In Memoriam: Pete Zilliox

Whether you worked with Pete Zilliox at Hughes or Rockwell in the ‘70’s, Dal Sat in the ‘80’s, Zilliox & Associates or Andrew Corporation in the ‘90’s, or SatProf in the 2000’s and beyond, I can guarantee two things: 1. You learned something, sometimes a lot, from Pete, and 2. You enjoyed your work and time with Pete.

Back in the old days, you looked for a job in the newspaper. As a newly graduated engineering student in 1992, I was perfectly qualified for the job in the tiny Dallas Morning News advertisement for Zilliox & Associates stating “no satellite communications experience necessary.” This was my introduction to the satcom industry in general, and Pete Zilliox specifically. I was now the “Associate” of Zilliox & Associates.

As the Associate, I worked with Pete on everything consulting engineers do like satellite system design, proposals, installation, testing, and commissioning. It took me awhile to figure out that not everybody in the industry had actually worked with Pete at Dal Sat, it only seemed like it. If I had a nickel for every time somebody said to me “Oh, you work for Pete Zilliox? I worked with him at Dal Sat,” I’d have retired in luxury long ago. It also took we awhile to figure out that not everybody in the satcom industry walked around doing antenna gain and link budget calculations in their heads. Pete was one of the few, and when things got more complicated, there was always his trusty HP15C calculator to fall back on.

Not knowing something, or how to do something specific, was never a sin with Pete. You could always learn from him or figure it out together. But with Pete, acting like you knew something when you didn’t was foolish, and that wasn’t suffered gladly.

One day an un-suffered fool early in my career said to me “Your buddy Zeeliox is at it again,” intentionally mispronouncing Pete’s name when he was arguing for something. This quickly became a badge of honor and what I called Pete from then on.

Like many in the industry, my satcom career has had a lot of twists and turns, but it has always been intertwined with Pete’s. I’ve worked for him, he’s worked for me, and we’ve worked together. His favorite job title ever was Senior System Scientist and his favorite group name was The Center of Excellence. Obviously, when he and Ralph Brooker started SatProf in 2004, Pete was the Senior System Scientist at SatProf’s west coast Center of Excellence. It’s been an honor and a pleasure to know and work with Pete, and I’m proud to call him a friend.

So, please lift a glass today to toast my buddy Zeeliox. He was one of a kind, and he will be missed.

Join the Conversation

  1. So special. Thanks Greg.

  2. Well said Greg, I am very sorry to hear of Pete’s passing. I had the privilege of working with him for a short period of time. I certainly enjoyed it and I learned alot. Rest in peace Pete.

  3. Greg, I am sure like myself you too do not have enough words to express deep gratitude and list endless memories of Pete. We pray to Almighty to rest him in Peace & Our condolences to everyone in the family and to all of us in Satcom industry who were with Pete.

    I have many experiences working with Pete and Pete working with me. His amazing personality, knowledge, encouragement and hand holding will be missed, Void, no one can fill.

    It is only because of Pete that MBC remains deeply coordinated with SatProf in it . He had vision and advised me to enhance collaborations. Hope we will be able to live upto this expectations and fulfil his vision.

  4. Spot on Greg! Pete was one of a kind, and I was very sad to hear the news of his passing on 8th August. He became a good and dear friend to me too, while working with him in Sat Com for Andrew Corporation. We had many laughs and good times, and with you and Ralph too! I will certainly raise a glass to him tonight, and all the happy memories!

  5. I joined the Satcom Industry after I got out of the US Marine Corps and went into the sales side of the industry. One of my first Sales call was with Pete Zilliox and he peppered me with technical questions only a scientist and professor would know and then asked me if I knew the answers… Of course, I looked him square in the eyes and said I have no F*&^%$#* clue what your just said but would you like to buy some High Power Amplifiers? From that day forward he became a friend, mentor, teacher and just a great man to talk to. I will miss Pete, and like all of us in this crazy Satcom Industry, a toast to another Satcom icon that has carved his legacy in our industry. Rest in Peace Pete….

  6. Wayne Spring, W6IRD

    It would be hard to add to this memoriam without echoing the wonderful person that Pete was. He was extremely smart, organized, dedicated, generous, and a wonderful friend. We spent many hours discussing electronics, ham radio, and life in general. I will miss my wonderful friend forever.

  7. To illustrate Pete’s great sense of humour I can tell you that he once said to me: “Cole, you’re too stupid to know how hard this really is”. …I hope it was humour!
    At that time (~2003) we were working for Andrew Corp’ discussing development of small tracking antennas.
    On another occasion he and I rode two tiny motorbikes up a volcano on Sicily called Etna! We were freezing! On that trip he explained that small European cars (In the USA) had the acronym “POS” …I’m still too stupid to understand what that means!
    Another time, me Zilliox and Geen had an encounter on a business trip near Washington with a SWAT team… I learned what that acronym stands for right there!
    …I hope you’ll forgive the British spelling – Pete never did 🙂

  8. I was very sad to hear the news. I will miss him. Rest in peace Pete.

  9. Pete was certainly the cream of the crop. If you ever told him, “ Surely you had heard ….” he famously would respond “ Don’t call me Shirley “.
    All I can say is “ I HATE it when that happens.”
    He will be missed and we are the poorer without him.

  10. I am shocked and saddened to learn of Pete Z’s passing. May his soul Rest In Peace. We were friends from the early Dalsat days and we worked together during those years when he so ably assisted us at Vertex Communications. Over the last several years we would catch up at the various shows and I always got a kick when I would see what I called his ‘silly grin’. He will definitely be missed, but never forgotten.

  11. I am truly sorry to learn of Pete’s passing, he was such a great guy! I met Pete at Dalsat, way, way back in the day… I’d only been in TX for a few months, having been laid off from the company that moved me here and I also found that job from the Dallas Morning News. It my first Satcom job and I honestly didn’t know when I started if Satcom would be remain my chosen career. Even when it was evident that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing Pete never made me feel bad about it – oh, he’d tell me when and how I went wrong but not in a condescending way, he’d even let you struggle a bit to make sure you got the point when you learned it. He was an awesome mentor; his patience and guidance were abundant. When I left a job under difficult circumstances several years later and was at a crossroads Pete reached out to me and offered me one with him, that opportunity changed the course of my life and career and I am forever grateful. Pete was an exceptional judge of character and capability, if he recommended you it was an honor and if he sent someone your way you knew they were good. He had a wicked sense of humor, a quick smile and a genuine heart. Pete was one-of-a-kind and I was lucky to call him my Boss, Colleague and Friend. I know that he touched a lot of lives and we were all blessed to know him.

  12. Darlith Rolin Batchanou (GVF Examiner)

    The GVF training program has changed the face of satellite communications especially for us in Africa, who more often had great difficulty in having quality training due to lack of adequate infrastructure in our countries and lack of financial means to go to the West . Today knowing that Mr. Pete Zilliox one of the pioneers of this high quality online training, is no more, leaves me a tear. Thank you for this tribute Greg.

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