Monday, May 21, 2012

China Memories

Don's China exploration commenced in 1979

Dear Jeanne, Tim, and McGirk family,

So sorry to hear the very sad news of Don's passing on Wednesday morning (May 9), that would be very hard for Jeanne for they had depended on each other so much, a very fun and caring couple.
 (I am an engineer, the way I write is much like the way I talk, nothing beautiful, but to convey the point I wish to make).

 I came to know them in 1980 when I began to be involved in developing Texaco/Chevron's China operation, and Don was my most close mentor. Don was straight forward, to the point, very much like a marine in action. Those were  fun years working with Don together, and sometimes Jeanne showed up to help too -  truly  teamwork in action. We were successful to secure the 1st ever PSC (Production Sharing Contract) between China and foreign companies. The PSC was signed in Beijing before Xmas 1983, and Don retired a couple days later at a farewell party hosted by then Texaco CEO Al DeCrane at the beautiful Regent Hotel in Hong Kong.

In 1980, Texaco and Chevron were helping the Chinese to develop an onshore oil field in southern Manchuria through the application of steam injection. Don and I were a part of a small team to make the field trip just before Xmas to gather data and information. We shipped a Xerox copier, the top line machine available at the time. We assembled the machine together, the drum was turning but failed to produce copy! We checked here and there, we the team members, the ex-marine, the top geologist, the sensible engineer, just not able to make the Xerox to work, so we have to copy the information page by page, and map by map, by hand, with a lot of help from the Chinese of course, all worked very hard day after day for about two weeks in the unheated warehouse in the oil field, Don was fortunate to have the thermal underwear picked up by Jeanne at Macy (thought it was in red color, we all had a good laugh! for her choice and taste) when the team met in Chevron's office in San Francisco to prepare for the field trip. Later on we found out it was a simple matter to make the copier to work, we just failed to have the magic touch!  

Don, my dear friend and mentor, Don's long years with Texaco were full of excitement, success and satisfaction wherever he was working, from  Colombia, Venezuela, and in the Amazon jungle in  South America, to Spain and the UK North Sea, then to South China Sea in the Asian Pacific. I tend to think that Don had the ability to smell where to tap the oil reservoirs onshore or offshore. In fact, Texaco had picked the best block offered by the Chinese in the 1st offshore bidding round and we soon made the 1st commercial discovery in the South China Sea in 1985, the Huizhou Oil Field, producing since 1989. One place Don would love to visit is the Tarim Basin in Xinjiang in the remote Northwestern part of China, its vast desert is the Texas size! I could only tell him about it when Texaco/Chevron/Agip began to explore there in the 1990's.

Following Don's retirement from Texaco, we stayed in touch by phone calls or visits. We visited Don and Jeanne at their apartment at Sloane Square in London. One time I went from New York to London for Jeanne's birthday, After they moved back to Santa Cruz, we visited them several times, and began to note Don's slowing and failing health with time. We were able to engage our friends David and Florence Kuo who live in Scotts Valley to keep an eye on the well being of Don and Jeanne. Eventually, they come to an arrangement for Florence to send nurses for home care when needed.

We will all miss Don so much, an outstanding oilman, and a very caring person in many ways! I am short of utterance to express my feeling toward Don and Jeanne and the McGirk family!

With love,

YM and Wanda Shum

1 comment:

  1. Tim McGirk, Don's son, says: I give my heartfelt thanks to Dad's caregivers, Wally Placido, Alejandro Atido and Nena Ramel, who, even in the most difficult moments of his long illness, always showed patience and a deep compassion towards him. Thanks to this superb trio, Dad always maintained his dignity, even at the end. My mother and I are forever grateful, as are my wife, Jan, and sons, Sean and Jamie.