I'm very sorry to learn of the loss of Chuck Westfall. In case you don't know the name, Chuck was the ultimate tech rep. He later became the main media contact for Canon Camera in America, but he never stopped being a great tech rep—a guy who knew everything about every one of his company's products and who was unfailingly gracious about explaining to you what you needed to know at any time.
I first encountered Chuck on the old CompuServe in the early 1990s, where he represented Canon and I represented Camera & Darkroom magazine. He and I learned together how not to get into "flames" with people—right at first we had both tended to be hotheads and get into arguments, and several times we discussed with each other the best ways not to do that. (He learned faster than I did.) He was a great contact for me when I was the Editor of Photo Techniques in the latter half of the '90s. He was very ethical and had strong boundaries—other tech reps liked to gossip, and I finagled a lot of juicy tidbits out of various people over the years, but never Chuck. At the same time he was unfailingly generous with his expertise, as long as sharing it was within his purview. He never distinguished between Canon shooters and others—if it had to do with Canon products, you could count on Chuck to know it and share it.
I don't think there was ever a better-known tech rep of any camera company in this country. Gordon Lewis wrote to me this weekend, "I thought it curious that someone from a camera company could become a celebrity, at least among photographers. He always struck me as quiet and self-effacing—and yet I can’t think of anyone else with comparable notoriety from Nikon, Sony, Fuji, etc." Nor can I. He even became the victim of a spoof site in the early days of digital, called "Fake Chuck Westfall." He hated it, but he never railed against it—he just kept being the same dependable real Chuck Westfall. Even the real Fake Chuck Westfall, Karel Donk, said this about the real one when he wrapped up his satirical blog: "I don’t know if real Chuck Westfall ever knew who Fake Chuck was, and if he did, he didn’t get it from me. I do have to say that I’ve often communicated with Chuck Westfall regarding feedback and technical information related to Canon cameras and lenses—before and after I started the FCW blog. He’s always been very polite and helpful to me, often taking the time to send me elaborate responses and information, even while I was sending him criticism."
Just my guess, but I think Chuck knew exactly who Karel was and treated him with respectfulness and helpfulness anyway. That would be very typical of Chuck.
There seemed to be no bottom to the well of Chuck's knowledge of all things Canon, both current and historical. I wouldn't have known he was reading my blog except that I'd get little notes of correction from him from time to time. One minor example, from 2013—I mentioned that the Nikon Noct-Nikkor of 1977 was the world's first aspherical SLR lens, and along came this little note from Chuck:
Erm, I beg to differ:
Canon FD 55mm ƒ/1.2 AL was first marketed in March, 1971.
We had a little game for a while in the '90s when I'd try to devise testers for him, questions designed to foil his mighty Canon knowledge, and over a handful of tries I was never able to stump him. And if he didn't know something (which slightly irked him, although he would barely show it), he would get the answer for you pronto. He was the hardest-working company rep, too: I once received the answer to a technical question, polite and businesslike as usual, timestamped late on a Saturday night.
Chuck Westfall was an integral part, in North America, of the glory years at Canon Camera. And yet he was certainly no robot. Only once over the many years did I get a warmly emotional note from him, and that was after I sent him congratulations on the birth of his daughter. It's safe to say no man was ever more delighted by the arrival of a child. We'll all miss Chuck, but my guess is that the thing he regrets the most about leaving this Earth is having to leave her and her mother behind.
Rest in Peace.
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Featured Comments from:
Kenneth Tanaka: "A lovely recollection, very fitting as a eulogy. Regrettably I never met Chuck. But as a long-time devotee of Canon’s photo products I feel as though I knew him through his extensive explanatory writings. When I read of his death last weekend I felt I’d lost a friend. And, indeed, I had. My deepest condolences to Mr. Westfall’s family circle."
Michael Perini: "I only met Chuck once, I didn't seek him out, he found me...it was on the show floor of PhotoPlus in NY in October of 2007. I had a very early copy of the Canon 1Ds Mark III and had had a less than enlightening chat with a counter person. Chuck either saw it or sensed it because he walked over, introduced himself, gave me his card, and asked if I was a CPS member. I said not yet. He scribbled a room number on another card and said go downstairs and see these guys, give them this, and tell them to sign you up. They will help you with anything you need.
"I did and have been a member of CPS ever since. I was really struck by the 'above and beyond' attitude—he wasn't looking for chit chat; he wanted to help and be on his way to the next guy."
Michael Tapes: "Chuck was a role model for human respect and interaction. Generous and kind. He will be sorely missed at so many levels. Godspeed, Chuck."