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Ottar

Ottar Rohrstaff

Ottar Ole Rohrstaff passed away at his home on August 22, 2020, surrounded by his family.

He was born on September 8, 1937 in Manistee, Michigan to Ottar and Lila (Guenther) Rohrstaff. And so began a man’s love of being on the water. His first sailboat ride was when, as a baby, his parents took him out on Lake Michigan (Manistee is on the east coast of Lake Michigan). He must have loved that experience, because being on the water always was a good day from then on. He was at home on any body of water (lake, ocean, bay or river) and was always eager to share a day on the water with anyone willing to go along. As a young man, he was part of a group of like-minded folks who raced catamarans on the Severn River. Ottar’s job was to climb to the top of the mast and lean out as far as he could to help lift one of the hulls out of the water to increase the speed of the catamaran.

Ottar grew up in Sheboygan, Wisconsin (a small city on Lake Michigan directly across from Manistee), where he had easy access to water. But being on the water was not all that caught his interest. As a teenager, he was not one to sit around the house, so he rode his bike to the local airfield and talked a pilot into teaching him how to fly (in exchange for doing odd jobs). He was 16 years old – not old enough to get a driver’s license. He joined the Civil Air Patrol.

After high school, Ottar was in the US Air Force Reserve (1954-58), followed by active duty in the US Army (1958-60) (where he happily was stationed in Hawaii). He entered the University of Wisconsin at Madison twice and received degrees in mechanical engineering (1964) and business administration (1967).

In 1983, Ottar and Sandra Blanchette were married on a knoll overlooking the Potomac River where they could watch sailboats go by as they exchanged their vows. Ottar married into a family with a 6-year-old girl, Janelle, and an 8-year-old boy, Michael, both of whom participated in the wedding. Ottar taught Sandra’s children that dessert comes first. And he always had candy in his pockets for the kids. He introduced them all to the joy of sailing, and he took the kids sailing on the Potomac River any chance he got.

Ottar devoted his career to civil service. At the time of his death, Ottar was a General Engineer at the Naval Sea Systems Command, Cost Engineering and Industrial Analysis Group. As a cost estimator at NAVSEA, over the course of his career developed cost estimates for numerous ship acquisition programs, participated in source selections for major shipbuilding programs, and conducted shipbuilding industrial base analysis. He also managed NAVSEA Shipbuilding Support Office efforts in maintaining the Naval Vessel Register (the official register of all US Navy vessels) and most recently supported operating and support cost estimating across all Navy ship programs. While at NAVSEA he received numerous Special Act Awards for his performance both as an individual and on teams. The Naval Sea Systems Command was recognized in July 2013 with a Meritorious Unit Commendation by the Chief of Naval Operations for the performance of its employees in making significant improvements in performance of the shipbuilding industrial base and execution of maintenance and modernization in private shipyards. Ottar was recognized by both the Secretary of the Navy and the Commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command in 2018 for fifty years of service to the Government of the United States as both a civilian and active duty military.

Water continued to play a major role in Ottar’s life in another way. In 1983, he and the family moved to Tauxemont, an historic neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia, that has no sidewalks or streetlights, and houses sit on large wooded lots. Tauxemont is unique in another important way. It is blessed with having as its source of water pure delicious well water from wells deep in the earth. Ottar eagerly joined the neighborhood water committee and eventually became the administrator of the system, responsible for keeping the wells running and reporting water purity test and usage data to government authorities. He could often be seen walking around the neighborhood between the well sites with various pieces of equipment in his hand and always had handy a notepad and pencil on which he drew diagrams that meant something important to his engineer brain.

Ottar is survived by his wife of 37 years Sandra, stepchildren Michael Blanchette (wife Angelica) and Janelle Blanchette, two step-grandchildren who he adored, his sister Patricia Juers, and loving family members.
A virtual memorial service will be held on Thursday, September 3, 2020, at 1:00 p.m.

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