch out, or Tom will come at you with his spatula."
A couple years later, in 2007, I spent one Sunday afternoon crafting a rather elaborate prank. I bought a spatula from Bed Bath & Beyond and painted it gold with a can of spray paint (and went back to buy another when the first one was too wobbly). I put it in a box, with a fake shipping label with a return address of a random community college I found online, and addressed it to Tom's work address. I included a letter congratulating Tom for winning the 'Golden Spatula Institute Award' because he threatened employees with a spatula, and for some reason this 'Golden Spatula Institute' gave awards for products and actions related to spatulas. I had my roommate sign the letter with a fake name (Charlie Kiessel) using his non-dominant hand. Then I drove to work about 6 pm or so, dropped it off at his desk, and went home to quickly register the domain 'goldenspatula.net' and to create a web site with a bizarre backstory.
And I waited.
It was an agonizing wait. I sat about 4 cubicles down from Tom, and I tried very very hard to play it cool. I didn't stop by, and I wasn't sure when (or if) he had opened it. Eventually I heard (I think from Kragh) that they were wondering who did this; they quickly discovered that the shipping label was not real, and they did stumble on this 'goldenspatula.net' web site. It was a fun couple days of hearing guesses for who did it; I think my favorite theory was that Phil brought it back from the Houghton UDC, because he was there the previous week.
I confessed a few days later, and Tom now had a golden spatula to threaten people with. Intense and silly, now with gold plating.
But, I set up this domain to auto-renew, and this web site lived on. I never updated it until now, but it always caught a few random people. Tom would tell me that some of his old colleagues stumbled on it, and called him to ask what the heck this was all about. On that Sunday afternoon so many years ago, I did go so far as to register Charlie Kiessel a fake email address to forward to my real email address. One time, I received a request from the McDonald's corporate office to ask how they could source a golden spatula to use as a reward for an executive who was apparently doing quite well. I shared my process, for what it was worth.
Just a few years ago, Tom was recovering from his first heart surgery, our team created a spatula bouquet to boost his spirits. Spatulas of every design; smiley faces, hearts, slotted, flat, but none were gold.
And fast-forward to 2021, while Tom was recovering from his second heart surgery, Mark Paduan designed a 'Team Tom' T-Shirt inspired by this site to show support. You can still purchase your own shirt by clicking on the image below:
Tom taught me, and so many others, that standards were important, but it was still okay to be goofy at work, amongst everything else. I will always be grateful to him.
The original 'Golden Spatula Institute' page is archived here, in all of its 'glory'.
-Dan Walma, September 7th/8th, 2021