Death is never easy to accept, much less to understand. It often comes suddenly -- when we least expect it and are ill-prepared to deal with it. So it was on February 11, when our longtime colleague Stewart S. Siegel passed away unexpectedly at his home of an apparent heart attack. He was a month shy of his 58th birthday.

Stu was the best in the business. A 25-year veteran with FLEET OWNER, he served the industry as our senior technical editor. The recognized dean of technical writers covering the industry, Stu parlayed his natural curiosity and intuitive knowledge of things mechanical into balanced and fair reporting that was on the cutting edge of his trade.

Stu died after completing work on the topic that was nearest and dearest to his heart -- the shop. He had a passion for the trucking business, and especially for the men and women who drove the trucks and worked on them. He wrote for the people struggling for relevance in the wake of new technology and new business practices.

Stu's intellectual and emotional worlds intersected with laser-like intensity on the pages of FLEET OWNER. Readers came to trust and depend on him. The final example of that, this month's feature on a day in the life of a mechanic, is just such a window into his soul -- one of the many times Stu wrote with the passion and the feeling that were his trademarks.

Stu joined FLEET OWNER in 1973 as the editor of 26 Plus, a sister publication directed at the small-fleet end of the commercial trucking industry. When that evolved into FLEET OWNER's Small Fleet Edition in 1979, Stu was named its managing editor. He held that position until the SFE was combined with FLEET OWNER in 1989, when he was named senior editor. In recognition of his peerless technical knowledge, he was named senior technical editor in 1994. It was a role he relished and that suited him well.

His role extended far beyond the magazine page. He was a tireless and persistent advocate of our readers' interests, providing the daily "gut check" we needed to make sure our stories were on target. It was the same standard he set for himself. Stu constantly refined his manuscripts right up until the magazine closed. He was obsessed with accuracy and spent a good deal of time on the phone and at industry trade shows distilling issues to their essence.

Through it all, Stewart maintained his humility. He often began an interview with broad questions -- questions that belied his understanding of the the issue at hand. But Stu took nothing for granted. He was serious about understanding the subject's motivation. Only later did he start refining the direction, in his uncanny and dogged manner, to get to the heart of the issue.

As much as he loved writing about trucks and technology, Stu loved working with his hands. Rare were the times when he didn't have some restoration project in the works. And when he tired of the mechanical, Stu turned to the piano.

Stu cared deeply. He was our resident technical expert for any automotive or homeowner project, and was never too busy to help us.

Farewell, friend. You leave a void. But speaking for all of us who've known you, we are the richer for it.