On Thursday July 11, 2019, Werner Buchholz, a computer science pioneer, passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 96. Werner was born on October 24, 1922, in Detmold, Germany. The son of a Jewish leather merchant, Werner just after turning 16 was sent by his parents to the safety of England before the onset of World War II. Like with Japanese Americans, England rounded up these Jewish teenagers and put them in detention camps. His parents, Julius and Elsa, were killed in concentration camps. Werner was transferred to another detention camp in Canada where, after some time, members of the Toronto Jewish community sponsored him to attend the University of Toronto. After receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees there, he earned his PhD in electrical engineering at Caltech.
IBM hired him in 1949 to work in Poughkeepsie, NY, at the very beginning of their commercial computer development. There they replaced punched card electronic computing with the much faster magnetic tape process for storing large files. Werner participated in a new government project for the Korean War that led to the IBM 701 and 702 computers. They next developed the “supercomputer” called Stretch, taking advantage of the change from vacuum tubes to transistor technology. This is when these computer designers began being known as system architects. In 1956, Werner coined the term “byte” to denote a small group of bits, but he never thought this much of an accomplishment. He continued to work at IBM until retiring in 1990.
Werner married Anna Frances Odor, a Kentucky-born, Methodist-turned-Quaker, professor of German at Vassar College, in 1952. With Werner’s highly-engaged support, Ann Buchholz went on to become a local community leader, one of the first Democratic women elected to high office in this relatively conservative area of New York. They had two sons together, John who died in a car crash in 1975, and Sham Rang Singh Khalsa who is an emergency physician in Massachusetts. Werner was preceded in death by Ann in 2007. He is also survived by two grandchildren, Gurushabd Khalsa and Sarang Khalsa, who reside in the Seattle area.
Werner asked that there be no funeral services. He asked that, instead of flowers, for those who wish to honor him in death, that gifts can be sent to Poughkeepsie Monthly Meeting of Friends, 249 Hooker Avenue, Poughkeepsie, NY, 12603.
An amazing life story. May all the people and circumstances that foster hope and healing be close by, always.
I was so glad to speak with you the other day, Sham Rang, about your dad's extraordinary life (that he was still, apparently, so humble about!) Thank you for sharing your thoughts about him with me. Blessings to you.
Dear Sham Rang
My thoughts and prayers are with you. Chanted Akaal this morning 🙏🏾✨
Sending love and light your way
Sad to hear this Sham Rang—your parents both sound like extraordinary beings —big loss. Love ❤️
Thank you for introducing him to me. I am grateful to him (and you)! I am grateful for him and you.
Sat Nam, We love our parents and when they leave their bodies it can be a surprise, they are sometimes immortal for us. We don’t lose something that is never lost. Blessings.
Many Blessings for only good memories my Friend❣️
What amazing parents you chose to go thru this life with- blessings for you and your family-
Very sorry for your loss. I’m sure he’ll continue to be an inspiration. Bless you and all who loved him.
The day of marriage of the soul-bride has dawned. Hallelujah, akal, sat nam, wahe guru. Sounds like he was like many of our parents--inspirational and serviceful. And surely you must have, through your successes, inspired him too to live such a long and productive life.
The love and joy of his life continue and prayer and love to you Sham Rang Sing, continue the eternal song Akal Siri Akal Blessing and love ❤️
Words are never adequate in moments like these. It is never easy to lose a parent, no matter your age. We pray for your peace and comfort as you continue your life journey without his earthly presence. Your father had a beautiful smile, and the kindest eyes from the picture. Please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers, Sham Rang Singh ji. send with love
To be a great dad and a good ancestor is not a given. What he had to overcome would have made many of us fold, but he exceled. I'm glad he transitioned peacefully and pray his soul transits without transmigration. I only wish his other son/your brother had been here a lot longer.
What a full life he led! My blessings are with him and the family he leaves behind.
Akaal! akaal akaal Our condolences & support to you! & your loved ones. Holding you in our hearts! Quite an extraordinary human being! Love The Atkinson family
What a significant life of service and a brilliant legacy. We send condolences and prayers for his divine soul to merge with the One and his family to find peace and joy in your memories.
Blessed to read this historic life and know where the term "byte" came from. What an incredible man who left a legacy of learning and we are so grateful for all of your service Dr. Sham Rang now I see the magic father who helped bring you here.
Grateful for the blessings of a life that was and continues to be lived for others, Sham Rang Singh, I mourn your loss, our loss, and invoke the higher teachings to bear witness to your continuation of his service. Thank you and God bless.
Dear Dr. Khalsa, I am so sorry to learn of your fathers passing. It hurts so much to lose one we love so much. Thinking of you and sending love.
Dear Sham Rang Singh,
Please accept my sincere condolences on the death of your father. What an amazing life and what brilliance he brought to the world! We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. May peace be with you now and forever.
Sham Rang and family, Our deepest sympathies. Pam and Phil
Thanks for sharing the inspiring life of your father, Sham Rang Singh. Despite all suffering or hardship, he obviously had indomitable, "keep up" spirit and a character that strove for - and achieved - excellence. He is a model one can be proud of - as I'm sure he has been of you. Love and prayers for your entire family.
What a luminous soul he was who left descendents of even higher caliber in love and service on earth. May he continue in divine love and peace. May family and friends be showered by graceful patience in his physical absence 🙏 💛💛💛
Our prayers are with you in celebration of such a special life of your father. We are very blessed to have had him in this world and blessed to have you Sham Rang Singh and your family.