The Legacy of Andy Lean

Born on June 12, 1952 in Tainan, Taiwan to Liu Jin Yin and Lin Zhen Yiang, Andy Geng-chyun Lean was the youngest of nine children. He is also referred to as “jiu-duan” for wearing his kimono outfits and “xiao nan hai” for his short stature during his early years. From the stories heard from family and friends, Andy was a wily and mischievous child. He invented special board games to undermine his nieces and nephews, recreated a battlefield with makeshift grenades to play war with his friends, and spent rainy days stealing his sisters’ paper dolls only to cut the dolls’ heads off. When Andy chose to be obedient, he was the number one student for twelve semesters in a row in elementary school, despite the fact he rarely studied. He continued to excel academically as he often earned awards for painting and Chinese calligraphy during his junior high and high school years.

During Andy’s college days, he spent his time being involved in a variety of activities. He was President of the Astronomy club where he honed his skills in reading the starry skies. As part of his undergraduate degree in marine engineering, Andy took an internship aboard a navy ship and was able to travel en route from Japan, around South Africa to West Africa. Furthermore, he was the first author in Taiwan to ever publish a book about babylonian astrology in Chinese, which helped fund his way through college. On the side, he even hosted grand parties and acted as DJ where he mixed tapes that entertained everyone to dance the night away. It was at one of these parties where Andy danced with a mysterious girl who coyly referred to herself as “Big Rose”. “Big Rose,” who was in fact, Ruth Wei Lan Chen, shared Andy’s passion for music and he would have never imagined that their common thread would unfurl into a friendship that would evolve into a thirty-five year long marriage filled with companionship, joy, and laughter.

In 1980, Andy and Ruth bravely decided to leave all familiarity in Taiwan for a new life in the United States. Andy finished his Masters degree in Computer Science at Polytechnic University in New York and then followed suit to work at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center for nearly eighteen years where he was the lead inventor for over a handful of patents. Through the years he continued to challenge his breadth of knowledge and always had his nose in a book or a magazine to learn something new. His wisdom was further recognized when Polytechnic University returned to invite Andy to teach as a visiting professor to enlighten students with his extensive understanding of the computer science industry. Andy continuously built upon his repertoire and eventually branched out on his own in writing business plans to lead new startups and ventures.

Despite working tiring hours sandwiched by long commutes, Andy still managed to find the energy on the weekends to treat his kids out for ice cream, play ball in the backyard, and go on bike rides around the neighborhood. He also took them out on outings to amusement parks, car shows, mini golf courses and did a rather good job training the kids to appreciate shopping. He also enjoyed playing frisbee with the family labrador, Albert, and persistently tried to convince all of his children’s high school friends that Bridge was a fun and easy game. In other respects, Andy further supported his children by visiting their classrooms to teach the basic fundamentals of computers and acting as a dancing partner for his daughter’s cotillion classes.

When Andy isn’t acting as the aggressive entrepreneur or a busy parent, he is a man with a myriad of interests and hobbies. He attended monthly poker games with his colleagues and claim to have never lost money consistently over ten years. He loved to zip around in his Mazda Miata with the top down to the golf course and play until dark. He had an insatiable appetite for gadgets, particularly for cameras and sound systems. Andy had such a colossal collection of stereo equipment, he would boast that if he had turned them all on at once at full volume, the house would explode. There was rarely an event that wasn’t recorded by Andy via camcorder or camera. The children may have scowled then for what they thought was excessive behavior, but as the kids grow older and more patient, they are more than grateful to have volumes of photos and boxes of videotapes to cherish such precious memories.

As it is widely understood that Andy has many technical capabilities, he had a creative side as well. Although he worked as a technical architect in computer engineering, it was always a dream of his to be a building architect. He was able to temporarily live his dream by renovating his New York home inside and out and designing his own landscaping at his more recent home in California. He further showed his creativity by singing karaoke into the wee hours of the night on Saturday only to wake up bright and early Sunday morning to belt out his tenor voice yet again in the church choir.

Although sixty years of age is still relatively young, Andy didn’t waste a single minute during his time on earth. People found themselves drawn by his charisma which led into engaging and intriguing conversations. His intellect exceeded most where he could quickly grasp concepts and effortlessly execute them into reality. All in all, Andy was as an inspiring mentor and professor, motivated inventor and entrepreneur, and most importantly, a steadfast and loving brother, father, and husband. His many accomplishments offered him a fulfilling life and even though it is so unfortunate to see him leave, we can only expect him to welcome us into an intellectually stimulating, yet fun and entertaining atmosphere when we find our way to reunite with Andy.

To Dad, from Grace, Andrea, and Matthew

Since I was a child, I thought my dad was capable of accomplishing anything and was one of the smartest people in the world. Over the years, I observed him as the handy mechanic when he fixed his own cars, the astute author in publishing his own book, the creative artist in his landscape watercolor paintings, the clever architect who completely renovated our New York home, the exuberant singer who sang his heart out during karaoke and choir, and the wise astronomer who could name just about any star or constellation in the sky. My Dad did his best to teach me his talents such as working with computers, hustling others in billiards and poker, and throwing and catching like a boy. I looked up to him and aspired to be just as multi-talented as he was.

Although we have a mutual liking for ice cream, I could never match the full extent of his love for it. I remember we took him to Fenton’s Ice Cream Parlor in Oakland and entered him into an ice cream challenge where he would have to eat a massive banana split with three ice cream scoops larger than softballs topped with crushed pineapple, chocolate fudge, strawberry syrup, whipped cream, and extra nuts per my Dad’s request within 15 minutes in order to win a free t-shirt. Not only did my dad easily win – he finished the sundae in only seven minutes! He held that t-shirt triumphantly like it was the best, most rewarding trophy he could ever win. His love for ice cream never faded. In fact, Haagen Dazs’ multi-berry ice cream was his very last meal.

With a life taken away so suddenly, it’s hard to ever determine if enough is said. The last time we were all together in Moorpark in October, Dad looked healthy despite the truth of what was ailing him inside. All of us kids kept thinking how he looked like he was miraculously growing younger. He was as cheerful as ever, if not more, since he was reunited with us and the California sunshine he missed so much. It was such a warm and happy atmosphere filled with laughter at the dinner table that we forgot about any darkness looming in the back of our minds. Your strong spirit makes everybody want to hold onto you. But we can’t spend this time thinking about what could have happened if you were still here--we would rather relish in the fond memories that we already have. We cannot reiterate enough, Dad: thank you. Thank you for being our father and raising us to be strong and independent children. We only hope we made you proud. We want to remind you how brave you were and how inspiring your resilience was. Your faith in life and God never faltered. We love you, Dad. We miss you already. It is so surreal that you’re gone, but we know that you’re in good hands. As we said during your last few breaths, “see you later.”

Andy's letter to Ruth

A personal message from Ruth to Andy: "I do not want to say goodbye, but rather goodnight because when you wake up, God will say good morning to you."