Friday, December 20, 2013

Obituary: William "C-Note Charlie" Roth

“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

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. For more information and stories, please join us at In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the American Diabetes Association at

Thursday, December 12, 2013

World War II

In 1995, I pushed my Dad to talk to me about something important, something... anything.

After a long, uncomfortable pause... he started talking about World War II.  And didn't stop for over an hour.  I heard stories that I'd never known before.

A few years later, he started writing them down.  He used Microsoft Word like a typewriter: the first page was document 1.  The second page was document 2.  And so on...

But he gamely continued.  So I took his hard work, and pieced it together into a website:  And added pictures, entries from his flight log book, and many other things.  He was genuinely and justifiably proud of the result, and I was very, very happy to do this 'with' him.

Take a look.  If nothing else, scroll down to the Upottery field section, and read about the black armbands made of socks, and "GUN CREW".  That's my Dad.

In Memoriam: 10/25/1924 - 12/11/2013

    Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
    of sun-split clouds, – and done a hundred things

After 89 years on this earth, on Wednesday night, December 11 2013, my Dad, William Charles Roth (Sr.) passed on... to death, to eternity, to that great tennis court in the sky... I do not know.  Impatient as he always was, we missed his passing by all of 5 minutes.  Yet we had enough time in the few days before to touch him, to speak to him, to tell him that we loved him and that it was OK for him to go on.

    Hurry up.  Hurry up.
Those were, appropriately enough, his last words to me.  He may have been dreaming of a trip in his beloved RV.  Or perhaps he really was trying to tell me something deeper.

Today I am in no hurry.  I have spent the day after his death in small, quiet things, trying to live in that space between peace and sorrow, the thin line between life and death.

But I do want to honor this man, and to honor all of us who knew him, put up with him, fed him, poured him drinks... and loved him, each in our own way.  I want to collect our thoughts and memories while they are still fresh, while it is still hard to realize that he's gone.

I invite you to add any memories, pictures, stories, even his bad jokes, that live in your memory.  Later on I expect to collect them in an organized form.  But for today, please write anything that comes to you.

To add your thoughts, you'll need a Google id, such as a gmail account, or one of the other options listed below.  Click on the "comments" word at the bottom, and you should see some choices for how to post comments.