William Charles Roth (Sr.) — Obituary

“Bill” to friends, “Poppie Bill” to his granddaughters, and “Dirty Bill” to tennis opponents, left us after 89 years, on December 11, 2013, at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ypsilanti. Impatient to the end, his last words included “Hurry up. Hurry up.”

Bill is remembered by his wife of 59 years, Peggy Ellen Roth; son (William) Charles Roth Jr and daughter-in-law Barb McRae; daughter Polly Elizabeth Moore; granddaughters Sarah Elizabeth Moore, Liza Nicole Moore, and Emma Roth; and nephew Harry Roth. He supported us, challenged us, frequently exasperated us… and loved us.

Bill was born in Philadelphia in 1924 to Harry A. Roth and Elizabeth Reinerth Roth, and grew up during the Great Depression (which colored his determination to never pay a cent more than necessary!) He joined the Navy during WWII, where he served with dedication as a radioman and sub-hunter aboard B-24 bombers, and with carousing when back on land. (His nickname derived from the emergency $100 bill in his wallet, which he never spent. More stories are chronicled at his website wwii.thedance.net.)

After the War, his radio experience eventually landed him a job as a laboratory technician at the David Sarnoff Research Center in Princeton NJ, where he became an expert X-ray analyst and electron microscopist. (He even published a paper or two, despite his disdain for ‘head in the clouds’ academics.) In later years, his every new acquaintance would hear the same tale: “You’ve just shaken the hand that held Einstein’s brain”, as he helped analyze Einstein’s neurons while at RCA.

When RCA began its self-immolation in the 1970’s by cutting back research, he moved on to Dow Corning in Midland, MI. From there he retired to Sugar Springs, outside Gladwin, MI. From their new home base, he and Peggy travelled the country in a small RV, making friends from Florida to Texas to Colorado. Bill even found a church and a straight-talking preacher in Texas that he liked, no mean feat for a man who held that “cleanliness is next to godliness… and one out of two ain’t bad!”.

Bill was a sports fan all of his life, and his happiest times as a kid were on sandlot baseball diamonds. Rooting for both the Phillies and the Tigers, he could be counted on to (loudly) correct every single umpire error. He played tennis actively into his 80’s, and lived by his motto of “hit ’em where they ain’t!”. In 2011, with his health declining, he and Peggy moved to Ypsilanti to be near Charles, Barb, and Emma.

The family is planning a memorial service “out east” later in 2014, where we can scatter his ashes along his beloved NJ shore.  In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *