Richard Thomas 78, of Milford, passed away on Monday, November 6, 2017. He was born to the late Thomas and Ruth Gagnon, on July 9, 1939. Richard attended Dondero High School, before attending UofM, where he obtained a BS in Electrical Engineering. He was also a member of Trigon fraternity, and then later obtained a BS in Mathematics from WSU. Richard became a world class leader in Speech Synthesis, and helped put Michigan and Detroit on the map for Technology. He invented the world's first marketed voice synthesizer in his basement laboratory. It was available in 1972, and changed the way Man and Machine communicate profoundly. It would turn any touch tone phone into a computer terminal, allowing businesses to check information from a different location. It also gave people a synthetic voice to communicate with others. It was sold as a "VOTRAX" Type and Talk, a VS6, and many other names. This led to the development of the SC-01 computer chip, the world's first unlimited vocabulary speech synthesis chip. All Votrax speech synthesizers owed their existence to Richard. He had 18 patents around the world in his speech synthesis inventions. He was also a troubleshooter, and saved countless lives involving automotive recalls. He was mostly a one man show, being hands-on with all aspects of his inventions. Richard is survived by his wife Janis, his children, Sheila Janis Gagnon and Erik Richard Gagnon (Genevieve). He was a proud grandfather to Ryan, Rose, Isabelle, Alex, and Aaron, and his beloved cat Prince. He leaves behind numerous loving relatives and friends.
Published in Detroit Free Press & The Detroit News on Nov. 11, 2017.