When you ask a dozen people for their memories of former Douglas County Engineer Mahmood Azad, you're likely to get a dozen different answers:
Scientist, teacher, engineer, mentor, fisherman, father, husband, friend, colleague, environmentalist, biologist, visionary.
Azad, 59, died of a sudden illness July 17, six weeks before he planned to retire.
For his colleagues in the county's community development department, and across Northern Nevada, Azad's loss is deeply felt every day.
Friends will gather Thursday to dedicate the Nevada Tahoe Conservation District demonstration garden to Azad's memory.
He had gone to work for the agency in August 2011 after spending three years as Douglas County engineer, but continued to consult for the county.
"I sorely miss just being able to e-mail him, or call him up and ask, 'What do you think about this?'" said Mimi Moss, Douglas County community development director.
He came out of retirement to go to work for Douglas County in 2008.
"He told us he thought he wanted to get back to work. That's why he applied for the position. He knew that Douglas County was working on TDML (water quality at the Lake) and that's where his experience was. He knew we had things coming up for the county - the FEMA mapping and storm water master plan - and he wanted to get back to working for the public and civil engineering."
Moss said Azad was a joy to work with.
"He had a great sense of humor and wit. I often asked him, 'Are you really an engineer because you really don't fit the mold? He had such a passion for improving the environment. He came to work every day loving what he did," Moss said.
Çounty Manager Steve Mokrohisky said he enjoyed Azad's colorful character.
"He had a way of drawing people in with his creative approach to solving problems and his unique use of language. He often referred to the Total Maximum Daily Load - a federal requirement to reduce fine sediment discharge into Lake Tahoe that many experts have question the scientific bases for - as a 'total load,'" Mokrohisky said.
Mokrohisky said Azad's legacy will be his leadership on storm water management issues and the successful challenge of the FEMA flood maps.
"He recognized early on that the data FEMA used to develop the flood maps was flawed, but as importantly he had the fortitude to stand up for what is right," he said.
The day after Azad died, officials were notified that Douglas County had won an appeal of the flood mapping, due in large part to Azad's work.
Commissioner Nancy McDermid described Azad as "a gentle soul."
"He really, really helped Douglas County immensely especially up at the Lake, especially on TDML" McDermid said. "He was probably one of the most knowledgeable, if not the most.
"I don't know anyone who had an interaction with Mahmood who didn't absolutely think he was someone special. We were just so fortunate we had him for the little while that we did."
McDermid said county residents will long benefit from Azad's work.
"Anyone who is in the area of the FEMA maps or has a flooding or storm water issue, the work that he did as county engineer, really, everyone benefits from that," she said.
Mike McCormick, recently retired Douglas County assistant district attorney, had several fishing trips lined up with Azad.
"Mahmood was a great, great man and great friend. He was so knowledgeable, such as scientist. He took his job seriously and only wanted the best for Douglas County," McCormick said.
"He was so kind, you couldn't ask for a better person. I am going to miss him."
Azad's wife Genie said the outpouring of support has helped her cope with the loss.
"Any person that he connects with, they become lifelong friends. It's a beautiful thing," she said. "He had more integrity than anybody I knew in my life. There was no ego about him. He lived for fish and family. Whatever he did was for the betterment of somebody else."
The Azads met when Genie moved to Northern Nevada from Las Vegas 15 years ago and went to work at the same firm which employed her future husband.
"He really had this unique understanding of the water environment from the technical to the spiritual," she said.
Some of his proudest achievements were mentoring students and young colleagues.
Karin Staggs met Azad when she was earning her masters degree at University of Nevada, Reno. She was part of an effort to recruit people in her field of hydrology to stay in the Reno area.
"Mahmood has kept me employed for the last seven years. When he found somebody he was happy with, he did everything he could for them," Staggs said.
She said Azad's style was such that he treated her like an equal when he joined Nevada Tahoe Conservation District as senior program manager.
"We worked with him, not under him. At NTCD, he became our boss, but he was more of a mentor, more of a friend and co-worker than he was a manager," Staggs said.
Doug Martin, district manager at Nevada Tahoe Conservation District, said he worked with Azad at the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection in the 1980s-90s.
"The interesting thing about Moody is how he weaved in and out of so many people's lives. I may have not worked with him for awhile, but you'd turn a corner and there he is.
"I am looking at the door he came in and out of a dozen times a day. I can still see him walking in. It's pretty amazing that he is not," Martin said.
"Every day we had some business to discuss, a technical discussion, then something interesting like a food item. Or he would tell a great fishing story or some hunting story. Usually, it involved good food and a good time.
"His depth of knowledge of things was just phenomenal," Martin said.
Prior to his service with Douglas County, Azad worked in the public and private sector for more than 25 years, including serving the cities of Sparks, Carson and Reno, and the state of Nevada.
Last year, he received the Lake Spirit Award from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.
A small group of family and friends plans a trip to Loreto, Mexico, on the Sea of Cortez in the Baja Peninsula to celebrate his life. It was Azad's favorite fishing spot.
"If I had to sum up 15 years with him, I would say he taught me how to let go," Genie Azad said. "I feel like this is the ultimate exam. It's not easy, but you recognize this is part of life. Who are we to say when our time is to go? We who are left have to figure out how best to move forward in a happy and healthy way."
The Nevada Tahoe Conservation District is dedicating a demonstration garden to Mahmood Azad from 5-6 p.m. Thursday at the district office,400 Dorla Court, Zephyr Cove. Information, 586-1610.
"Even though he was an engineer, he didn't come across like a lot of engineers. He had a wonderful sense of humor, and had a way of bringing information down to a layperson's understanding. He never talked over our heads. He brought you to the art of the possible, and made it concise and clear."
Nancy McDermid, Douglas County commissioner
"He became not only someone who employed me, he became a friend. The thing I miss most is having a friend to talk to. He was a really caring person. There is so much I wish I could tell him. But I did tell him how much I appreciated what he did for me. I am just so glad I always did."
Karin Staggs, Nevada Tahoe Conservation District
"To me, the lesson learned is bigger than the flood maps, but goes to a core value of doing what is right, even if you know that pursuing what is right will be extremely difficult. That is a legacy that stands the test of time."
Steve Mokrohisky, Douglas County manager
"Mahmood had great vision and great ideas. He was lucky enough to see some of those ideas coming into reality. Without him, we would never have gotten that far. The sad part is that he won't be here to see it finished. Now, we know where we're headed. He took the time to teach others and give them the tools to carry on what he was doing."
Mimi Moss, Douglas County community development director
"He taught through example, he taught through respect, and he taught through fun."
Doug Martin, Nevada Tahoe Conservation District
"Mahmood's passing is a huge loss to the region. He was extremely knowledgeable regarding water quality related issues and was really our go-to person for anything water related in Douglas County. He was extremely personable and professional anytime I worked with him, and my heart goes out to his family."
Shay Navarro, senior planner, resource integration specialist, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency