Runner killed in Sand Hill Road accident was 'a great dad'

Amit Goutam Bagchi is survived by a wife and young daughter

When runner Amit Goutam Bagchi was struck and killed by a driver in an SUV on Dec. 19, the Palo Alto engineer had been redefining what is important in life, his wife of 13 years, Joy Su, said.

Bagchi, 41, died at the intersection of Sand Hill Road and Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park that Saturday.

"It's such a random thing that can happen to anybody," Su said, three weeks after the accident.

Su said she heard that a bystander prayed over him before paramedics arrived, an act for which Su said she is grateful and that makes her feel just a little bit better despite her grief.

The man she met while in college 20 years ago was in many ways like other Silicon Valley engineers: brilliant and successful in his academic and professional pursuits.

Bagchi was selected while in high school as Maryland's Francis Scott Key scholar, which came with an invitation to attend the University of Maryland on a full scholarship; but he chose to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated with bachelor and master degrees in electrical engineering.

In the Bay Area, he worked at Broadcom, Passif and Apple in research and development, helping to create new technologies that have changed the world in many ways, Su said. But tech jobs can be all-consuming and so intense that people can get burned out, she added.

"They don't move you forward as a person," she said.

Life, despite all of the trappings of success in Silicon Valley, is about so much more, Su said. So Bagchi began to shift his focus. He became a triathlete, and he and Su had a child.

"This was kind of a reset," she said of the last couple of years. Bagchi began to run, bike and swim in structured events. It was meditative and gave him the mental space to focus on everything else in his life, she said.

When daughter Emma was born 18 months ago, Su thought that Bagchi would be a good dad. But he exceeded her expectations.

"He was a great one," she said.

Bagchi didn't make Emma fly nor flip her upside down and tickle her, but he had gotten her a library card and sang to her about photosynthesis. They were "milk buddies" at Peet's Coffee and Tea, and he encouraged her love of their two greyhounds and the bicycle, Su said.

"He always woke her; he always put her to sleep. He was the one who got up in the middle of the night for her. To hear her call for him is just heartbreaking," she said. Emma kisses pictures of her father on her mother's phone.

To focus on being a dad, he started cutting back on his distance running and biking. All of the cycling was now on the trainer, and all of the weekday workouts were at the gym. But the one thing he indulged in was a Saturday morning run outdoors. They thought it was probably the safest athletic pursuit.

"But it didn't end up that way," Su said.

Sitting in Mitchell Park on a recent, chilly afternoon, Su said she and Bagchi were a private couple, so she largely deferred to her typewritten eulogy to describe him and what happened the day he died. When Su awoke at 7:30 a.m. Bagchi was already out for a run. She was waiting for him to come home to wake up Emma, she wrote.

"I heard someone at the front door," Su wrote. "A package had been delivered. I opened it and found the light bulb I ordered was completely shattered. That was a message from you. You were already gone, but I just didn't understand."

Su recalled that her husband was an adventurer. Not in the grandiose, Mount Everest-conquering way, but in small ways that marked a willingness to overcome obstacles, to grow and change.

Bagchi learned how to drive a stick shift, so the two could rent a car in Italy; he went on a three-day horseback-riding trip in the New Zealand outback, even though he had never really ridden a horse before; he was afraid of dogs, but he opened his heart and mind when Su wanted to adopt two rescue greyhounds.

Last week Rita Bagchi, his sister, recalled his gift for relating to others: "His IQ was off the charts, but he never made anyone ever feel they were less than him in any way, shape or form."

"Amit was a sweet brother, one who loved me for all my positives as well as my flaws," she said.

Rita recalled in her eulogy to him that when he broke his collar bone at summer camp, he had a stoic side.

"He sat through the entire rest of the camp day without crying out or showing any signs of distress. He just didn't want to cause any fuss," she said.

He also showed his philosophical side early in life.

"When he was about 3 years old, I unintentionally eavesdropped on a conversation he was having with his good friend, David. They were discussing whether or not God had a nose. I believe the conclusion was yes, though I don't recall the rationale anymore," she wrote.

Rita is 10 years older than her brother — a half-generation apart. But while that age difference might separate some siblings, the thoughtful, responsible man he became drew them together. He was often balanced out by her free-spirit nature, she said.

Some people make big impacts on the world, doing notable things recorded in history. Bagchi was a modest man who lived and worked in Silicon Valley and who helped develop technology tools that are changing the world, Su said. But he would be embarrassed by any focus on his intellectual and professional achievement, she added.

Instead, he would want to be remembered for something far longer lasting: his love and devotion to his daughter. When Su and Rita look at Emma, they see traces of their husband and brother.

"I see his curiosity and joy, and I hear it in her laughter," Rita said.

"There is so much in common that they have," Su added. "Hopefully, everything that he was is in her and hopefully we'll get to see that again."

Bagchi loved reading to the kids at day care; he was as inquisitive as a child and he never lost that curiosity; he always asked questions and took the time to share his fascination with things with the children on their own level, Su said.

"He had a lot of curiosity about the world," she said.

A memorial service has already been held.

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12 people like this
Posted by Beth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 8, 2016 at 12:19 pm

This is very moving, and inspirational, and sad. Thank you for sharing all of this. He knew, really knew and lived the life formed out of love.

4 people like this
Posted by 3dogday
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 8, 2016 at 1:17 pm

Thank you for this beautiful and loving tribute. Very, very sorry for yours and your family's loss. I will continue to think of and send blessings to Amit when passing through this Sand Hill intersection.

2 people like this
Posted by Harriet
a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on Jan 8, 2016 at 3:06 pm

Thank you for sharing your beautiful story with us. It is so sad for everyone to lose such a great person in such a tragic way.

1 person likes this
Posted by Charlene
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 8, 2016 at 7:59 pm

I think of your husband every time I drive through the Sand Hill intersection. Thank you for sharing your story with us--we are so very sorry for your loss. Amit must have been a wonderful husband and father, because your tribute touches our hearts. xo

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