V. James Rothgaber, 93, worker at Martin, motorcycle enthusiast

October 05, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

V. James Rothgaber, who never missed a day of work in 44 years at Martin-Marietta Corp. and during a lifetime of motorcycle riding racked up more than a half-million miles, died of complications from an infection Sept. 28 at Good Samaritan Hospital. He was 93 and formerly lived in Parkville.

Mr. Rothgaber, who had lived at Brightview Assisted Living in White Marsh since May, was born in Reading, Pa. When he was a teen-ager, he moved to Baltimore with his mother, who opened a restaurant at North Avenue and Gay Street.

His lifelong enthusiasm for motorcycles began in 1924 when, at age 16, he purchased his first bike, a Harley-Davidson 74, with proceeds earned from a newspaper route.

On a humid summer day in 1929, after graduating from Polytechnic Institute, he rode his bike through the gates of the old Glenn L. Martin Co. -- his first and only place of employment -- which was then located in a Canton warehouse, where he began work as a production clerk. After the Martin Co.'s Middle River facility was completed, he continued riding his bike to his job in the company's master planning department.

He was married in 1929 to M. Ruth Anderson, who died in August at age 92.

Last year, the couple, who were married for 71 years, were honored by Cardinal William H. Keeler as the longest-married couple in the archdiocese at a World Marriage Day Mass offered at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.

Mr. Rothgaber took a 26-year hiatus from motorcycles between 1936 to 1962 to help his wife -- who never shared in his enthusiasm for motorcycles --raise their five children.

"She never put a leg over the saddles of his motorcycles or even considered riding any of them. He offered to put on a sidecar, and she still refused," said son Robert G. Rohgaber, a retired teacher and Roland Park resident.

After being transferred to the company's plant in Orlando, Fla., in 1962 where he worked as program planning and cost supervisor, he resumed riding his motorcycle to work each day. He happily completed the 45-mile daily commute between his home in Casselberry, Fla., and the plant in Orlando.

On a November day in 1973, he ended his career as he had commenced it: on the back of a motorcycle.

He jumped on his bike, pushed down the kick start, and roared out of the Orlando facility into retirement.

Between 1962 and 1973, when he returned to Baltimore, Mr. Rothgaber completed eight round trips from Orlando to his former home. During his years of riding, he accumulated more than 500,000 miles, a distance equivalent to about 20 trips around the globe.

Mr. Rothgaber never got to take a grand cross-country excursion as hoped, mostly riding locally on daytrips to Western Maryland and Pennsylvania. He continued to ride his black BMW motorcycle into his mid-80s.

Reflecting on his longevity aboard motorcycles in an interview with the Martin-Marietta News, a company newspaper, he said, "I've had a couple of slips on a wet pavement, but no bones broken."

He also enjoyed horseback riding and owned several horses.

Mr. Rothgaber liked fishing and hunting and was a charter member of MARCO, the Martin Co. hunting and fishing club.

He was a longtime member of Overlea United Methodist Church, where a memorial service was held Monday.

Mr. Rothgaber is also survived by three other sons, James R. Rothgaber of Mountain View, Calif., Dennis E. Rothgaber of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Paul T. Rothgaber of Baltimore; a daughter, Mary Milroy Stephens of Royal Oak; nine grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

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