Power Electronics

Requiem for a Good Guy

Over the years, you meet a lot of good guys in this business, but one stands out among the rest: John Mungenast. He was always available for information related to power electronics and power quality. In fact, he was one of the founders of Power Quality magazine in 1989. He also worked with Myron Miller to help move PCIM magazine, now Power Electronics Technology, to the forefront of the trade press that covers power electronics.

John passed away on May 3, after battling cancer. He said the doctors gave him about five years after the dreaded disease was found. He fooled the doctors and lasted about 10 years. He was always upbeat. He was even at the March APEC conference in Dallas—even though he was carrying his chemo pump. He would travel almost anywhere in the world to talk to people about power electronics or power quality.

One of John’s longtime friends, Gene Uecker recalls, “John was a friend to all and stranger to none. He had a way of making you feel you were the most important person in his life. I’ll personally miss his wonderful warm greetings and powerful bearhugs.”

I remember several things about John. When he saw me, he would always say “that last issue of the magazine was really great.” He encouraged me to cover specific subjects he felt were important to the magazine’s readers.

John’s love for electrical power started early, not with electricity but steam. His formative years were spent working on his father’s Mississippi River steamboat. He would tend the steam engine. His passion for steam engines gave way to gas turbines, generators and eventually to high-power semiconductors.

He was a railroad train aficionado and a member of its historical society. He was involved a short train line that ran near his home in Ventura, Calif. I still have the whistle he gave me a few years ago that sounds like one from a train.

John’s and Alice Mungenast’s 50th wedding anniversary was in 2000. As he noted, power electronics was still selenium, thyratrons, and mag amps when they first met at Union Electric in St. Louis in 1946. They raised seven children who now live in cities all over the U.S. and Europe. Alice traveled with John (see the photo below) to most of the PowerSystems World conferences held over the last 20 years.

He graduated from St. Louis and Washington Universities, and served in the U.S. Army, at White Sands, NM. He was involved with power semiconductors for 20 years, and Intertec International for 10 years.

He never let us forget he spent many years at General Electric. He would often relate his experiences at G. E. and his development of the soft starter for motors.

His Father was co-founder of Jaycees, and John was once the president of the Lynchburg, VA chapter. He remained active in (and was charter member of) the Jaycees Foundation, and was a Jaycee senator.

John was an inspirational member of the Power Electronics and Power Quality industries, which established an award in his name. The award is presented every year to a distinguished member of the power quality industry at the PowerSystems World conference.

A memorial service was held on Saturday, May 25, 2002, at Holy Family Church, 4125 Humphrey St., St. Louis. In lieu of flowers, please contribute to the Kidney Cancer Assoc., 1234 Sherman Ave. Suite 203, Evanston, IL 60202-1375, or PANCAN (Pancreatic Cancer), P.O. Box 1010, Torrance, CA 90505.

On June 1, there was a memorial service at the Gold Coast Innovation Center in Camarillo, CA. For additional information, contact Myron Miller at (805) 383-1213.

We’ll miss you John.

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