Sasse, Richard Charles

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On December 9, 2010, surrounded by family, Richard Charles (Dick) Sasse, of Blacksburg, left this life to be reunited with Inez, his beloved wife of 66 years. His rules for a happy life were simple: give as much as you can and you will have no regrets. Life is too short for grudges and bickering.

A devoted son, husband, father, friend and unassuming role model throughout his life, Dick earned the love and respect of his children, Barbara and Michael Williams, of Blacksburg, and Roxana and Richard (Rick) C. Sasse Jr., of Providence, R.I.; grandchildren, Gail Sasse, of Cape Town, South Africa, Craig Williams, of Washington, D.C., and Mary and Kurt Williams, of Richmond, Va.; and his greatest joy for the past five years, his great-grandchildren, Grady Michael and Rosemarie Eileen Williams, of Richmond. Other close family members are his brother and sister-in-law, Ferdinand and Mary Sasse, of Washington, D.C.; nieces, Beth Caviliere, of Silver Spring, Md., and Donna Siler, of Largo, Fla.; and nephews, Stephen Sasse, of Spring Lake, N.J., and William Schmidt, of West Columbia, S.C.

Dick was born to Richard and Margaret Sasse on July 6, 1918, in Astoria, Queens, N.Y. From his parents, he inherited an extraordinary work ethic, great sense of humor and optimistic outlook. Dick embraced the many holiday traditions, music, foods and beers of his German heritage and was humbly, more conversant in German than he admitted. He was forever grateful to be a first generation American and flew the Stars and Stripes daily.

He grew up in Carlstadt, N.J., graduating from East Rutherford High School, where he played football, basketball and track and first met Inez. Along with an honest ability to laugh at himself, Dick was blessed with a ready smile, an inquisitive mind and an outgoing personality allowing him to connect with people of all ages and backgrounds.

He enjoyed many different activities at various times of his life. Dick loved photographing his family and friends, often developing his own black and white portraits and documenting family activities on 8 mm film. Out of high school, he and a small group of friends used ingenuity and sweat equity to form their own tennis club in Carlstadt. Buying several lots they cleared and leveled by hand, they trucked in dirt and then clay to create four fenced in courts, all for the love of the game.

When Uncle Sam called during World War II, Dick planned to join the Navy. His bosses at Curtiss-Wright decided his war effort would be better served designing B-17s. An engineer’s engineer, with an intense interest in aviation since childhood, he progressed from machinist to draftsman to tool designer to engineer after earning a BS in Mechanical Engineering in 1949 after 12 years of night school at Newark (NJ) College of Engineering.

During that time, Dick and Inez married, gave birth to Barbara, bought a small “fixer-upper” at Packanack Lake, Wayne, N.J., and gave birth to Rick. That he did this all while working full time during the day, often taking on one and sometimes a second part time job to make ends meet, earned him great respect from his entire family and all who knew his background.

While his children were growing up, Dick was an active member within the Packanack Lake community as well as the Packanack Community Church. As a leader in Cub Scout Pack, Boy Scout Troop and Sea Explorer Ship 104, he was inducted as a member of the Order of the Arrow. He continued athletic pursuits with bowling, golf, and racing a Penguin sailboat he built for his family. At backyard barbecues he threw horse shoes and sang “Barbershop” with his best friends who just happened to be his neighbors.

After almost 20 years working on aircraft engine design, including a patent, for Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical in Wood-Ridge, N.J., he transferred his experience to modifying aircraft engines for marine application while with Thiokol Chemical Corporation.

Reinventing himself again for his last employment, he worked for the United States Postal Service Research and Development department in Washington, D.C., focusing on large volume mail packaging systems. As empty-nesters, Dick and Inez moved to Bethesda, Md., where a steady flow of visiting family and friends led neighbors to joke that Inez and Dick were running a B & B. Dick’s interest and ever growing knowledge of the DC area allowed him to give “Grand Tours” of the Capital city to all their guests.

Inez and Dick loved to travel, visiting family and friends throughout the country and overseas. Rick’s Coast Guard deployments to Hawaii provided a favorite destination. It was there that Dick adopted the Aloha Shirt as his own personal fashion statement for all seasons and occasions.

In 1995 they moved to Blacksburg and never ceased to be amazed by all this little town had to offer and the vast amount of talent among its residents. Dick enjoyed playing in the Men’s golf leagues at BCC and throughout the year with Kurt, Craig and Barbara. He became a regular at Sports Club luncheons, and the Aquatic Center exercise classes. Though he seldom played the game, he became a great fan of Tech Baseball and Softball, attending as many home games as possible.
Dick loved all kinds of music including classical, big band and bluegrass. He enjoyed attending concerts given by the Town Band, Town Strings, Master Chorale, Marching Virginians, Highty-Tighties (the Virginia Tech Regimental Band) and any band representing a branch of the military.

Few sounds stirred his emotions more, than a military brass band. When he and Inez lived in Bethesda, every summer they went to countless military band concerts at nearby parks and throughout the District. In Blacksburg, they often joined good friends to attend concerts anytime a band from a branch of the services performed near by.

Dick regularly visited Heritage Hall, where Inez lived for 2 ½ years, during which time he faithfully visited her twice a day, and on occasion was a resident himself for physical therapy.

A member of the Blacksburg United Methodist Church, he especially enjoyed the XYZ evenings, Prayer Breakfasts and weekly balance classes. As with Inez, Dick’s family is grateful for the countless acts of kindness, prayers and visits from other members, and the continued guidance of the Reverend Reginald Tuck who gave so generously of his time and council.

Dick’s family would like to express their gratitude to the nurses and doctors who cared for him in the ICU at MRH. Thank you to those at McCoy Funeral Home who helped our parents make things easier for us.

A Memorial Service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 26, 2011, at the Blacksburg United Methodist Church. In lieu of flowers, please make donations in Dick’s memory to Blacksburg EMS, The Free Clinic of the New River Valley or “To Our House” men’s shelter.
Optional attire for Gentlemen: Aloha shirts.

Dick leaves behind a wealth of happy memories to be treasured, not just by his loving family, but by all who knew him.