Magazine Feature / People

DU staffer is ‘dead, not gone,’ family says

Nearly a thousand mourners joined Timber Dick’s family April 15 as they expressed “the holes in our hearts” caused by the loss of a selfless, brilliant and decent man.

Dick, the director of marketing and recruitment for DU’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, died April 10 at the University of Colorado Hospital. He was 52.

Dick was critically injured and suffered severe burns March 29 when his Dodge Caravan slid off Interstate 70 after its wheel locked up.

His family remembered him as a man happiest serving others.

Dick grew up reading furiously and blowing up science labs, family members recalled. Dick’s brother Justin added that like many of the best engineers, Dick had grown up teaching himself by methods of trial and error — “mostly error.”

He was a Phi Beta Kappa with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from Yale. It was at Yale where he received his first patent — for a more energy-efficient bicycle drive system, which was licensed by the Huffy Corp. It was the first of many patents the Denver inventor earned throughout his life.

“He introduced me to worlds I had never known,” said his former Yale roommate and brother-in-law, Richard Swett. “Bad puns were the most pain he’d ever inflict on anyone.”

“He was on a continuous quest to figure things out,” Swett said. “He found many of those answers in love for his wife and family, his service to community and love for Jesus Christ and the church.” Dick served as a bishop for the Church of Latter Day Saints.

Even Dick’s inventions were of service, Swett said.

Dick, president of Tendix Development, invented a high-efficiency engine that was to be recognized by NASA later this month.

But his most important role was dad, his son Levi Tillemann-Dick said.

“It is impossible to communicate that love by this family,” he said. Dick, who helped home-school his 11 children, emphasized hard work and consistent effort, his daughter Mercina Tillemann-Dick remembered.

He always volunteered to judge science fairs, she recalled. And unlike most other volunteers who were uninterested, he consistently asked probing and challenging questions. But he never acted biased toward his children, Mercina said.

“We actually felt like he was biased against us,” she laughed. But the year she won first place was the year she put time and effort into the project, which is what her father always respected most, she said.

Although her father helped all his kids with academic tasks like editing papers for them, she said, he did much more than that — “he edited our lives.”

DU Assistant Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Todd Rinehart says the University community will greatly miss Dick’s presence.

Usually five days a week, multiple times per day, Dick would spend time in the admission office meeting with prospective students who were interested in computer science and engineering. Although that was just a part of his job, Dick went above and beyond, Rinehart says.

“He truly wanted people to love DU like he did,” he says.

Donations to the Timber Dick Memorial Fund may be made through any Wells Fargo Bank or mailed to 327 17th Place, N.E., Washington D.C. 20002.

In addition to his 11 children, Dick is survived by his wife, Annette Tillemann-Dick, and his mother, Nancy Dick, Colorado’s first female lieutenant governor.

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