November 5, 2018 - Comments Off on Eulogy for Mel Lawrence

Eulogy for Mel Lawrence

This past weekend, I was asked by my aunts and uncles to prepare the Eulogy for my grandpa, as the representative for the family at his Memorial Mass. I was honored and humbled. I started collecting stories, memories, and nuances from my family members... it led to fits of laughter and a few tears. He was a good man, thanks for reading and go hug your family.


11/4/18, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, 3pm Memorial Mass for Melvin Lawrence

Hello. Thank you all for being here. I’m Sam DuRegger, Cathy’s son — It’s my honor to read the Eulogy for Melvin Lawrence, my grandpa.

First things first... While some of you knew him as “Captain Lawrence” or “Dad” or just Mel, I think it’s safe to say that formality is out the door with this Eulogy. The grandpa I knew, was retired lakeside, with boat shorts, flip flops and a tank top that may or may not have been washed in the last week and a half. My hope is that these words today will honor his memory and spur you to share your stories with each other, stories centered around his laughter, his passion for life, and his service.

The earliest memory I have of my grandpa, is one stolen from pictures of my first birthday, and while I don’t remember smearing cake all over my face—the picture of me shoving cake into Grandpa’s mouth, is one seared into my memory. His love of us grandkids was palpable, he loved big and taught us well.

He taught me how to take a bluegill off the hook, to knee board on the lake, and wasn’t afraid to critique my shooting when we went to the basketball courts with TJ, Uncle Ron, and Sean.

These memories seem to be a lot like your memories.

Marian remembers being taken to the firehouse, given ice cream cones, accompanying her dad in the small day-to-day tasks like picking up a paycheck.

Liz shared fond memories of Grandpa’s presence and sporting events, performances, and weekly functions for her and her kids. Always rooting, coaching, and being heard by all in attendance.

His kids memories of the three hour drive to the family cabin in Clear Lake, fishing and swimming on the lake, a life outdoors!

Sean’s memory of Grandpa telling Ronnie to do a barrel roll on the knee board to show us kids up. Grandpa pulling TJ on the slolem ski, proud of the way he carved the glassy surface behind the boat.

Michelle’s recounting of many a phone call ending with Grandpa’s favorite catchphrase... “VERY GOOOOOOD”

On a walk this morning with my mom, we were reminiscing a bit about her childhood and what she remembers most about her dad. She remembers a dad who loved to laugh, a dad who wrestled with his kids on the living room floor after a long days work (this lasted until he was quite outnumbered, and risked serious injury wrestling the gaggle of kiddos). She called him her anchor. And I think we all can understand that.

These memories we share and the memories just between you and him are ones to cherish.

We witnessed his love of sports, from baseball with his fire department, to coaching his kids and grandkids. He was also fond of coaching the Oakland A’s and Raiders players during regular season and postseason play... though they may not of heard him yelling through the television, all of us in the room with him sure did.

In 2007, I came to stay with Grandpa for a few days. I’m sure I threw him off his very meticulous routine. During those few days — I observed a generous man dedicated to service in the small things. On Saturday night, we set the chairs up for Mass and made sure everything we ready for church the next day. He did this every week, as well as handing out books pre-service and opening and closing the doors before and after mass. He greeted many, and anchored the communion line only two weeks ago in his scooter.

There are many stories that can be shared. And I could be up here for hours longer recounting many of my own... though the last story I want to share, I heard for the first time last night.

Now, Grandpa worked for the Oakland fire department for 25 years. He made Captain, and had a goal of retiring on the Departments Tugboat Unit which serviced the Bay. This last assignment for him was a dream, and one that took 20+ years of experience to achieve. His routine, his service, his experience, allowed him to respond to a massive fire on a tanker, one so big that the San Francisco Fire Department turned down to come help. He directed his team, led them through a dangerous task and put out the fire.

The city of Oakland honored him for his and his team’s response.

He would never tell you this story. Though I’m sure proud, bragging on himself was not something he did well (unless it had to do with bowling or poker... sorry Father). I think this story is one that we can all rally around... It shows something that we’ve all experienced, his consistency in the small things through all those years, daily routines and tasks done right—allowed him to lead those men to put out that fire.

And as we look back on his life, I can say for certain it is those small things, the things that are the hardest to be consistent at, these are the memories that carry us.

In this life, Mel, was to many an anchor, keeping us in safe harbor.

In death, he sails away on a new adventure and as he weighs anchor, we mourn the loss of this security, this anchoring. But rest assured, he has given us an example, a legacy to follow.

So, as we too put our sails to the wind, may we honor him by making these stories our own—weaving service, laughter, generosity, and a passion for life throughout.

Thank you grandpa.


October 31, 2018 - Comments Off on Mel Lawrence, my grandpa

Mel Lawrence, my grandpa

It’s been a hard week. My grandpa was put into Hospice at home this week at his lake house in Copperopolis, California. As his health began to deteriorate and his moments of clarity waned. I asked my aunt to read this to him and show him the most recent pictures of my family. I am dismayed I waited to say these things... that we leave so many things unsaid to our friends and to our family.

My Grandpa and I would talk every Christmas, he was a man a few words. Being so far away for all these years makes it hard to voice my pain of his loss without feeling some twinge of guilt that we didn’t see each other more often.

After grad school, I spent a week with him, this is about 10 years ago. It was during September, baseball was in full swing and the A’s were on the cusp of a playoff position. We spent each night watching baseball with very few words between us, besides, “good play” and “what a hit” and “dummy!” My mother said, I have a lot of his attributes, my height being the most glaring. Below is what I wrote to my Grandpa, things I wanted him to hear, things that I have gleaned from him, his life and now pass on to my girls.



A few of the things you’ve past down to me and my family:

1. Lake fun is the best fun. My memories of boating, fishing, swimming and kneeboarding have always been the memories quick to draw a smile. Thank you for showing us how to have fun in the water.

2. Grit - I always look to my mother’s work ethic and her attribution of that ethic back to you as one of my greatest strengths. It’s what drove me in sports, to always be the best I could be and work harder then the rest. Thank you for passing that onto my mom.

3. Your love of baseball and the Oakland A’s. I will cherish my memories of watching or listening to the games with you as I was growing up. It’s the little things that influence us, and this was a big one for me.

4. Your service. Both in the fire department and at mass, I have always tried to emulate your service... even in the small things like setting up chairs and greeting people as they are. Thank you for this gift.

Love you Grandpa. And thank you. Thank you for being you, for being my mom’s dad, and my grandpa.



September 12, 2018 - Comments Off on On the steps of the Capitol… a public reading of “Tears in my Eyes”

On the steps of the Capitol… a public reading of “Tears in my Eyes”

There are tears in my eyes,
yet I’m too afraid to cry.

as they well up, I put
my mind against them.

I cross my strong arms,
and build a wall.


I am scared of what
the tears will say.

That I am
not in control.


I am none of these things,
these are alternative facts.

Tears must be
left to run,
to fall,

Tears uncover truth,
and expose empathy.

In allowing myself to
feel the pain of the other,
the strength of their resolve,
persistance in calamity,
hope in tragedy.

I am human,
just as them.

So put things in place,
applications, interrogation,
and backgrounds checks.

But not a wall.

Don’t deny those who’ve
jumped through hoops,
crossed their t’s
and dotted countless i’s.


Soften your strong arms,
and take down biased walls.

Be Justice.
Be Peace.
Be Hope.

For this is America.
And it is ours.


August 21, 2018 - Comments Off on Order Ahead Case Studies

Order Ahead Case Studies

Some case studies/videos coming out from our partners... fun to see the team building and showing the work off!

R/GA — our digital experience partner focused on our first-in-class order ahead experience on mobile!

Watch video here.

Thoughtworks — our infrastructure partner focusing on delivering continuous development, continuous integration and continuous delivery on our cloud platforms.


Watch here.

March 19, 2018 - Comments Off on Order Ahead @ Sonic Drive-in

Order Ahead @ Sonic Drive-in

It's been a great few years... pulling and pushing and progressing the brand towards Order Ahead. No one else does Order Ahead personalization like Sonic -- If you were to build a Order Ahead footprint/concept in today's day and age, you would build a Sonic Drive-In (Elon... seriously, let's talk).


Recap: It's been a pleasure leading the teams working to make this happen. First in 2014-2015, coming on-board at SONIC focusing on Digital Innovation, a small team tasked with creating the future of burgers at SONIC. The first year we built a new POPS experience both UX/UI and backend functionality. We also remade, folding in a re-imagined web presence and mobile first menu with our backend CRM -- My SONIC -- enabling users ability to login, track rewards, create favorites, and check gift card balances. In addition to the new site and POPS experience, we also delivered a Proof of Concept (POC) of loyalty. This loyalty experience included separate check-in and reward injection experiences on mobile and POPS -- as well as our first GAP experiences POC (Mobile check-in to POPS).

The learning from this POC allowed us to create the best Order Ahead experience in the QSR industry, an omni-channel experience with personalized check-in and carhop delivery.

The POC also uncovered some needed work on our backend infrastructure, and in 2016, I was given the chance to lead teams down in MarTech (formerly IT). My specific role was to lead technology delivery on the ICE platforms (POPS, Mobile, APIs, Web), a collaborative effort with our Product Team, Enterprise Architecture, and App Services to first migrate our legacy codebase on in-house servers into the cloud, and secondly to retire the monolithic API codebase. We spent the better part of a year strategically breaking apart these core functions into multiple micro services that could feed omni-channel platforms.

With the infrastructure in place, and our new continuous delivery model churning out production releases of new APIs daily, it was time to build. So, in 2017-2018, I was asked to come back to Marketing to lead Product Management of Order Ahead on multiple platforms (POPS, Mobile, POS, Digital Menu Management, and Web), each with their own Product Manager, vision, roadmap, and budget.

Needless to say, it has been a ride and I couldn't be happier at the progression.

Now for some shout outs: First off, the vision of our Sonic leadership to get us in this position to deliver has been phenomenal. Over 5 years in the making, a great problem to solve, with fantastic support from our executive sponsors. And I could not say enough about our teams -- a hard working, focused, collaborative group of developers, project managers, product managers, designers, producers, business analysts, enterprise architects, and operations (in-store technical and operational leadership) working as one team. Truly a great group of individuals, scattered across the US and Brazil!! BIG thanks to each and everyone that had a part in creating this game changer for SONIC!!

Now let's keep adding some features!! #roadmap #productmanagement #productleadership

Press: #3 on the Franchise 500: Sonic Drive-In Looks to the Future Sonic brings 'order ahead' to Oklahoma City

Payments Journal: Sonic Serves Up Mobile Order And Pay

Nation's Restaraunt News: Sonic banks on order-ahead platform Why Sonic is Ready to Change the Convenience Game Sonic Just Unveiled An Ordering App That Makes Other Drive-Thru Feel Ancient

KATC Lafayette: SONIC Drive-In chooses Lafayette as test market for new Order Ahead app feature

Business Insider: Sonic has a new weapon to compete with McDonald's and Chick-fil-A

QSR Magazine: Sonic's Digital Strategy Could be a Game-Changer

The Spoon: Sonic Drive-In Rolls Out Its Mobile Ordering System Just in Time for Summer