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A tribute to Harold Abendroth: Industry Icon, and the Chief!


In the late 1990s, my business travel took me to Jurid friction material manufacturing operation in Glinde, Germany. I spent most of the time reviewing processes, asking questions, and recording mental notes. Although I was a potential customer, because I came from the same industry I never walked through a plant with a notebook and a pen.  Towards the end of my day, I visited the technical center headed at the time by Harold Abendroth. He walked me through the lab explaining their testing methodology, going over the equipment and functionality and how each contributed to the product integrity. I was impressed and wanted to spend more time with Harold who was among other things working on the second-generation design of compressibility machine. Watching Harold describing the history of the machine made me think that the two of them, Harold, and the compressibility machine, were part and parcel of one another, so infused.

 

Before dusk we left the plant. It was my first time in that part of the Germany. Somehow, he knew it. He drove me to Hamburg shipyard area. We walked around watching all kinds of boats under construction, big and small, very expensive and somewhat expensive. The two of us ended up in cozy wood paneled restaurant where he must have been a regular. The food, wine, was mixed with his love of theater, German literature, nature, his family, the world affairs, and the God. As I listened to Harold, I told myself he is not just half machine half human, there is family Harold, art and culture Harold, man of God Harold; all of whom came across as a genuine friend.

 

Harold was born in Teplitz Schonau, now in Czech Republic, on July 2, 1940. His father was a lawyer in the Ministry of Defense in Bonn and mother managed the home for the family of four. Harold was the younger of the two brothers at home. He grew up in Bonn where he studied engineering science in Aachen Technical University and Berlin Technical University. He met Relindis Schubert, a primary school teacher in 1972 during an exchange trip to Ireland. Two years later, in 1974, they married. Throughout his life, he loved to mix culture and nature. During one of his family vacations, he navigated from Maine to Key West visiting several national parks. Harold loved to get together with his friends socially, exchanging ideas while appreciating food and wine. His favorite country in Europe was France.

 

I reached out to some of Harold’s friends in the industry and here are some reactions:

 

From Roy Link, CEO Link Group:

 

A few words to try to capture what a loss we have experienced with the passing of my dear friend and close associate, Harold Abendroth.

Harold was a true icon and legend within the Brake Industry. He combined professionalism and the personality of a gentleman, with the intellect of a genius, to motivate and inspire others in the industry, to search out and disseminate knowledge, that ultimately resulted in the betterment of the Brake Industry worldwide.

I first met Harold nearly 50 years ago, when we negotiated with Alfred Teves for a license to build the Teves machine. At that time, Jurid, where Harold was head of engineering, was providing the controls for the Teves machines built in Europe. Ford had specified the Teves machine as the test criterion for qualifying friction materials on their vehicles, and Link had been contracted to build several machines worldwide.

Instead of being protective, Harold was totally open to collaborating, to be certain that test results were accurate and repeatable. His interest was in assuring transparency and what in the end would be in the best interests of the industry worldwide.

Shortly after working on the Teves machine, we began working together on the Compressibility machine, collaborating on the design which had been developed by Jurid. We exchanged ideas on how best to assure accuracy and repeatability, thereby eliminating the sources of variability. Harold’s open communications allowed the Compressibility machine to rapidly become a worldwide standard within the industry, replacing conventional Hardness testers with a full pad deflection measurement system, with variable temperature control.

Harold would commonly organize Technical Working Groups to formulate test procedures, discuss technical issues and effect improvements within the industry. He was master at getting the right people together to focus upon the problem at hand, and disseminating the information acquired throughout the industry. He took competitiveness out of the picture and focused upon finding solutions. I participated on numerous working groups covering a wide spectrum of issues from corrosion to sample testing. Always featuring the critical topic facing the industry at that time.

Harold always seemed to be the driving force, leading the charge.

When TMD took over the Mu Club, excluding other friction companies from attending, we simply started Mu minus one. This gathering, which was held the day before the Mu Club, included a small group of friends who came together to discuss key topics, share our friendship and a glass of wine, before those who could attend the Mu Club did so.Harold was an early supporter of the Brake Colloquium. He was a session chair, key presenter, and Advisory Board member from nearly the beginning. He was instrumental in suggesting improvements and effecting positive change. He was one of the first Dan Mahannah award winners and always brought key topics to our attention.

Harold was also the principal founder and instigator of EuroBrake. He chaired the event for many years since its inception and led its growth and success.

There are simply too many good things that Harold accomplished in his incredible career to cover them all here.

He left a much better world than he found.

Possibly the most significant measure of his accomplishments is the fact that everyone, everyone loved Harold.

It was my blessed honor to have known him and worked so closely with him for so many years.”

 

From Grigoratos Theodoros, Researcher, European Commission:

 

"Harold was a truly respectful and visionary personality who meant a lot to me. He not only just introduced me to the EuroBrake conference in 2014 but he welcomed me into the brake community with open arms. His open-mindedness and strong advocacy for collaboration between industry and policy makers laid the foundation for a more inclusive approach in the field of brake emissions. He embraced the exploration of brake emissions research with remarkable enthusiasm. His consistent efforts to bridge the gap between industry, research, and policymaking epitomized the essence of collaboration. His contribution to the field is immense and he will always be remembered for his unwavering commitment and groundbreaking initiatives. Above all, he will be remembered for his uncompromising personality and warmness. Harold was a true mentor."

 

From Heribert Schumacher, Former Managing Director, Jurid:

 

Harold started working for Jurid as head of the test department in1970. He designed and developed the Jurid Compressibility test machine. Under his watch, the machine was optimized to become industry standard serving OE, Tier I, Tier II and beyond. He developed combined vehicle-dyno test standard for brake testing. Obstacles were challenge to Harold who always looked for new technical possibilities. He started EuroBrake in 2012 leading it to a must attend meeting in Europe by a global audience.

Harold was an excellent and very challenging colleague. He always seemed to have new ideas. He left no stone unturn in implementing his vision. He was a supportive co-worker and friend who never gave up.”

 

From Carlos Agudelo, Director of Applications Engineering, Link Group:

 

“Harold was genuinely passionate about three crucial engineering aspects and its role in the automotive industry and society. He insisted on the value of networking knowledge and research worldwide, from Brazil to Belgium and Bangalore to Birmingham. Many of us came to build a professional network by working and interacting with Harold – or simply by listening to him. His global perspective proved crucial to creating and growing essential conferences such as EuroBrake in 2012.  His international perspective also extended to developing standards, making him an advocate of cornerstone standards such as the SAE J2521 for squeal noise and ISO 15484 for friction material development relying on experts worldwide. The latter became the basis of a new laboratory specification for military vehicles in the United States. He organized working meetings in Berlin or Michigan to bring experts together to get the work done, get to know each other and collaborate in common areas of interest. “What about the Chinese and Japanese colleagues?” “Do you know what the Indian market looks like on this?” “Does this also apply to commercial vehicles?” were some of his favorite follow-up questions. Harold was a citizen engineer at heart. He understood, better than many, the importance of engineering work in the fabric of technology to build safe and clean vehicles, embracing societal, cultural, and economic challenges (and its regional nuances). He encouraged all of us to go beyond our daily jobs and contribute by sharing knowledge through developing standards, producing technical papers, and presenting at international conferences. Lastly, Harold embraced data and its associated uncertainty (due to variability or sheer lack of deep understanding of the test or measurement results). He taught us not to fear uncertainty but to make it an active part of our decision-making process, avoiding the comfort of a single number without proper validation, peer review, or considerations of use cases.

 

You could find yourself immersed in a rapid email exchange with Harold, inadvertently taking half a day or half a weekend to respond. Although it seemed almost annoying at the time, I find it profoundly valuable now. Some of us will miss his passion, ability to think fast, and inquisitive nature.”

 

 

From the industry side, hundreds of his colleagues will miss his engineering knowledge together with his great advice. Harold was always ready and willing to bring his friends up to date with the latest at EuroBrake, including what was yet to come. I will never forget his willingness to generously spend his time with me just to share the latest. I remember Harold attending part of my seminar at EuroBrake, sitting in the back of the room, taking notes. He shared his notes from memory with me over a glass wine before a group dinner that evening.

 

Harold Abendroth, a devoted husband, and father, passed away in his home country of Germany on March 24, 2024. He is remembered by his wife Relindis, their two sons Martin and Gereon and their daughter Mieke as a loyal, self-sacrificing, and caring husband and father. His grandchildren Jacob, Leonhard, Jove, Lily, Alva, and Feline, ranging in age from 3 to 14 years old will particularly miss him.

 

His sons, Martin and Gereon affectionately called him the Chief!

 Chief, we miss you. Rest in peace…   

Special thanks to Mrs. Abendroth, Martin Abendroth, Roy Link, Grigoratos Theodoros, Heribert Schumacher, and Carlos Agudelo for their contribution to this Tribute.



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Worked with Harold over the years He was true icon of the industry and a good collegue.


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