The following eulogy was written by Dr. Johari’s elder son, Mahesh Johari.
Dr. Om Johari (1940-2015)
Om Johari was born in Jodhpur, India and passed away in Elk Grove Village, Illinois on March 18, 2015. In his youth Om was a brilliant student. He graduated from Mahesh High School in 1956 and from Jaswant College in 1958. He won multiple trophies in local and Rajasthan state debate competitions during this time. He placed 1st in the India-wide engineering entrance exam. This led to his admission at IIT Kharagpur in 1958, which was at the time India’s most prestigious engineering college. Students referred to him as “Guru Dev” (translated: Divine Form of Master or Teacher) because after the first semester he was the top of his class in every semester by a wide margin. He earned the prestigious President of India Gold Medal from IIT Kharagpur upon his graduation in May 1962 with a Bachelor’s of Technology in Metallurgical Engineering. Om also served as the event organizer for social events for his dorm, RK Hall. At Kharagpur, Om volunteered to serve India in the National Cadet Corps – India’s student military branch – and earned the rank of Lance Corporal.
At the urging of his mentor Mr. Gopal Singh Mehta, he went overseas to the University of California at Berkeley in July 1962. Om studied electron microscopy and metallurgy under his advisor Prof. Gareth Thomas. He finished his master’s thesis by September 1963 – in 14 months. By January 1965 – 16 months later – Om had finished his Ph.D. thesis: “Structures and Strength of Ausformed Steels”. As a result of his thesis, Dr. Om Johari received the 1966 Marcus A. Grossman Young Authors’ award from the American Society of Metals. It should be noted that metalworkers and people involved with processing metals are known to have higher risk for bladder cancer manifesting itself later in life.
From 1965-1966 he was a professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia and in December 1966 he joined the Illinois Institute of Technology Research Institute (IITRI) in Chicago. He married his wife Anu in May 1967 and his first son Mahesh (me) was born in 1971, followed by his son Ramesh in 1976. He worked in the Metals Division of IITRI until 1977. The contract research work he did at IITRI included some research related to the Apollo space missions. In 1969 he co-authored a book with Prof. Gareth Thomas titled “The Stereographic Projection and its Applications.” Before he turned 30, Dr. Om Johari had authored or co-authored at least 30 works of independent research.
Dr. Johari was an expert in the then developing field of scanning electron microscopy. From 1968-1997 he edited and published various periodic scientific journals related to scanning electron microscopy including “Scanning Electron Microscopy”, “Scanning Microscopy”, “Food Microstructure”, “Cells and Materials”, and numerous other special one-time publications. For these 30 years he organized 1-3 symposiums per year where as many as a thousand scientists would come to share in the latest research and exchange ideas with colleagues. The works from this part of his life fill a tall bookcase and then some.
During the same period of time he was very well known for organizing large music parties at his home for those who enjoyed Indian music. For thirty years 100 or more people would come to his home about 4-6x per year for a night of live Indian music performed by a variety of performers. Each performer was allowed two songs, and those who did not perform would bring pot luck dishes in a round-robin assignment. Om was very strict in that he did not allow socializing at the parties – the parties were primarily for the appreciation of music.
A short while after retiring from business activities around 2001 he started his career in community service. March 21, 2005 Om volunteered with the AARP Driver Safety Program. By 2011 he was promoted to Illinois State Coordinator. Since 2011, over 48,000 adults have been trained in driver safety under his directorship. Starting around the same time he became a certified Laughter Club leader and volunteered teaching a very full calendar of meditation, laughter, sudoku, gratitude, gentle yoga, and other classes at many suburban libraries, park districts, and senior centers. Om taught the last of his many meditation classes on March 13th, days before passing. His teaching activities brought great joy to his life.
In 1989 Om learned that he was a type II diabetic. In his youth he had a bit of a temper and it may have been due to his blood sugars being unstable. In 1990 he suffered 2 cardiac episodes a few months apart and was hospitalized and treated. His blood sugars were out of control for 10 years, but in 1999 he read “Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution” and it completely transformed his approach. He started exercising regularly and switched to a low carb, high fat and/or protein diet which he continuously refined with experiments on himself. He made some interesting and controversial discoveries on this journey. For example, in 2003 Om was convinced that monitoring dietary cholesterol intake was not valuable to predicting health outcomes; this belief was vindicated February 2015 by the FDA’s removal of cholesterol as a “nutrient of concern.” From 1990-2014 he managed his own health very well.
In October 2014 Om developed symptoms but his condition was misdiagnosed and mistreated for months. It was February 16, 2015 before he had an idea that a tumor was in his bladder and it was partially obstructing a kidney. On March 3, 2015 a bladder cancer specialist informed him that without major surgery he had at most 12-18 months to live. Om did not want significant medical treatment or major life-prolonging procedures. I have only been aware of two people that could convince Om to change his mind about something once he had it made: his mentor Gopal Singh Mehta and me, his son Mahesh. I convinced him to do a TURBT – a minor procedure and biopsy. During this “minor” 1 hour procedure and the total 24 hour hospital stay on March 16th, my dad was administered 33 different medications – oral, topical, injection, IV, rectal, urethral, and oxygen through his nose. I fear it was too much for his weakened body. My dad was discharged from the hospital in stable condition at noon on March 17th.
His condition weakened slightly during the day but I thought I had stabilized him by 11 PM by giving him fluids and nourishment. Fate had a different view and his condition soon worsened starting around midnight. Holding his hand, I comforted him as the early hours of March 18th unfolded and informed him that his condition was outside my abilities to help him and he was likely headed for a cardiac emergency. My dad understood and he replied, “Jo ho raha he, hone doh” (“What is happening, let it happen”). On multiple occasions he specifically refused transportation to a hospital and other medical treatment. He took no painkillers so I know he fully experienced what was happening to him. I know he even knew when he was having a (likely) heart attack. The last time he opened his eyes was to see my 2 year old daughter minutes before he died. His heart stopped around 7AM March 18 in his bed at his home in Elk Grove. My mom was at his side. My father was aware until the end, as he wanted to be.
Dr. Om Johari was always unusually warm-hearted and caring of people who needed help. The various activities of his life touched many tens of thousands of people in many different ways. His family has been moved by the tremendous outpouring of sympathy from many of the people he knew. Om disliked memorial services and so we will not be arranging one, to honor his wishes and his memory. Om wanted his body donated to science, and accordingly after a very brief service his family had it delivered to the Illinois Anatomical Gift Society just hours after his death.
Dr. Om Johari lived life the way he wanted to live. He would say “I live with my own breath, I cannot live with your breath.” He was at peace with himself and satisfied with a full and productive life. He died the way he wanted to die. We should all be so fortunate.
In loving memory, Mahesh Johari
ओम शांित शांित शांित
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti