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Death in Kuwait Called 'Devastating Loss'

Relatives, neighbors and co-workers recall the San Diego software executive slain in the Persian Gulf as a patriot and dedicated father.

January 22, 2003|Anna Gorman and Peter Pae | Times Staff Writers

POWAY, Calif. — Michael Pouliot was the kind of guy who helped one neighbor build a garage and another get cable TV at his home. He was the kind of guy who rallied the community to fix potholes so nobody would get hurt.

The 46-year-old software entrepreneur, an unabashed patriot, loved his job. But he figured out how to keep his life in balance -- bonding with his neighbors in this suburban San Diego County community and taking his wife and two daughters on camping trips into California's Sierra wilderness.

That's how family members and neighbors remembered Pouliot on Tuesday, after learning that he had been shot dead in Kuwait, where he was helping install software for the U.S. military. The license plate on his Ford SUV said it all: 1 LUKY GY. Pouliot and a co-worker, David Caraway, were traveling north of Kuwait City on Tuesday morning when they were shot during what U.S. officials are calling a terrorist ambush. Pouliot had been in Kuwait just over a week and was due home this weekend when he was killed, his brother said. Caraway, 38, was wounded and reported to be in stable condition.

The two civilians were in Kuwait to install software that analyzes the outcome of military training exercises and is supposed to help generals plot battlefield strategy, minute by minute, from a remote computer keyboard. Pouliot was a co-founder and executive vice president of Tapestry Solutions, a San Diego company with 44 employees worldwide. Caraway is a senior software engineer.

"Everybody is saddened by this horrible tragedy," said Chris Wahl, a company spokesman. "It's a small company that is family-based and -oriented. This is a devastating loss, but they will continue to move forward."

Pouliot, who was raised in New Hampshire, had lived in San Diego County with his wife, Carol, for more than two decades.

The family, which includes 12- and 14-year-old daughters, has been remodeling a hilltop home with sweeping views around semirural Poway.

Dennis Pouliot learned of his only brother's death by telephone Tuesday. Then, while watching CNN, he saw a horrific image of Michael being pulled from a car.

Through tears, the younger brother had trouble speaking but said he had talked to Pouliot about a week before his brother left for Kuwait.

He said he couldn't imagine not having him in his life.

"My brother's memory is something very special to me," said Pouliot, who lives in New Hampshire. "It's something very special to the two girls who he left behind. And it's very special to his wife."

Michael Pouliot's stepmother, Fern, described him as outgoing and a hard worker.

"He was all business-oriented and very successful," she said from her Florida home. "But he was also a very good father and a very good husband."

Pouliot's mother and father, who worked as a fire captain, are deceased.

Richard Fitzgerald, who moved next door to the Pouliots five months ago, said Pouliot immediately made him feel welcome, introducing him to neighbors and celebrating at the Fitzgeralds' housewarming.

And when Fitzgerald and his wife had twins this fall, the Pouliots pitched in to help.

"This tears me up," Fitzgerald, 42, said upon hearing of his neighbor's death. "I was really looking forward to having him over again and drinking some wine with him"

Across the road, neighbor Debbie Meyer said Pouliot was very involved in his daughters' lives.

"This just blew us away," said Meyer, whose son attends school with the Pouliots' daughters. "Our prayers go out to Carol and her family."

Tapestry Solutions was founded in 1993 and is one of a number of technology companies in Southern California at the heart of the Pentagon's ambitious goal of harnessing powerful computers to better train U.S. troops and help them outwit enemies on the battlefield.

In the industry of "battlefield digitization," the Pentagon has been pouring billions of dollars into creating a network of computers linked by satellites that would give commanders instant and accurate views of a battlefield, down to individual soldiers, eliminating the so-called fog of war.

It was not clear whether Tapestry's software is being used in Kuwait to prepare U.S. troops for a potential war against Iraq. But it has been widely used at several Army training facilities.

Mark Young, vice president of Tapestry Solutions, said Tuesday in a statement from Germany: "We are stunned by this senseless act of violence."

But Young also pledged to continue the company's overseas operations.

"The safety of our employees throughout the world will continue to be paramount, and we will not be intimidated by this act of violence," his statement said.

Asked if there was anything more he could say, Dennis Pouliot responded: "You can put this in the paper: His brother loved him very much and will miss him."

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