Living Life to the FULLEST
1938 – 2009
On November 15, 2009, we gathered for Vytas Pazemenas’ Memorial at Balboa Yacht Club in Newport Beach. I found myself even more honored to know this unique man.
Born in Lithuania in 1938, as a child Vytas was smack in the middle of World War II, between the German Army and Red Army of Russia. His family once hid under a train, protecting themselves from gun-fire. His father was captured by the Russians…and later escaped. They finally fled Lithuania. Vytas was a refugee.
As a young man, Vytas came to the USA to attend college, graduating from Penn State with a degree in engineering. He chose the medical device industry, and steadily worked his way into management in Silicon Valley. He had a knack for recognizing and developing talent. In 1999, Vytas was invited to southern California to lead a company in distress. As CEO, he turned it around! When that company sold, Vytas decided it was time to start his own medical device company. Vytas was an avid sailor, and a fan of the book series about Jack Aubrey, a man of high character and integrity…hence the company name: The Aubrey Group. Vytas was a leader.
Vytas built a top notch engineering team through his somewhat unusual interviewing techniques. Nearly every man who spoke at the Memorial chuckled as they remembered how Vytas presented a “puzzle” for them to solve in that initial interview. It quickly revealed one’s “on-the-spot” thinking skills. Apparently these “puzzles” were Vytas’ secret for culling talent. Vytas was discerning.
Collectively, this talent has saved countless lives and silently impacted the world in a myriad of ways. The first time I visited Aubrey Group, tears came to my eyes as I learned about project after project.
Aubrey Group has won many awards. Some of the most significant projects include:
1) DNA Analyzer – Uses electronics to detect diseased DNA on a laboratory benchtop.
2) Orthomedical Heart Assist Pump – A wearable device for patients waiting for a heart transplant.
3) Dialysis Machine – a device allowing patients to give themselves blood dialysis at home. Great for patients with kidney problems.
4) Permanent Glaucoma Treatment with a single needle implant…taking less than 10 minutes.
5) Neoline System – an electronic aide for more precise knee replacements.
6) Blood Purifier – a way to eliminate blood pathogens at blood banks.
7) Tissue Genesis – an easy and safe way to extract stem cells from the body.
8) Proactive treatment for breast cancer (that’s not yet on the market…funding for this stopped when the market crashed awhile back).
No small task to attract projects of this magnitude and then to lead the teams to continually deliver innovations for their clients. For those needing these treatments, Aubrey Groups contributions are the unacknowledged miracle adding more ease and life to the world. Vytas created significant value to the world.
But business wasn’t Vytas only passion. He was also a poet. He enjoyed memorizing poems, and in challenging situations always had an appropriate poem to share. Vytas was a man of depth.
Vytas was also a sailor, rallying his employees (and anyone willing to learning “the ropes”) to participate in the sailing races in the ocean. You could also catch him delighting in powder skiing in the winter months. Vytas was an adventurer.
For years, his daughter found her greatest bonding time aboard a sailboat. It was one of the only havens where she escaped his “lectures.” Vytas was a committed father.
Vytas spoke at engineering schools, inspiring more young men and women to choose this path. He was passionate about how engineering could make a difference in the world. Vytas also gave generously, donating money and time to worthy causes in the community. Vytas was a passionate philanthropist who gave back.
Vytas adored his wife Cathy. The twinkle in his eyes was always a little brighter when the love of his life entered the room. Vytas was a loving husband.
Vytas and Cathy
Vytas enjoyed dining in style, selecting the finest wines to accompany each meal. And, he loved chocolate! Vytas was a connoisseur.
But food and wine was just a way to bring good friends together for stimulating conversations about philosophy, politics, religion and life. Anything to challenge the mind. No subject was off limits. And…controversy was always welcome. Vytas was comfortable in his own skin and free to be himself around others.
Physical fitness was a part of his everyday life, whether running in the neighborhood or pumping iron at the gym. For Aubrey Group, he brought in experts to give his employees access to exercise programs, yoga, meditation and massage breaks. Vytas was a health enthusiast.
Words can’t quite capture the full spectrum and depth of this unique man.
Banner on Vytas’ sailboat the day of the Memorial.
This was the toast made with Benedictine before
setting sail each time.
We’re wishing him a safe journey home.
Vytas died of pancreatic cancer.
I’m going to miss the birthdays and celebrations with Vytas and his wife Cathy. I’m going to miss toasting with “Benedictine” as we set out for a day sail (a long-time tradition!) I’m going to miss the sparkle in his eye when he greeted me (as he did everyone.) I’m going to miss how I felt in his presence.
I already miss him.
But, I know I’m not the only one.
Vytas left an impression on everyone he met. At the Memorial, hundreds gathered…and very few with a dry eye (many, many, many of them men.) Fortunately, so many of the fond memories and stories brought laughter and joy in the room. November 15th, 2009 was truly a day of celebration.
Once in awhile we get lucky enough to meet someone who embodies so many admired qualities. Once in awhile we get lucky enough to know someone who so fully embraces every moment of life with gusto.
Vytas was one of those men. His legacy lives on.
I know I am more inspired than ever to experience my life even more fully. How about you? We never know when our chapter in life comes to a close. I thank Vytas — from the bottom of my heart — for showing me what a life well lived looks like.
My dear friend Clark Foster wrote this after
learning about Vytas’ death.
Finding in the Good
by Clark Foster
“You manage to find something good in every situation ” Vytas would say that to me with a distinct cheer in his voice.
I, like many are so saddened by the passing of Vytas that finding good is a major challenge.
Still, I feel compelled to sort through the feelings out of a desire to honor my friend.
So where is the good? Look around a bit and it shows up .
Our sadness reflects how much Vytas meant to us. So it is good that we met a remarkable soul.
Our lives have been improved having met Vytas. Recall his whole person as an example of gracious leadership, so that would be good.
Our minds have been challenged, and delighted having spoken with Vytas. We have grown in both heart and mind, yes that is good.
Our careers have been flavored with gratifying projects and puzzles. Our work at the Aubrey Group makes a difference to the world, good.
Our appreciation of the wonders of the world has been broadened. Vytas displayed balance in work, love, life and fun, good too.
Truly we have much good from knowing Vytas.
We are indeed privileged and with cause, appreciative.
Then there are a few personal flashes of Vytas good that come to my mind .
His sparkle of deep happiness while presiding over my marriage to Janet.
The playful voice of Vytas during the Benedictine toast to Poseidon from the stern of Cyrano as wind fills the sails.
The substantial conversations while dining often seasoned with at least one of the three taboo topics.
The twinkle in his eye when ones work exceeds his expectations.
The wonder in his “Wu Hoo” holler while skiing untracked powder beyond the boundary ropes.
The sincere delight in his voice when Cathy is present.
There is a lot more flashes of good, but I get sad recalling them right now.
I choose to see our sadness as evidence of the good that is Vytas.
Thank You Vytas ………………………..Clark