He took a chance on a young kid, my memories of Dr. France' Rode'

Shared by Michael Malcewicz on 7th June 2018

Exactly one-year ago today, the world lost a great and very kind man. That man was Dr. France’ Rode’. A man I was blessed to have worked for. He hired a green horn electronics technician and taught him how to be a great R&D electronics technician and that was 36 years ago.  France’ loved his family and you could see it in his interactions with his wife and his daughters. I remember a picture Maja made in High School, it was either charcoal or pencil of a wolf with a mountain range in the background he had brought into Sielox and had in his office. I offered to buy it, but he said no, that he was getting it framed and was going to hang it in his office at home. He told me anything his daughters chose to do they did really well. I could see the pride in his eyes when he spoke of them. France and I had many a heated discussions over my tenure at Sielox. I remember the day he quit smoking cold turkey, I was quite proud of him and even more proud when he admitted there were a few times he REALLY wanted a smoke, but he stayed the course. It showed me a man of character and ethics. After he quit smoking, one of his contract employees told me of a time he set his office on fire at HP. France’ would flick his lit match in the trash, thinking it would self extinguish, well that did not always work. I asked him about it, he at first denied it, but then owned up to it and his description of what happened, was almost comical, as France’ could be that way sometimes. I did not lose any respect for him over that, made him that much more human. Another time he came into work on Monday morning all bandaged up-head, neck, shoulders, and arms. Being the smart ass I was when I was younger, I said, “ Let me guess, Mia got mad at you.” I can hear him still yelling,” NO, I was leaning on the patio table talking on the phone and lost my balance, and fell through it.” I really rattled his cage with that. I liked France and I did like teasing him, but never lost respect for him. I remember one time we were altering the backplane on a computer we were using to control the Sielox System 10. Well I left the back off after reassembly and was running software diagnostics on it overnight. Well, France’ the night owl he was, was working late and decided to install the latest software on it. Well he reached behind it to hit the reset button, instead he put his finger on the high voltage-switching transistor of the switching power supply. The next morning, I caught hell. “Michael, button up that computer, I damn near electrocuted myself last night.” “ Jesus Christ, I still don’t have any feeling in my finger.” You would have to have been there to see his articulation; he could have been an great actor. France’ had the flare for the theatrics. I remember him talking to me about his great love Mia, they grew up together, and she went to the US ahead of him. She sent him a letter and it had a picture in it of her holding a baby. He said his heart sank and a few days later he was on a ship to the US. He was afraid that she married and that was her baby. Turned out the baby was the people’s she was staying with. France’ was scared he had lost his true love forever. He told me those few days were hell for him. France’ gave me a Christmas present in 1985, it was a bottle of Crown Royal Scotch, vintage 1974, I kept that bottle sealed until 2005. The greatest gift France’ gave to me was he taught me the ability to read the face of an oscilloscope and how to discern the difference between noise and the signal you are expecting to see. It took me quite a few years to develop the skill, but I use all the time now. I know I tried his patience to no end sometimes, and I am certain if you could ask him he would admit it. There are many more stories and memories I have of working with this great man. When God called France’, Heaven became a much greater place.

Michael M. Malcewicz

From the Top 10 Archive

Shared by Maja Apolonia Rode on 6th August 2017

France was featured in the top 10 facts about Slovenia in this video from Top10Archive.

"Located just west of Croatia, south of Austria and sandwiched between Hungary and Italy lies the natural beauty of Slovenia. For this installment, we’re back on the road, making a stop at this European wonder! So get ready for the carnival, prepare the potica, and enjoy these top 10 facts about the land we know as Slovenia."

[Watch Video]

Slovene Inventor [RTVSLO News Article]

Shared by Maja Apolonia Rode on 8th July 2017

In the early days of computer technology, Francé came to Hewlett-Packard already as an established inventor and engineer. He participated in the company’s important development achievements and through his work contributed to the rise of Silicon Valley. He developed the renowned HP-35 pocket calculator and is the holder of . . . [read more]

Shared by David Leonhart on 3rd July 2017

Dear Mia, Ana & Maja,

I can't put into words how shocked and saddened I was to hear France had passed.

Although it was 37 yrs ago, I can 
still remember meeting France for the first time. He was big and intimidating and that handshake had this 17 year old boy wondering what he got himself into dating his daughter, Ana.  But I soon realized inside was a big kind man who loved and adored his family and two daughters.

Even many years later, every time I saw him he had that great smile on his face, a sparkle in his eye and then came the big, strong manly handshake. I loved it!  He had a heart of gold and always gave me that feeling he was truly happy to see me. We would always end up talking about technology, geeking out and ignoring everyone around us. He was always interested in what I was doing and we would dive into various discussions about how technology had changed from back when he was at HP and of course Sielox. I would always come away learning something and amazed at what he had developed so many many years ago. Now that I'm in the technology world, I realize that what he had developed was way ahead of his time.

France was truly one of a kind. I'm grateful for having known France and I'll always have my fond memories of our wonderful talks, his great boastful voice, bigger than life personality and of course that great handshake.

With love and deepest sympathy,


In memory of my great friend France

Shared by Zvone Sparovec on 2nd July 2017

Dragi France/Dear France,

It is so fresh in my mind when we first met downtown Los Altos that December 1989. It is almost 30 years ago and I knew right then this guy is something else, so real, fun, full of life and with such wisdom.

We connected right away and started playing your favorite sport -- tennis. For the next ten years every Tuesday evening was our time, first a game and then well deserved beers together. I remember how we screamed at each other when fighting for that point and then later worked out our differences with a beer at Tied house. Even if bad weather prevented our tennis game, but beer always happened because Tuesday evening was mandatory just for us. But not on Wednesday’s though so there would not be a conflict with your other engagement, meeting your best friend -- gospod Zvonko at Tied house every second Wednesday.

You became my American father, providing great advice, direction and support helping me in starting my life here in the Bay area. There was no Google search at that time, so you were my Bay area encyclopedia. Even when I moved back and forth to Slovenia a few times, you always tried to squeeze me into your busy agenda when visiting overseas.

I still remember how we were marching with other Slovenians at Union Square in San Francisco in 1991 trying to generate awareness for independence of Slovenia and its recognition. And how you were lobbying with your charisma and determination with San Mateo Congressman for speedy US recognition of independent Slovenia.

I vividly remember our ski trips to Lake Tahoe joining Ana on the slopes, all the great gatherings and barbeques at your house, so many times, organized by you, Mia, Maja and Ana, always having such a nice time… and of course, your mastering of the grill and the best ever čevapčiči. Thank you for sharing your own čevapčiči recipe with me!

I am so glad we were able to meet one last time at Tied house just before your final trip to Slovenia. All the same, we ordered beers and Mexican nachos. Usually you were the one with many questions for me, but this time it was the other way around -- I had more questions about you. Maybe because I did not see you for some time? I know a lot about your life and your great accomplishments and you were gladly with passion filling in more details, and it felt like so fresh in your mind… even remembering the things from your childhood.

Not sure how our discussion turned out that way but we had a very nice evening and time just flew by so fast (like always when we met). And upon leaving the Tied house that evening your hug was even stronger than ever before.

We will miss you France, rest in peace my friend!

Eulogy by Jure Leskovec

Shared by Jure Leskovec on 30th June 2017

Good afternoon. My name is Jure Leskovec. I am a member of Slovenian community in the Bay Area and a cofounder of the American Slovenian Education Foundation. I am honored to be in front of you and say a few a words about France and his life.

France Rode was born 83 years ago in a village of Nožice, next to Kamnik in Slovenia. He was the oldest of four children. Already as a boy, France showed hard work and intellectual brilliance. Due to the second world war his school got burned down but he studied hard at home, skipped a year, and in a single summer passed all the exams to start high school. France once told me he was very interested in studying mathematics, but after visiting electrical engineering laboratories, he decided to become an engineer. A decision he never regretted. His academic journey took him to universities in Ljubljana and Northwestern where he obtained engineering degrees, but his thirst for learning and challenging frontiers never stopped.

France's life was full of great achievements. In 1962 he started working at Hewlett Packard and he was one of the early pioneers that made Silicon Valley. France was a co-inventor of the HP calculator that revolutionized engineering, and held several patents in that area. He was co-inventor of the laptop at HP and was also one of the people who created the card that allows you to enter a hotel room without a key.

But above his great professional achievements, all of us appreciated France’s personality. France was a very happy, generous, and kind person. He lived a long and full life. He was loved by many, and was a friend to everyone. I first met France almost 20 years ago. As a young high-school student it was my first visit to the States. I came to the Silicon Valley for a summer internship and France was picking me up at the San Francisco Airport. I've never met him before and had no idea how he looked like, but after passing the passport control I quickly saw this big and happy Slovenian face. I immediately knew that this was France! I'll never forget that moment and all the generous help and advice I received from him ever after that.

France Rode was always full of energy, a booming personality, the life of the party. For example, a few months ago we organized a fundraiser dinner for the American Slovenian Education Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio. France and his wife Mija flew all the way to Cleveland attend the event. After the dinner was over, we were all tired and wanted to go to sleep but France, always full of energy, convinced us to go for a drink in the hotel bar. There some girls started flirting with us and France handled it like a pro. Much better than we youngsters ever did. 

France was also the pillar of the Slovenian community in the Bay Area. Whether at Slovenian Hall or after mass at Church of Nativity, he was always available to everyone. France valued education and was very much willing to give back to his community. He was a great supporter and the benefactor of American Slovenian Education Foundation. He was member of the advisory board and always willing to help. Without him and his support we would not be able to create the American Slovenian Education Foundation, which offers educational programs for Slovenian students in the United States.

France was also a man who always had time to speak to a young person, to mentor an emerging scientist or an entrepreneur. He enjoined being among young people. He also really believed in giving educational opportunities to young people. With his wife Mija they many times opened their home to Slovenian students, who lived in their house all summer. This experience really transformed students’ lives and they will be forever grateful to France and Mija. 

Most of all France was a husband to his beloved Mia, who keeps the flame of the Slovenian language burning with her classes at Slovenian Hall. I remember how France told me a story of him leaving Slovenia on a boat, traveling across the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean to be finally united with Mija and later marrying her. Seeing them together was always an affirmation of a happy marriage of two people who truly love.

It isn’t possible to put into words the importance of friendship and how much France meant to us all. France positively influenced my life as well as the lives of so many others. I will miss him with all of my heart. France, thank you for your friendship and for being such a good and generous person. We will always remember you!

In Memory of My Friend Francé Rodé

Shared by Maja Apolonia Rode on 29th June 2017

A letter from Bill Crowley, co-creator of the HP-80 business calculator:

I just returned home from attending the beautifully warm memorial service for my dear friend of many years, France´.

What I brought back was a more complete measure of the man, why he and I seemed to have had as much in common well past our mutual involvement in technology at HP and most of all, an appreciation of the Slovenian culture from which he came.

When he would visit me here in Idaho, he often suggested that I should plan a trip to Slovenia since there were many geographic similarities to McCall, where I lived. This I plan to do.

I first heard of France´ in the early 1970’s through Maddie Schneider, Bill Hewlett’s devoted secretary. Since his name was France´, I assumed he was somehow of French origin, and first introduced myself by asking “comment ça va?” to which I received a most puzzled look like “who in the world are you?”

By that point in my HP career I had become accustomed to the occasional pomp and puffery of a few of the ranking HP executives. In contrast, I found France’s earnest warmth a breath of fresh air, and in stark contrast to the more politically measured dialogue I witnessed at the executive coffee pot.

Well beyond the back and forth that transpires in any scientific endeavor, I began to find far more in common with France than I would have ever imagined. While we each had our separate areas of expertise, it soon became obvious that we shared far more than technical overlaps.

There was a humble beginning in both of our childhoods, his on a farm in Slovenia and mine on a ranch in rural Texas. Neither of us had indoor plumbing, and our work ethic was forged by the daily chores assigned to everyone who sat at the dinner table.

It’s difficult to say if having to use an “out house” as a child serves as a prerequisite for innovation or an inventive spirit. It is, however, beyond doubt that it definitely teaches a resourceful skill set needed to make things work and function better!

However it came to be where we were in those heady and halcyon days of the 1970s after the HP80’s introduction, the indelible connection between the two of us was always there, no matter the physical distance between us.

My early association with France´ at HP was odd in the sense that someone from a group of “bean counters” at the other end of the building would work so well with one of the guys in HP Labs. France´ made that so very easy.

With hindsight, I would have to say that he was, in no small way, responsible for me abandoning a perfectly respectable career as an HP financial executive, and instead pursuing the dreams of the “closet nerd” that I am.

I’ll miss you my Friend.

Eulogy by Hing Lee

Shared by Maja Apolonia Rode on 29th June 2017

Hello. My name is Hing Lee, a neighbor, coworker, and friend of France. His lovely wife, Mia, asked me to say a few words and I am deeply honored.

France lived a big life. By that, I mean he lived a very fulfilling life: a loving husband and father, a leader in the community, and with many, many who would be honored to call him a dear and close friend.

France was a big man. With a big stature, a big voice, and a big handshake. But to me, the most important thing is something we physically cannot see, but often felt. That is, his gigantic heart.

France is a person filled with passion. Early childhood had been especially difficult, growing up in a farm during WWII and the German occupation of Slovenia. He believed that these challenges and struggles taught him the significance of determination and hard work.
In his personal pursuit of the American dream, France arrived in the U.S. through many obstacles and with limited English skills. He demonstrated how successful one can be by following one’s passion.

France’s passion was not only for himself or his immediate family. He truly enjoyed reaching out and helping others in need, as France takes a lot of pride in helping out the local Slovenian community. He often dedicates his personal time and shares his beautiful home to visiting scholars and dignitaries from Slovenia. One of the things that he looks forward to the most is driving his wife, Mia, to San Francisco for teaching the weekly held Slovene language class.

Isaac Newton said … "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

France has been a giant in the engineering and scientific community. His inventions have paved the way for many successful products. They include the world’s first pocket scientific calculator, the first pocket business calculator, and the first integrated circuit made at Hewlett Packard; the first workable RFID wireless lock, at Sielox; and innovative GPS technologies at both Trimble and eRide.
To me, France has been a dear friend, a business partner, and a mentor. A true giant, always with welcoming shoulders.

It is only natural to be overwhelmed with grief and pain upon France’s passing. I am still struggling with a deep feeling of emptiness knowing that I will forever miss his infectious smile.

But let us not be saddened by France’s sudden departure. Let us celebrate the precious times he had shared with us. Let us celebrate his generosities and his contributions. For France would have wanted us to live a happy and fulfilling life as he had and let us help carry on his legacy in helping others.

God has summoned him away for a purpose … my guess is for France to share his gentle shoulders with many, many others in need.

My Wonderful Daddy Is Gone

Shared by Maja Apolonia Rode on 29th June 2017

By Ana Rodé

To my dear friends, who have been so kind to share their love for me and my father, through texts, phone calls, emails, hospital visits, prayers...

I am so thankful for your support in helping me through the challenge of unexpectedly losing a parent.

Here's the story if you haven't heard it already:

Late Tuesday morning, my father had a stroke while playing tennis, a sport he enjoyed a couple of times a week.  When rushed to the hospital, he was breathing on his own, but then placed on a ventilator to assist him.  He was later found to have had 60-70% of his brain affected, with a slim chance of a "quality of life" recovery.  His chances diminished further, when his brain swelling began to compromise the basic life functions.

Wednesday evening, soon after we pulled breathing, he passed with ease and in peace.

Even with 82 full & vibrant years, he still left us all too soon!

With all his enthusiasm, energy and strength, I was sure my father would live to ski many more years with me.

Seems that he perhaps orchestrated his exit in his way and at just the right time:

Within the last month of his life... he was able to spend time with me and marvel at the completed camper van conversion we had constructed together... the elevated bed he built by himself and the kitchen cabinets we installed didn't collapse, even after a winter of driving snowy bumpy mountain roads!;

10 days prior... he had been traveling with Mia, my mother and the love of his life for over 56 yrs, enjoying his usual abundance of the goodies available in his homeland, including the friends & family he cherished so much and probably that plum brandy that he swears he can taste through the burning sensation in his mouth;

Near the end of the trip... this visit was heightened by receiving yet another Electrical Engineering Achievement Award, but this time honored by the President of Slovenia;

A few days prior to his death... he was able to reconnect with my sister Maja, who happened to be home, after traveling for 3 months;

The morning of his stroke... he enjoyed his Peet's coffee with my mother, his daily Sodoku puzzle and the amazing, always appreciated, and ever changing view of the hills out the floor-to-ceiling kitchen window;

At the time of his stroke... he was in a beautiful and familiar location with his regular group of tennis buddies, who were strong enough and able to help him;

And half an hour prior to his death... he held on for his best friend's arrival, as it was their day to meet for beers, just as they had been doing at the same bar, every 2 weeks, over the last 20 years;

And in the end... with tennis ball placed in his hand, listening to one of his favorite songs, and his 3 most adored girls and best friend by his side, he passed peacefully and without extended complications, almost as if not to burden those left behind.

I feel his final day was like a party he would have wanted... with his family & friends together, celebrating with Slovenian wine, toasting to Father's Day, holding hands, singing songs, sharing stories, yet with a solemn and nurturing undertone heightened by the visit of harpist and priest... lots of variety, joy and good energy shared with people whom he loved.

He wasn't awake throughout this last day, but I'm in no doubt that he felt the love and support, from the worldwide abundance of caring friends, just as he had been feeling throughout his lifetime.

If you met him once, your hand was probably crushed by his handshake. 

If you heard him speak softly, you could have been across the room.

If you drove with him, you may have feared for your life.

but once you realized he was a warm-hearted and joyful spirit, you'd look forward to seeing him again...

and when you got to know him enough to realize you might have disagreed on politics, religion or whether to take hwy 280 or 101, any tension would get squeezed out of you with one of his hugs.

So when I told my friend Gordon of my sadness in not having been able to say goodbye, he replied: "We can't always say goodbye, but every time I saw him, he would say goodbye with the biggest strongest hug, that lasts a lifetime"
Words cannot express how I appreciate witnessing so much love for my father... not only from those visiting the hospital, but also the sincere sentiments that have flooded in.

Thank you for each and every expression of your affection for him, your condolence, the memories you've shared and/or concern for my well being. I feel fortunate to have such a support system available to me and would like you to know that I am doing OK most of the time, as planning Thursday's Mass & Memorial gathering has been a great distraction for the time being. 

In August, there will be another gathering at the Slovenian church in San Francisco, when his friend is able to be there to provide a mass in Slovenian. When I'm able to return again, we'll have a private burial. And at some point, my mother, sister and I will travel to Slovenia again, as the various supportive connections he has there have asked to come together.  

The celebrations of his life will continue for a long time, just as he would have wanted to enjoy.

The Story of My Father’s Passing

Shared by Maja Apolonia Rode on 29th June 2017

by Maja Apolonia Rodé

My dad had a massive stroke on Tuesday morning at the tennis court. He collapsed when getting up from a break in the game, then lost consciousness and was in a coma from that point on. He was gone about 36 hours later. He had always said he wanted a quick death, so this was the way he wanted to go — and doing something he loved to do. He was 82 years old.

My mom and my sister and I were there with him at the hospital, and many loving friends came to say goodbyes during the day on Wednesday. Lots of love and gratitude and tenderness in the space among us all. We said goodbyes, shared memories, and occasionally sang a familiar and sweet Slovenian song for him — a children's song with the often-repeated words "We like each other" (which can also mean “We love each other.")

Close to the end, my sister brought him some things from home that he loved — a tennis ball, his favorite hat, fun family photos, and his well-used barbeque apron with words printed on it: "it's in every sLOVEnian" (with a heart around the LOVE). She also brought a bottle of Slovenian wine and we shared an early Father's Day toast. Later, with an intimate circle of loved ones by his side, my father passed away to the sounds of Ave Maria, one of his favorite pieces of music.

A few intuitive friends have shared good reports: His spirit is light and peaceful and has transitioned to "a really really nice place" with a sense of wonder about it all — and with continued love for everyone he loved in his lifetime.

My mother, sister and I are taking great comfort through your heartfelt words, offers of kindness, and practical support.

Thank you for being part of my father's community of love, which, even with his many accomplishments, is the greatest gift he could have given us all. We are deeply grateful and we will miss him.

Share a Story