August 8, 1954 – November 6, 2018
Gerhard Friedrich Sehne (“Gary” to many who knew him; “Ota” to his beloved grandchildren) died peacefully on November 6 with loved ones at his side. He was 64 years old, and he was a good man.
Gerhard, the older son of German immigrants Friedrich and Margarethe (Meder) Sehne, was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in Queens, where he was every bit a big brother to his younger sibling Roland. Gerhard helped Roland win two junior high science fairs, taught him sign language (mostly so they could goof off in church), and taught Roland how to wrestle so well that Roland quickly learned how to beat him. Gerhard also showed Roland the value of a good prank: he and a cousin once tethered Roland to a telephone pole mounted with a civil defense siren and told Roland that when the siren went off, UFOs would be coming to get him. (It did; they didn’t.) After graduating early from Brooklyn Technical High School at age 16, Gerhard went on to earn his Bachelors from City College of New York and later earned his Masters in electrical engineering from Syracuse University. Gerhard moved to Dallas to work for Texas Instruments before returning to New York to work for IBM. Then, just as his parents moved to the United States in search of better opportunities, Gerhard moved back to Texas with his family in 1992, continuing to work for IBM before working for several other tech companies in Austin, including AMD, Cypress Semiconductor, and Motorola.
Gerhard met his future wife, Gerlinde Hoenigmann, at a dance in Queens in 1975. Their first date was dinner at McDonald’s and a movie. They wed in 1977 (she in an elegant traditional wedding gown; he in a ruffled shirt and powder blue tuxedo with flared trousers) and were married for 41 years. They had two daughters, Erika and Heidi, whom they raised to be decent, loving, independent adults. When his girls married, he warmly welcomed his new sons-in-law with open arms, quite literally: when Erika and her fiancé, Joe, announced their engagement, he actually hugged and congratulated Joe first.
Gerhard’s excellence in engineering earned him the respect of colleagues and carried over into his hobbies. He was a certified SCUBA diver, a licensed pilot, and an accomplished Morse code and ham radio operator (call sign N2KTY; proudly emblazoned on his car’s license plates). He was also a gifted performer: he played piano, performed magic tricks, and sang in church choirs. He was an inveterate tinkerer—he always seemed to have a new multi-tool or project in hand—and could fix anything except dinner. A fine photographer, he was an absolute expert on subminiature cameras and stereophotography and developed his own film and made his own prints in a makeshift darkroom. He made his own wine and once home-distilled some pear schnapps that, while not especially palatable, was good for taking the varnish off one of Gerlinde’s favorite curio cabinets. To the surprise of at least one of his future sons-in-law, he had a license to carry a concealed handgun, reloaded his own ammunition, and was a better-than-average marksman. He had impeccable handwriting.
Although Gerhard couldn’t cook worth a darn, he loved a good meal, especially when it was shared with family and friends. In addition to Gerlinde’s home cooking, particularly Thanksgiving dinner, he loved crumb cake (Entenmann’s when he could get it), rice crackers, and plums. He was also rumored to make the odd request for ice cream or a chocolate milk shake. One of his regular Christmas gifts was a bottle of Asbach Uralt brandy, which—often before the wrapping paper had a chance to hit the floor—he would insist he share with those present. He also enjoyed picking up unfamiliar snacks at international food markets and foisting these on unsuspecting loved ones.
He demonstrated a dedication to celebrating and preserving the best of German culture; he was the first president of the Alumni of the German-American School Association in New York, and he was an officer in the Austin Saengerrunde, celebrating many New Year’s Eves there surrounded by gemütlichkeit, dancing and drinking the night away.
He was whip-smart and shared his knowledge on everything from the circus to circuitry with anyone willing to listen. His bookshelves were lined with references on microprocessors and digital signal processing, which sat next to various joke books, German- and English-language Bibles, and pictures of his wife, daughters, and grandchildren. He was an innovative thinker and teacher; on church mission trips to Mexico, he would not only show others the ins and outs of home wiring but also teach his daughters and fellow church members how to open a bottle of beer with a seatbelt buckle. Although Gerhard was an electrical engineer by trade, he always wanted to go to medical school, and he got his wish when he chose to donate his body to science. (You can, too: https://www.bcm.edu/departments/molecular-and-cellular-biology/willed-body-program/). He would appreciate the fact that he is still teaching people.
People naturally gravitated to Gerhard for his warmth and humor. More than anything, Gerhard loved to laugh, and he loved to make people laugh. He had a million jokes, most of which are unfit to reprint here.
“Enjoy the good times while you can,” he’d say.
Gerhard was preceded in death by his parents, Friedrich and Margarethe (Meder) Sehne. He is survived by his wife, Gerlinde; by his daughter, Erika Munch, and her husband, Joe, and their children John, Maria, and Elisabeth; by his daughter, Heidi Toll, and her husband, Russell, and their children Nicholas, Benjamin, and Abigail; and by his brother, Roland. He also leaves behind countless friends and colleagues who will continue to share his jokes and carry forward his traditions of ardent curiosity, German hospitality, and contagious congeniality.
A memorial service for Gerhard will be held on November 30, 2018, at 3:30 PM at Cook-Walden Chapel of the Hills Funeral Home, 9700 Anderson Mill Road, Austin, TX 78750 (tel. 512-335-1155). In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Hospice Austin, 4107 Spicewood Springs Road, Suite 100, Austin, TX 78759 (https://www.hospiceaustin.org; tel. 512-342-4700 or 800-445-3261), or Power for Parkinson’s, 10900 Research Boulevard, Suite 160c #53, Austin, TX 78759 (https://www.powerforparkinsons.org; tel. 512-464-1277).
- Gerhard was preceded in death by his parents, Friedrich and Margarethe (Meder) Sehne. He is survived by his wife, Gerlinde; by his daughter, Erika Munch, and her husband, Joe, and their children John, Maria, and Elisabeth; by his daughter, Heidi Toll, and her husband, Russell, and their children Nicholas, Benjamin, and Abigail; and by his brother, Roland. He also leaves behind countless friends and colleagues who will continue to share his jokes and carry forward his traditions of ardent curiosity, German hospitality, and contagious congeniality.
Cook-Walden Chapel of the Hills Funeral Home
9700 Anderson Mill Rd
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Dan and Mary Kubala
November 16, 2018
Gerlinde, Erika, Heidi and family,
We have kept Gary in our continual prayers throughout this journey and are saddened to hear of your loss. Gary was a good man who could talk with you about anything! We have enjoyed having you as neighbors over the years. It has been fun watching your girls grow into successful adults. We have fond memories of when they babysat our boys!
Wishing you strength, comfort and peace as you treasure the good memories.
Dan and Mary Kubala
November 14, 2018
It is sad to lose a long lost friend. My deepest condolences to Gerlinde and family. I want to thank Roland for keeping me in the loop.
Gerhard and I were not only friends at school back in Ridgewood, Queens. We played as young boys did back in the 60's.
After moving back to Germany in 1970 we lost our childhood connection.
Thanks to our mutual school buddy, Gunther Carrle, Gerhard and I re-connected. My wife Christa and I visited Gerhard and Gerlinde in 2010. Gerhard brought back so many childhood memories I had long forgotten. He made my life complete again.
I was blessed to have him back in my life after many decades. I will always have a place in my heart for him and his family.
May the Lord bless your soul, Gerhard - rest in peace my friend! The picture was taken at Hamilton Pool.
Elvira Foldes Warren
November 10, 2018
Dear Gerlinde and Sehne Family,
I would like to express my deepest Sympathy and let you know that our thoughts are with you and your family. May your memories bring you peace and comfort .
My sincerest condolences.
Elvira (Frank's sister) and Greg Warren