“There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.”
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
“Love is the emblem of eternity; it confounds all notion of time; effaces all memory of a beginning, all fear of an end.”
Germaine de Stael
Dana Helen Townson, 49, passed away peacefully at home in San Jose, CA, on December 21, 2011, following a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. Her beloved wife Amy was holding her hand as she left this world.
Dana was born to Helen Ann and Andrew J. Townson II in Rochester, New York. She was their second child. The family relocated to Dallas, Texas, when Dana was only one year old. Shortly after arriving in “Big D,” she barely survived a near-fatal bout of pneumonia. When baby Dana’s temperature spiked to 107 degrees, only the courageous actions of her dad and the family’s pediatrician got the fever back down. They saved her life by pouring a bucket of ice over her scalding body. After that, Dana and her Dad became as close as a father and daughter could ever be.
After their parents divorced in 1969, Dana and her brother Drew accompanied mom back to Rochester, NY, settling in the all-American village of Pittsford, right near the old Erie Canal. At home, Dana was busy with her inquiring mind and her screwdriver, doing helpful things such as completely disassembling—then repairing and reassembling—the family lawnmower at the tender age of eight. In school Dana was a double-threat, excelling at both sports and music. On the athletic fields she was at the top of her game in softball and soccer. In the after-school backyards around their neighborhood, Drew and Dana made a deft passing/receiving football duo, always imagining they were the Dallas Cowboys.
Without a doubt, the thing that young Dana did better than almost anybody was play the alto saxophone. While at the Allendale Columbia School in the late 1970s, Dana’s outstanding musicianship earned her top honors and a trip to Europe to represent the USA’s best and brightest young players. Dana was also a rocking drummer, often jamming on the kit while Drew blasted the electric guitar. In ’77 the family formed the jazzy Townson Trio, with mom Helen Ann on piano, Drew on guitar and Dana on the sax. They performed songs like “Satin Doll” and “Misty” for patients in residential cancer-care facilities around Rochester.
Dana made regular, often extended visits to her Dad in Englewood, Florida, where she finished high school, graduating from Lemon Bay High in 1980.
In 1981, Dana made Texas home once again, attending the prestigious music program at Denton’s North Texas State University (now known as the University of North Texas). While in school, Dana joined brother Drew in a new venture as a recording studio engineer, first doing sessions at the family-owned Castle Audio facility in Carrollton, then later partnering with Greg Ellenwood to launch Alley Cat Productions in Denton, which was one of the earliest facilities to integrate hard disk recording with Apple computers and ProTools. Dana worked with many talented artists in the vibrant Texas music scene, including numerous well-known performers such as Willie Nelson, Brave Combo and Deep Blue Something. Her studio was featured on the cover of Mix Magazine, July 1983.
It was music and audio engineering (and Austin singer-songwriter Nancy Scott) that led Dana and Amy to find each other. Their life together was truly one of deep resonance and perfect harmony. The happiest day of both their lives was their amazing wedding in 1993. Even decades later, many of the over 200 guests often comment that it was the most wonderful wedding they’ve ever attended. What made it so special? Maybe the beautiful setting in a gazebo on Lake Lewisville, maybe the two glowing brides in beautiful white gowns escorted by dashing guys in white tails with teal cummerbunds, maybe the fabulous big band (with singing bride!), maybe the great food and many cases of champagne. But surely the most special thing of all was the love they expressed and celebrated, on that day and every day “until death do we part.”
After completing an Electronic Engineering degree at DeVry University, Dana worked at Little Stage Lighting in Dallas, Texas, building, installing, maintaining and repairing professional lighting systems for museums, theaters, schools, churches and commercial businesses. Clients included Texas StarPlex, Morton Myerson Symphony Center, Six Flags Over Texas, Will Rogers Coliseum, Dallas Museum of Art and Kimball Art Museum.
By the early 1990s, Dana had found her true calling: Computers. At Associated Technical Services in Dallas, Dana learned to fix Apple computers of every kind, soon becoming both the Service Manager for ATS and the “hardware goddess” for everybody. Dana loved being a hero to her customers, repairing their Macs, helping them with software issues and tech support, restoring their networks, or giving them the good news that their precious data had been rescued. Through her work, Dana expressed both her passion for Apple technology and for helping people.
It was around the same time that Dana started a love affair with Texas barbeque. Her talent with a wood-smoker was undeniable. She and Amy even formed a competitive BBQ team, cleverly named “Smokus Pocus Magical BBQ” which was officially recognized by the Kansas City BBQ Society and the Lone Star BBQ Society. Though they were accomplished at many different meats, the team’s award-winning ribs were their specialty. Those succulent, melt-in-your-mouth racks will be missed by anybody who was lucky enough to enjoy them. When it came to BBQ, Dana had a gift.
In 2006, Dana made the move from Associated Technical Services to Apple Computer itself, being hired as a Mac Genius for the Willow Bend Apple Retail Store and moving to Southlake Town Square when the new Apple store opened there. Every day she handled throngs of Mac, iPhone and iPod owners at the store’s Genius Bar, an extremely demanding job that requires both technical excellence and great communications skills. What made Dana a superstar Genius was extreme caring—about customers, colleagues and computers.
In the words of one customer, “I just wanted to give a big ‘Thank You!’ to Dana at the Genius Bar. Great products cannot happen without great people, and I think that Apple is lucky to have such an outstanding employee as Dana. I know she went to the limit to save my data, and I cannot express enough appreciation for that…your team is the best in my book!”
Like everything else she did in life, Dana rose up to the cream-of-the-crop at Apple. Few have embraced the Apple “i-Life” culture as passionately and energetically as Dana did. She performed so admirably that she was noticed by executives at Apple’s corporate headquarters in Cupertino, California, and began serving as Genius Guest Trainer. Even Steve Jobs himself was aware of Dana’s talent. In 2010, Dana was chosen out of hundreds of potential candidates to be given the prestigious position of Genius Trainer at the Cupertino HQ. She and Amy moved there in May of 2011, settling into a cozy house in nearby San Jose. Working in the rarefied air of the Apple “Mothership” was Dana’s proudest accomplishment. Dana’s dream had come true; she had achieved her biggest goal. While doing that, she was also helping others achieve their goals of learning to be Geniuses for Apple: solving problems, troubleshooting machines, applying creativity and enriching lives.
As a person, it can be said wholeheartedly that Dana lived life to the fullest. No gathering was complete until Dana was there. Always happy, easy-going and easy with a smile, Dana could make a friend-for-life in five minutes. She was warm, generous and selfless to a fault, always putting other’s needs before her own. Her love for her family and friends was obvious and unconditional. Very few lights have ever glowed as brightly as Dana’s. She was a rare and radiant soul in the truest sense, and her loss can never be replaced in the hearts of those of us who knew her and loved her. There never has been, nor will there ever be, anyone else quite like Dana Townson.
Dana’s wishes were for cremation and interment in the family mausoleum at historic Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York. (She also asked her friend Sandi to take a little “Travel Danes” of her ashes to Jimmy Buffet concerts every year.)
Dana’s love for us all should be celebrated and memorialized with friends and family, and we definitely will honor her with music, good food and lively spirits, which were hallmarks of her life. Plans will be announced later for commemorative events in Rochester, NY, Dallas, TX, and Silicon Valley.
Should anyone feel inspired to make a charitable gift in her honor, the causes she always supported personally include Guiding Eyes for the Blind and a variety of music and arts organizations.
Dana is predeceased by her mother Helen Ann and her father Andrew. She is survived by her loving wife, Amy Quate of San Jose, CA; brother Andrew J. Townson III, and beloved nephew and godson, Drew, age 4, of Boston MA.