Last weekend I made a quick visit to my mother in Mendocino for a memorial service for my father, Tony Eppstein. He died last August, I think while I was on a plane to Tokyo, but I had seen him only days before and it was expected.

My father (and my mother) both came from New Zealand, where they met at the University of Canterbury; they moved from there to England (where I was born) and then, when I was very young, to California. I think there’s much more to read about this time on my mother’s blog. He worked as an engineer on magnetic digital storage (first tape, and later disks). A guest at the service told me that he was among the first to use magtape as a digital storage medium, but that can’t be quite right, because it has been used in this way since 1951, and he started working in this area in the very early 1960s. Regardless, he did early work in this area. Since his retirement in 2000 or so, he had been living in Mendocino, where he was very active (behind the scenes, setting up websites and keeping things running smoothly) in several community organizations including the annual Mendocino Coast Writers Conference and the local branch of the Audubon Society.

The service went well, mostly consisting of short speeches from many guests (recounting surprisingly varied facets of my father’s life), an oversupply of refreshments, and a display and giveaway of some of his many photographs, mostly in the “intimate landscape” genre. (More are on temporary display at the The Mendocino Coast Photographer Gallery in Fort Bragg.) It was a beautiful weekend for the service, conveniently timed between two storms, with the sakura in bloom. (I think every time you see a photo of sakura, they’re already gone.)

Sakura at the Mendocino Community Center, April 2024 Sakura at the Mendocino Community Center, April 2024

A possibly-helpful travel tip: if you’re flying into Santa Rosa airport (two hours drive from Mendocino but as close as you can get on commercial air) with an evening arrival time, don’t expect the brand-name car-rental agencies at the airport to still be open.

Maybe I should conclude with my part from the service, cut down a little for context and length:

What I remember best about my father is the way he used to keep himself busy with many hobbies, often working with his hands, and was very supportive of my clumsy childhood attempts to follow him in this.

He had a passion for photography. I remember seeing an old photo of myself as a child, holding a twin-lens reflex camera, one of several that he gave me. That one did not stick, but later I took many photos with a Nikon camera that allowed him to hand down some of his lenses to me, and my daughter in turn inherited a continued interest in photography.

I don’t think I ever heard much detail about his work in the magnetic storage industry, and I don’t think I would have understood much about it while I was growing up, but he also brought his interest in electronics home with him. As one instance, he built his home stereo radio receiver and amplifier from a kit, back in a time when that was something hobbyists might do. He made sure that I knew how to solder electronics, as a pre-teen, and I put together my own kit, an early computer terminal. It came in very handy in college at a time when having one’s own computer, or even a terminal to connect to the central campus computer system, was a rare thing.

After photography, I think his biggest hobby was woodworking, and much of his home furniture was hand-made, very skilfully. I still have a handmade mantle clock he made for me, like a grandfather clock but smaller. I remember well him helping me with several woodworking projects, when I was a teen, but this is a habit that has not stuck as well with me.

That effort to stay busy and constructive, that craftsmanship, and that inspirational presence, encouraging myself and others to follow, is how I would like to remember him.

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