Memories of Paps

Nathan Habegger Memorial

12/09/1951 – 10/10/2020

These remembrances were read by Benjamin and Timothée during the service at the crematorium in Annecy, in the presence of five of his children (lacking only Jérémy who lives in New Orleans). We called our Dad Paps and our mother Mams.


It’s not always easy for me to find a memory that is truly joyful when it comes to my relationship with Paps that was marked by his bipolar disorder or his way of doing things that were rather opposite to mine. The last moments we spent together at Christmas are good memories and I am happy to be able to treasure those peaceful moments.  In 2018, Paps came to stay with us for a few days. We had just bought a new board game “Eight-Minute Empire”. A good part of his stay was devoted to playing this game, so much so that Cedric and I haven’t touched it since. My young son Léon also had a lot of fun playing dominoes with him. Paps enjoyed board games just as much as I do. His last passion was the game of Go.

A little anecdote about my first name. I really like my first name because it is unique. This name was Paps’ invention. Mams liked the name Sarah but it is rather common. He researched our family tree (apparently with my current neighbors, the Gerbers who live at “Les Petites Fraises”) and it seems that many of our female ancestors’ names were Lena, Tina, etc. That’s how he managed to add the second part of my name, “Lina” so that I would finally be named “Saralina”.


Life with Paps was far from being a long, quiet river, but I know that deep down inside, hidden behind his difficulties, there was a great spirit.

Thanks to him I found myself in university halls at age 12, discovering what became a passion and then my profession: computer science, either a small room with two computers in the mathematics department of the University of Georgia in Athens or at the University of Nantes. That’s how, as early as 1989, I was able to discover the beginnings of what today has revolutionized the world: the web. One day when he decided to buy a computer for the home, he bought two, claiming that I would always be using one of them. I ended up using both of them while taking my first steps in computer networking.

Another anecdote that I also like is that I only asked my father for help once during my schooling. One late night in junior high, I realized that I needed to finish a math exercise. I needed to calculate the volume of a cone. I couldn’t remember the formula so I thought that after all, my father being a mathematician, I should ask him. What had I done?! He didn’t know it either, so he demonstrated the formula to me, explaining the integrals I hadn’t yet studied… I learned a beautiful life lesson: the ability to reason is much more powerful than stupidly memorizing formulas without knowing where they come from. 

Finally, while this may shock some people, if you were one of his algebra students around the years 1993-94, it is quite possible that it was me, a high school student, who corrected your exam papers!


For my part, I have a lot of memories of traveling with Paps: New Zealand (in 5th grade), the United States (at 15 years old), multiple tennis tournaments (all my youth…), skiing in Switzerland wearing second hand outfits he found here and there that represented Paps’ style, choices that were absolutely not superficial (at least at the clothing level). High class! (sarcasm). That reminds me of the time when he made me change high schools at the beginning of the school year and he accompanied me wearing a t-shirt, ripped jeans and of course his wooden clogs that could be heard 3 km away. (Huge moment of misery…)

Otherwise one of my best memories is when we drove across the United States. He met me at my grandparents’ house and was going to fly by himself to a math conference in California. But I convinced him to rent a car so we could share a great road trip.

I still have a lot of good memories. It’s such a pity that you didn’t manage to get back on track before you left us. In any case, rest in peace.

Lots of kisses 


Once, you came with me to watch a soccer game of the Biel team (my boyfriend at the time played football). You were accompanied by a Polish man you had picked up on the side of the road and spontaneously hired as a driver and companion in your adventures. You even took him back to Poland and then dated his wife for a short period of time…

Back to that soccer game. That day you wore your wooden clogs, drank a carton of milk and ate a large packet of leckerli (Swiss cookies). You also had a huge bag of apples with you. In short, always looking good. (sarcasm)

During the match you shouted through the flyer you had received as if it were a megaphone to encourage the Biel team. Let me point out that there weren’t that many spectators, so you were the only one we could hear…

You had parked your car in a private parking space for a housing unit near the stadium to avoid searching for paid parking, walking too much and simply because, for you, laws were meant to be broken or you just didn’t care. At the end of the game, you found out that the owners had blocked your car with theirs. You quietly went to their door and asked them to move their car. They scolded you and told you that next time they would call the police. Calmly, shamelessly, smiling, you answered them: “There won’t be a next time anyway”, which was true since you certainly had no reason to go there again. I drove back to Biel with you… I regretted it, but fortunately I arrived safe and sound. On the highway, you wanted to show me the acceleration capabilities of your car (which I didn’t care about, by the way) and got “flashed” by radar. A few kilometers later, a police car stopped you, not because you were driving too fast then, but because you were driving too slowly… They gave you a breathalyzer test to check your alcohol level, but there was nothing… you weren’t drunk or drugged… It was just you in a manic phase.


A memory of Paps that touched me the most is when he recalled two incidents involving me that had always stayed with him.

The first one–when I was just a small child

During a church service at Les Mottes, at the end of a song I held the last note after the whole assembly had stopped singing.

The second 

One fine day, at La Rique, as he was leaving the house, he heard me shouting. <<Paps, paps>>

But he didn’t know where the voice was coming from. He looked up, saw me and wondered how a 4 year old could climb that high up a tree…

Paps was like no one else. His way of being was not always pleasant for others, because of his bipolar disorder or certainly due to his endless battles of reason that left us all argumentless. 

His look hadn’t changed for years. 

No, there aren’t two like him, not even more than one. 

And to those who think they have outlasted Nathan Habegger, it is no longer one but six and then twelve, if not more, that they will have to deal with.


Paps, we will miss you and although we were afraid that your manic phase would wake up again with all the damage that would ultimately follow, it was hard to see you plunged into depression and abandonment at the end of your life. I am relieved that you are free because getting old was not part of your character. You have a very big heart and it saddens me that you didn’t know how to fight your demons despite your intelligence. I have many good memories yet I do not block out the difficulties and pain you caused, because in the end you were also the victim.

I love you Paps, thank you for the life and the fearless trust you gave us. 

One day you told me that I had to make a joke at your funeral to cheer everyone up. The irony is that I now live where they celebrate life at funerals with happy music after crying and saying goodbye. 

It’s hard not to be there but I know that your life force is there among us with the life force of Mams, your 5 children present and me thinking of you with all my heart. 

Good memories?  Lots of convertible cars, crossing the United States in a red convertible Buick from Connecticut until finally the sign for California! 

Motorcycle rides at the beach of San Diego, me in front at 6 years old and Benjamin behind you… freedom, your hair blowing in the wind!

Lots of children because  you connect better with pure souls. Adults do not understand you. Life lived to the fullest.

Happy trails. Rest in peace. 

End of Memorial Video:

Comme à NOLA nous célébrons ta vie!

Like we do it in New Orleans, we celebrate your life!

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