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By: Harald van Breederode

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Remembering Lex de Haan

Posted by Harald van Breederode on February 1, 2009

Today it is three years ago that my dear friend Lex de Haan passed away after fighting an unfair battle against cancer. I know that many of you knew Lex and know what he meant for the Oracle community in general and for me in particular. Lex proposed my OakTable membership for example. I had the pleasure to work very closely with Lex on numerous occasions and today I like to share some of my memories with you.

My oldest memory goes back to the time when Lex was delivering seminars all over Europe and I was an Unix system administrator in the Dutch data center. I had no clue about what Lex was doing and to be honest I didn’t always understood why he needed things that no one else needed, like a FTP server to store his course material on. Lex always challenged me with very difficult to fulfill requests. Years later when I became a DBA instructor myself I begun to understand what Lex was doing and that he was actually a very nice and brilliant guy.

We really start to work together after I attended the Oracle9i New Features Train-The-Trainer (TTT) course held in Istanbul Turkey where Lex was one of the instructors. When it was time to upgrade this course from 9iR1 to 9iR2 Lex requested me to become part of the project team to take care of four lessons. I must admit that Lex was a very pleasant boss to work for and we became close friends.

By the time I was progressing to blindness, Lex left Oracle to start his own company called Natural-Join. When I had to attend the Oracle10g RAC TTT held in Paris I requested Lex to join me and we had a great time together. I had just started mobility training in order to learn how to walk with a mobility cane (white stick) and this was my first trip using the cane. Since both Lex and I are quite tall we both walk very quick. We were joking the whole week about me walking into someone’s back and let them trip over my mobility cane. Heading back home we were a bit late when we crossed the Gare du Nord railway station walking very fast not paying attention to other travelers. So suddenly there was a Frenchman lying on the floor in front of us who had tripped over my mobility cane. When he was back on his feet he apologized by saying “Sorry, I did not see you” and I responded with “I didn’t see you either because I am blind”. When we continued our rush to the train I discovered that my very expensive mobility cane was broken into two pieces, so I had to walk at Lex his arm for the rest of the day. It took us quite a while before we were able to stop laughing.
The months that followed Lex assisted me learning how to teach without sight and he wrote some PowerPoint macros for me to make it easier to use it. And he came up with the brilliant idea to use magnets on the whiteboard making it possible for me to find back what I wrote and also to use them while explaining things. As of today I still use the magnets and PowerPoint macros.

My last memory is from the day I had to say farewell to Lex while he was treated in the hospital. By that time the cancer had begun to affect his brain and Lex was in a bad condition when I visited him for the very last time. He was mostly asleep but woke up from time to time having a clear moment. When he realized I was there he took my mobility cane and while touching every centimeter of it he started a long monologue about what a brilliant wonderful piece of modern technology it was and that he certainly would choose the same model if he needed one himself. Four days later Lex passed away…

For more Lex memories please visit this Lex in Memoriam page on the OakTable site.


9 Responses to “Remembering Lex de Haan”

  1. Juliette Nuijten said

    Hi Harald,

    I’m moved by the fact that you are keeping Lex’s memory alive. I really appreciate that. Three years may sound long to outsiders, but for us, (me,his wife and you, one of his real friends) it feels like it was yeasterday. I still remember that Lex told me the story of what had happened at Gare du Nord in Paris that day. You have changed that story a little I have to say. So I will tell the whole story on your blog now. Lex told me that you had asked him to help you bumping into tall, young and beautiful blondes as a part of your training. With no succes as I understood. So next time Harald, please tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth :-)
    Yesterday we have talked to each other on the phone for over half an hour and and at the end we both agreed on the fact that at least for us, Lex has made a difference.


  2. Heleen said

    Hi Harald,

    Juliette told me about your blog and it made me tear up completely. It makes me so happy to know there are still people that miss my dad just as I do.
    I also remember the part with the cane at the hospital, he said lots of the deepest most wonderful stuff at the end. I will never forget.
    I really miss him, but I know that I am not alone.
    Thank you for keeping his memory alive.


  3. Toon Koppelaars said


    I concur with Juliette: Lex told me the “bumping into french blond women on purpose” story too. And I’m sure he chose nothing but the really, really pretty ones for you :-)

    The memory with Lex that pops into my mind right now is that “bad and good news” day sometime at the end of summer 2005. The day that he visited me and brought both the awfull news of his disease, as well as the good news of wanting to write one more book. And of course the many meetings that followed in the months thereafter while working on this book project (during one of which he told me the gare-du-nord story).

    Needless to say, Lex definitely made a difference for me as well. Without the book, I might never have started the RuleGen adventure.

    (Lex’ last project member) Toon

  4. Mark Bobak said

    Hi Harold,

    I didn’t know Lex as well as you, or many of the other folks posting and reading here, but, Lex had the ability to make even a new acquaintance feel like a friend he had known for years. I chatted w/ Lex via email a few times, and I think I met him in person, briefly at Hotsos (can’t remember which year) and at one or two UKOUG conferences, but I’ll always be thankful that I made the Utrecht trip in 2005. I had a chance to spend more than a few brief minutes with him, see his home, and meet Juliette. Though it was not known to me at the time, that was to be our last meeting.

    If folks are interested, some photos from the 2005 trip are on my flickr account, available here:

    Utrecht Pub


  5. Connor said

    Beautiful memories of a great guy! I’ll never forget that booming baritone around the OakTable :-)

  6. Daniel Fink said

    I shall always remember the last time I saw Lex. I was in Austin Texas on a consulting assignment and chose a local brewpub for dinner. I was sitting alone and looked up to see a familiar face…I immediately looked back to my paper thinking “That looks like Lex, but Lex is in Utrecht, not Austin Texas”. After my slow mind processed that for a moment, I looked back up and realized that it actually was Lex. I joined him and Karen Morton for a great meal and conversation. A short time later I learned of his cancer.

    Later that year, I carried one of his mini Oak Tables to the top of Kala Pattar (5595 meters) in the Himalayas. When I took it out of my pack to get a picture, Papa Dawa (our climbing guide) looked puzzled until I explained that this was in honor of a great man and friend who was going to pass beyond.

    Thank you Juliette for your hospitality last year. Being able to visit Lex’s final resting place was special.

    His spirit and teachings live on in those who taught and those whom he called friend and colleague.

  7. Kate Farrow said

    I too thought of Lex on 1st February. One remarkable thing I remember Harald saying about him was: if you worked together with Lex on the Oracle Database, you thought this must be his only passion – he spent so much time on it and knew so much. However, if you listended to his wife and daughters then you heard that he also found time to be a great family man. During one of the funeral speeches we heard that Lex was also passionate about his work for the Dutch Bach Society. Whatever he did, he did 100%.

  8. I was lucky enough to be the last person to talk to Lex apart from his two wonderful daughters and the wonderful Juliette, who spent the last 24 hours with him.

    During the hour we had (until he told me it was time to go because now there was 24 hours left) was strange and wonderful. We shared memories and crazy stories, I had brought greetings from many friends and read them aloud, and he gave me a tie with Asterix & Obelix and some other stuff that meant something between us.

    Then he somehow – without me really noticing it – repeated something he’d been saying in the weeks leading up to 1st February 2006 – he counted to three with his fingers while saying “one-two-six”.

    The OakTable Network, by the way, held a global 5 minutes quiet at the moment Lex died and had email contact throughout, sharing thoughts and memories. That was very emotional.

    Two mornings later my wife came down and said she’d dreamed she had had a long conversation with Lex and he had explained what he meant by 1-2-6: It’s 42 (the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything) times three (because he was big on three-valued logic).

    I called Juliette and told her. She in turn told me that Lex’ oldest daughter had had the exactly experience the same night.

    Now, leaving a riddle that you’re pretty sure your friends and family will eventually figure out is cool beyond cool.

    With Respect and Fondness –


  9. Dawood Bahrain said

    I did not meet Lex or knew of his death until I read his book Mastering Oracle. I found the book a valuable piece of information about Oracle. So I became fascinated and obsessed with his simple and straight forawrd presentation and became a good fan of his approach to Oracle and wanting to meet with the guy and to my suprise found out that he passed a way six years ago. My his soul rest in peace and wish his family will carry his legacy on.
    It is sad to lose a brilliant man of such status.
    Friday, 7th Jan,2012

    Dawood Bahrain

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