A life of work, love and good humour

Henrique José Pérez Pérez was born on January 4th 1943 in Caracas, Venezuela. He was the fourth child of distinguished Civil Engineer, José Henrique Pérez Pérez, and talented Artist, Carlota Pérez Arenas. He had 3 older sisters: Carlota, María and Graciela. His younger brother Simón was born the following year.

As a young boy Henry was very active and bold, always challenging himself to do difficult things: climbing the highest tree, crossing a river jumping from rock to rock, roller skating down the steepest hill or climbing up on roofs. On one occasion he stepped on a wasp hive under a roof tile and jumped down two stories unharmed, except for the wasp bites that had him swollen in pain for several days.

He was brilliant at school, loved maths and science and worked hard between races, adventures and games. He became a champion at spinning tops and marbles; he played baseball and football and races, excelling in all. He also participated in all sorts of table games from Chess (in which his father was champion) to scrabble, which was his mother’s favourite plus Ludo and Chinese checkers with the kids. He didn’t have a dull moment.

His early education moved with the family: Caracas, Buenos Aires, New York and Trinidad. After finishing high school (A-levels) in Trinidad, he went to Sheffield University in the UK to follow in his father’s footsteps as a Civil Engineer.

His work life as an engineer began with a scheme to control flooding in the Orinoco Delta. Shortly thereafter he began working on the Guri Dam and subsequently spent most of his professional life working on hydroelectric projects in positions of increasing authority and responsibility.  At the age of 30 he became Chief Resident Engineer at Guri, which at that time was not only the world’s largest hydroelectric installation but also had an installed capacity ten times that of the typical UK coal fired power station then being commissioned.

In the 1980’s he began a long association with large North American companies, initially with construction company Atkinson and then with major international consultants Harza (subsequently MWH). This required many business trips to the USA and subsequently led to extended on site residency periods in Pakistan, Iceland and the USA supervising world class hydroelectric projects which were both technically and environmentally very demanding.  He worked in Pakistan for 5 years as Chief Resident Engineer on the Ghazi Barotha Dam followed for two years by the contrasting and challenging Karahnjukar dam, high up on the largely frozen central Iceland plateau, as Construction Manager. It was the tallest concrete face rock fill dam in Europe needing a virtually unique and complex design.  Following a year-long three dam project on the US Ohio River, he returned to Pakistan for six years.

Most significantly, he was Site Manager for three years on the New Bong Escape Hydro Project in Kashmir funded by the Asian Development Bank. Due to Henry’s extensive management and technical skills it was completed three months ahead of schedule, within budget and with an effective generating capacity some 10% greater than design. This would have been a major achievement anywhere, but was particularly so in a region more noted for delays and budget overruns.  He was working on the World Bank funded Tarbela 4th Extension Hydropower project, when unexpectedly he passed away, just before his 73rd birthday, without ever considering retirement.

He did not limit himself to his speciality in constructing huge dams; he was curious and competent beyond that. With his brother Simon, a Mechanical Engineer, he worked in the design of an energy saving automobile engine that was awarded two patents and is now in trials. They had incredible fun together, thinking, designing, discovering, testing, writing the patent and then going to Detroit to present it at a huge event.

Henry was also a great human being, a loving husband, father and grandfather. As a friend, he was loyal, open-hearted and lots of fun. He had a joke for every occasion and could keep you laughing at his jokes for hours. He also had the sort of English humour that makes funny remarks taking advantage of the double meaning of words. He never missed one!

While at Sheffield he met his future wife Patricia, neé Rowland, they were married in Caracas in 1967. They had three children. Henrique Alejandro (Henry Alex) who married Yomaira Torres and gave him a grandchild, Valeria. The second, Michelle, married David Foeller and they had twins, Luke and Charles. The youngest, Andres (Andrew) gave him two grandchildren, Rita and Erik, with Szilvia Pietraskó. Henry was a wonderful father, ready to help his children in all sorts of ways, and a loving and joyful grandfather.

From the Venezuelan interior at Guri to the Himalayan foothills of Pakistan, Pat went everywhere with Henry. With houses in Caracas and Florida, a son in the UK, a daughter and another son in the USA, their all too few holidays usually involved extensive ‘long haul’ air travel.  Both Henry and Pat loved playing golf wherever they were and won many prizes while making lifelong friends particularly at the Valle Arriba and Izcaragua Country Club. Thanks to Pat, Henry was able to enjoy his Venezuelan ‘arepas’ everywhere, which she made to his special ultrathin specification.

As a colleague at work, and as a manager, he shared his knowledge and experience generously. He was a born teacher and enjoyed helping young engineers grow and understand processes deeply. He made huge efforts to find effective ways of transmitting knowledge. His brother-in-law, David Garford, Maria’s husband, says Henry is the only person who could make concrete sound sexy.

Henry will be missed by all who came in contact with him, but particularly by his loving wife and life partner Pat, his children and grandchildren, his Mother, who is approaching 100 as well as his aunt Elena, and his siblings, Carlota, Maria and Simon (Grace had passed away in the 1980s and is now with him in heaven).  All his nephews and nieces will also remember him fondly.

His children will do all in their power to honour his memory with deeds, his colleagues will emulate his wisdom and there will be many young engineers who will follow in his footsteps providing carbon-free electricity to the world.

Henry was a joy to have around. He will be missed by many and forgotten by none.