Stan Pawlak Passed at Sea
Stanley J. Pawlak, 68, of Sonoma passed away at sea on his 41-foot sailboat, the SV Believe, in high winds and waves about 75 nautical miles west of the Golden Gate and San Francisco on May 19, 2021. He was heading home after a multi-day solo offshore trial run in pursuit of his latest dream to sail single-handed across the Pacific to Hawaii in June. He had the sailboat custom-rigged and fully equipped for the ocean. He had already skippered it down to Mexico and back with a crew in 2019. This time something went wrong but we don't know what happened. He was rescued by the Coast Guard by helicopter but was found unresponsive.
Stan was known for pursuing life with relentless determination, technical expertise and passion. Throughout his life he mastered snowboarding, backpacking, peak-bagging, bicycling, and canoeing. He liked to drive cars fast and explore the world. He double-summitted Mt. Kilimanjaro on a guided trip on his 50th birthday, first on his own with a porter and then again when he helped another climber get to the top.
Stan excelled in his long career as an accredited Program and Project Manager with global scope in the high-tech industry, consistently earned honors in his academic life, and shared his impressive skills with community groups after his retirement.
Stan was born in Toronto, Canada, on March 15, 1953, to Polish parents who had emigrated after surviving World War II. When very young, they lived for a time on a farm outside the city at Holland Marsh, instilling a life-long talent for growing and gardening. An only child of hard-working immigrants who knew little English, he was enterprising from a young age. He started his own electronic repair business in high school. Stan married and raised a family, divorcing after his son and daughter were adults. He completed technical and management degrees with honors at York University in Toronto and earned a Master of Business Administration and International Business at California State University.
As a young man, Stan was recruited by Sun Microsystems (now part of Oracle) early in the era of high tech. He rose through the ranks steadily over 20 years from a Manager of Information Technology on call 24/7 to a high-level leader in Global Engineering responsible for people and technology systems and projects around the world. He thrived traveling for Sun to Europe, India, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and China, Japan, South America, and throughout the U.S. and Canada—using weekends and layovers to see the sights, often taking the red eye and sleeping on the plane to avoid hotel costs.
In early 2000s, he moved permanently to California to work at Sun's headquarters in Silicon Valley. After Sun, he worked for several other companies before retiring from PGE. He became a U.S. citizen in October 2014.
Stan moved to Sonoma to live with his life partner Teri Shore of 17 years after meeting on a backpacking trip in the King's Range above the Lost Coast. They immediately began leading trips together for Sierra Club, including a "double-summit" of Mt. Whitney, where the two went up on a layover day, then again with the group.
Tragically, in September 2005, Stan suffered a Spinal Cord Injury after a chain link fence he was climbing over collapsed. That changed everything. But as all who know Stan can attest, the severely disabling injury did not stop him from pursuing his dreams, even if it altered them. He was admired for maintaining personal integrity and determination to lead an active life despite difficult circumstances. He never gave up.
Stan discovered he could still snowboard thanks to Achieve Tahoe and learned how to sail with the Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors. Before long he decided to buy a sailboat and customize it so he could sail it himself, with the help of the top rigger on San Francisco Bay.
In Sonoma, Stan was an active Master Gardener who tended a mini-orchard of fruit trees at home. He also was involved with the Valley of the Moon Garden Club and was formerly on the board of the Sonoma Valley Community Health Center. He was a regular blood donor. Stan was a dedicated member of Parkpoint gym. Many recognized him around town with his beloved Canine Companion service dog, Ming. Stan always had many projects underway at home and in the community.
He also continued to travel, and took Teri to Paris, Italy, Barcelona, Canada, Istanbul and the Galapagos, where they snorkeled hand in hand. Most of the airfare was covered by frequent flier miles he had racked up during years of work travel.
Stan is survived by his life partner, Teri Shore, and his Canine Companion dog, Ming. He has a daughter and a son in Canada. As of this writing, the SV Believe continues to sail on out to sea with only Stan's spirit on board.
A community memorial will be held in the summer. Donations in remembrance of Stan may be made to Canine Companions in Santa Rosa https://canine.org/
, Bay Area Disabled Sailors in San Francisco http://www.baads.org/
or Achieve Tahoe at Alpine Meadows https://www.achievetahoe.org/