OBITUARY

Joseph B. Sepic

August 8, 1917February 6, 2020

Joe Sepic, 102, of Pinellas Park, FL, died at his home on February 6, 2020.

Born in Pittsburgh, PA, Joe Sepic’s outstanding academic abilities were evident throughout his youth. He would graduate from high school two years early and go on to attend Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), majoring in mechanical engineering. He served his country during World War II by working as an engineer for a defense contractor, Curtiss Wright. By the end of World War II, Curtiss was the largest aircraft manufacturer in the United States, supplying aircraft in formidable numbers to the U.S. Armed Forces. He retired from Curtiss in 1972.

Off the job, Mr. Sepic’s main interest was golf. In his 30s he was a scratch handicapper who snared trophy after trophy in the company golf league. As the years progressed and as a Florida resident, he became a standout in his golf league, playing along with his golf buddies twice weekly. His golfing talents were highlighted in two articles in the Tampa Bay Times … one for his two holes-in-one -- in his 90s -- and the second celebrated his reaching the century milestone and still playing golf commendably, especially as a master of the short game.

Joe Sepic was someone whose natural inclination was to help others – usually without any particular recognition. He was the consummate caregiver, with examples far too numerous to mention. Without question, he offered the most assistance to his beloved wife of 63 years, Sally, who passed away in 2005 after a lengthy illness.

Joe Sepic’s passing is sad, but not tragic. Would that we all could have so many good years! And still, he is dearly missed, of course.

He is survived by a son, Ron, of Travelers Rest, SC; a daughter, Sally, and son-in-law, George Scott, of Wilmington, NC; three grandchildren, David and Douglas Scott and Heather Kraudel; and five great grandchildren: Sara Grace and Jackson Kraudel as well as Cameron, Alden, and Emily Scott.

A memorial service will be held 1:00 p.m. Saturday, February 15, 2020 at First United Methodist Church of Pinellas Park, FL In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the First Tee at: https://thefirsttee.org/donate. ____________________________________________________________________________________

Joseph Barth Sepic (1917-2020) – An Exploration

Thank you, Pastor Guthrie. I want to thank everyone who’s come to the service today to remember my father. I’d like to take a few minutes to reminisce a bit and to explore just what he meant to me.

First, some background information. Both my father and mother came from small towns around Pittsburgh. My father’s home was Wildwood, my mother’s was Glenshaw. My dad’s father was a carpenter and a man of few words. He worked with his hands and was well-known for both his considerable expertise as a carpenter as well as his seemingly boundless energy. My father’s work habits would evolve through the years into much the same style. But my dad, in a sense, would move to a higher level as a “builder” than his dad, thanks to my father’s formidable academic talents.

My father’s outstanding academic abilities were evident from his early years. He would go on to graduate from high school two years early. From there, he attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) and majored in mechanical engineering.

After college and as WWII approached, my father volunteered for the military. But the Army doctor who examined him said he had a heart murmur and rejected him. In my opinion, that doctor’s judgement proved more insightful than he knew. My father went on to serve his country magnificently during the war, and many years thereafter, by working as an engineer for a defense contractor, Curtiss Wright.

By the end of World War II, Curtiss was the largest aircraft manufacturer in the United States, supplying aircraft in formidable numbers to the U.S. Armed Forces. I remember my dad saying that, at that time, “The plants never shut down. We were turning out planes around the clock, seven days a week.”

For more than three decades, dad worked in the Propeller Division of Curtiss Wright, becoming a specialist in the creation, development, and production of propellers. From a technical standpoint, I could barely tell an aircraft propeller from a ceiling fan. But this was my father’s niche in a world populated by slide rules, data sets, and (to me) arcane calculations.

I had a reminder of my father’s intellectual prowess some years later when, in my work for NASA on one of their educational publications, I was doing research at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in downtown Washington, DC, and I stumbled upon the exhibit there on VTOLs (vertical takeoff and landing crafts). One plane shown there was of my father’s prize project during his many years at Curtiss. He kept a large picture of it in his bedroom: it was the X-19, a tilt propeller airplane of the early 1960s.

I can recall accompanying my father in my teens to Wright Field in Caldwell, NJ, to witness a test flight of this rare, experimental craft. When I saw it sitting on the runway, my feeling was “Who in the world would dream this thing up?” The answer, of course, was my father and other elite engineers he worked with at Curtiss. The plane was designed to take off without the need for a runway, and to reach high speeds, transporting a variety of cargo for the military at velocities much greater than a helicopter.

Once the plane started up that day, the propellers rotated, faster and faster, then the wings tilted back, and in short order the X-19 lifted off, straight up. It only went up about 50 feet, hovered, then softly returned to earth. That was the test, and the prototype plane had passed it with flying colors.

and landing crafts). One plane shown there was of my father’s prize project during his many years at Curtiss. He kept a large picture of it in his bedroom: it was the X-19, a tilt propeller airplane of the early 1960s.

I can recall accompanying my father in my teens to Wright Field in Caldwell, NJ, to witness a test flight of this rare, experimental craft. When I saw it sitting on the runway, my feeling was “Who in the world would dream this thing up?” The answer, of course, was my father and other elite engineers he worked with at Curtiss. The plane was designed to take off without the need for a runway, and to reach high speeds, transporting a variety of cargo for the military at velocities much greater than a helicopter.

Once the plane started up that day, the propellers rotated, faster and faster, then the wings tilted back, and in short order the X-19 lifted off, straight up. It only went up about 50 feet, hovered, then softly returned to earth. That was the test, and the prototype plane had passed it with flying colors.

My father beamed.

Unquestionably, my dad was an outstanding engineer. But looking at him from a different perspective, he was really a man of simple tastes and not someone with large doses of sophistication.

He didn’t have any particular sense of style when it came to dress. Again in my teens, I can recall him coming downstairs one Sunday morning before church wearing a plaid shirt along with a plaid tie. To his surprise, my mother, my sister, and I all let out restrained shrieks and suggested he go back upstairs and put on a solid white shirt. He shrugged, a little dumbfounded … then dutifully changed into the white shirt. • As for music, he once told me that he liked two types: the cowboy songs of Gene Autry and the marches of John Philip Sousa. Not a bad combination. • Fine arts painting wasn’t a strong interest either. I once asked him if he ever tried painting and he said, “Yes. I paint houses, as my father did. In fact, I painted most of the rooms in this house.” • For poetry, his taste was fairly conventional, but at the same time, inspired in its own way. He preferred the tales of Robert Service and the snowy world of the Yukon. His favorite Robert Service poems were “The Cremation of Sam McGee” and “The Shooting of Dan McGrew,” especially when read by the radio humorist, Jean Shepherd. I can remember high school days when he and I listened and laughed to “Shep” together. Those were happy times, indeed.

I had friends whose fathers were doctors, lawyers, highly enterprising and successful businessmen – one who even started and led his own internationally renowned.

company. My father was about as far from being a dynamic entrepreneur, executive, or motivational speaker as you could get. He preferred to work and act quietly, usually behind the scenes and with great precision.

In my youth, perhaps I looked up to some of my friend’s fathers a little more ... men whose primary achievements were worldly and, by many standards, quite significant. But as the years went by, my opinion of my father and where he fit into this world would change. A lot.

Dad was someone who expressed his feelings through his actions. Like his father, he was a man of few words who taught much. Dad was someone who expressed his feelings through his actions. Like his father, he was a man of few words who taught much more by example. Often, my father’s actions were aimed at helping others. He in fact helped me on numerous occasions. Several come to mind, but I’ll mention just one.

In my twenties and early thirties, I had a Newfoundland dog. I named this “bear dog” Smokey (“bear dog” was what one of the neighborhood youngsters called him). I was nuts about Smokey from the day I brought him home way back in 1971.

At age 6, one of Smokey’s front legs failed him suddenly and for no apparent reason. I had no idea how serious the situation was until I took him to my vet, who told me, after x-rays, that the leg would never work properly again. He said that some dogs could function on three legs, but not a Newfie (Smokey weighed in at about 160 lbs.). I was stunned by the revelation. The vet felt the only chance Smokey had was to see an orthopedic specialist at the Cornell University Veterinary School. He hoped this vet might come up with a solution. Well, the Cornell vet did, but it required a risky operation to return some level of functioning to the leg. Under the circumstances, I asked this vet to try his best. And so, the operation proceeded. It lasted several hours. The vet came to see me afterwards and said he felt things went well; but he called Smokey’s prognosis “guarded.”

Smokey’s recovery was painful and took months. He could walk on the leg, but he was never again able to climb stairs. That meant he would also never again be able to jump into the back seat of my car and go for a ride … something I think that virtually all dogs love to do. I wondered if I’d made the right decision.

One day my father came to see me and said, “I have an idea about Smokey.” I learned over the years that when my father said he had an idea, it paid to listen. I asked my father what he had in mind, and he said, “I think it might be possible for Smokey to ride in your car if we modify the back of it a little bit.”

First, I helped Dad take out the car’s back seat. Then he started to assess the car’s floor without the seat. Next, we were off to the local lumber yard to get some wood. When we got home, my father went to work. Painstakingly, he took a variety of measurements and then started marking up the wood. As the carpenters say, measure twice, cut once.

And so the cutting began with my father using only simple tools and related items: a hand saw, a hammer, nails, sandpaper, some foam rubber, and carpeting left behind from work he’d already done around the house. I helped where I could, but my father did the work requiring precision. I’d learned through the years that that was best. When he was finished cutting, smoothing, and fastening, Dad said, “Help me fit this into the back of the car.”

And so I did. As I might have guessed, the new and now flat floor practically snapped into place. It had carpeting with foam rubber strategically placed underneath, and it fit into the car perfectly. The final action was to fashion something that could be used by Smokey as a stepping stone of sorts. Dad created a platform that was wide and strong, but at the same time, so low that it would put minimal strain on my dog’s legs when he navigated it. It also had to be small enough to easily fit into the car’s trunk.

Having finished the platform, the time had come for my dog to see my father’s creations. Smokey immediately realized the possibilities as I led him onto the platform. After a few steps, he was in the back of the car, wheeled around and settled into his new home away from home. The period of adjustment for the dog seemed to me like perhaps 15 seconds. I thanked my father profusely. He just smiled. For four more years, until my dog’s demise (which was unrelated to the leg problem), Smokey was to enjoy countless rides in what had become – and would forever remain -- the new back section of my car. That part of the car was now his and his alone.

Off the job and away from his tools, Dad’s main interest, other than his family of course, was golf. No recollection of my father would be complete without mentioning his love of golf. He was an outstanding golfer … though not stellar enough to be a touring professional. Few are, of course. But I truly believe that no one loved the game more … or enjoyed it more ... than my father.

He once told me that when he was a young golfer, he and a few friends would often arrive at the golf course before the sun came up. They’d take turns positioning themselves down the first hole and listen for drives off the first tee as they hit the fairway, then shout to the golfers back on the tee about where their drives had landed.

Throughout his life, that joy of golf persisted. In his 30s he was a scratch handicapper who snared trophy after trophy in the company golf league. As the years progressed, he defied aging by dropping decades when he was on the golf course. I can recall playing golf with Dad and a friend when I was in my late 50s. The friend and I shared a golf cart, which I drove. My father chose to walk and pull his clubs with a hand cart. After a few holes, my friend noted with amazement as he gazed across the fairway, “Look at your father. He’s jogging.” Indeed he was jogging down the fairway. My father, at the time, was 88.

But just as golf tests one’s character, it also reveals it. Much like one of his idols, the great Bobby Jones, once said, when reflecting on his own battle with a severe, debilitating illness, “we play it as it lies.” As did my father, who NEVER complained about life or his lot at any time or in any way. It wasn’t his nature. He was a born optimist. And while he was most fortunate to remain incredibly fit and healthy as the decades rolled by, my mother wasn’t nearly so lucky. Perhaps my father’s most profound role was to emerge around age 50, for my dad was to become the consummate caregiver.

At age 47, my mother had an unusual accident that resulted in a ruptured esophagus, a medical emergency by any measure. My quick-thinking sister rushed her to an ER for diagnosis and treatment, but it was several days before we knew if our mother would survive. She did, but mandatory medical procedures followed every couple of years aimed at making the repaired esophagus useable; ultimately, a new esophagus was required. The new organ was to be formed from my mother’s colon. The pioneering operation succeeded, but lifestyle changes inevitably followed. My father was by her side each step of the way, diligently providing whatever support was required.

My mother’s sixties were her last good decade. After what she had been through, she certainly deserved remaining years of relative calm. She and my father retired and, eventually, moved to Florida to start a new life. But the serenity was short-lived.

In her early 70s, my mother’s trembling body movements signaled trouble ahead. Then came the diagnosis: Parkinson’s. Initially, the changes in her lifestyle weren’t dramatic. But as my mother’s motor skills and, eventually, her cognitive abilities waned, my father always rose to the occasion, no matter how arduous the effort required. No whining. He simply did what had to be done. As she could do less and less, he always did more and more. He truly had the patience of a saint coupled with enormous energy far beyond his years that served him, and my mother, extraordinarily well. Sadly, inevitably, and after 63 years of marriage, my mother’s heroic fight ended at age 86. My sister and I wondered if our father’s passing might soon follow. It did not. His redemption was the opportunity to return to his perennial passion – golf. He was now 88, an age when most golfers have long since abandoned the game because of their deteriorating health.

Not my father. He was to become an even greater standout in his golf league, playing along with his buddies twice weekly. More recently, his golfing talents were highlighted in two wonderful articles in the Tampa Bay Times written by sports columnist Rodney Page. One was for my dad’s two holes-in-one -- in his 90s -- and the second celebrated his reaching the century milestone and still playing golf commendably, especially as a master of the short game.

Through it all, my father was always well liked. In my opinion, others found my father’s deepest appeal not from his talents, which were formidable indeed, whether as the gifted student, engineer, golfer, or in working so creatively with tools. What then? A word that comes to mind is one we don’t hear a lot today in this loud and brash time we live in. My father was a gentle man, a gentleman -- a combination of goodness and grace, with an unwavering courtesy, moments of self-deprecation, and an unfailing consideration and kindness toward other people.

I know that my father’s life was a life well-lived. It was a long and satisfying life lived on his own terms. At the same time, his passing is sad, but not tragic. Would that we all could have so many good years as my father! If his vigorous longevity is not something to celebrate, I don’t know what is! And still, he is dearly missed of course. But now I believe he’s in a better place … near my mother. He probably has some golf clubs close by and is thinking about taking a little time to try and perfect his putting stroke.

And what was my father’s legacy? In what ways could his actions serve as a model for others, and for me?

As I consider him as a father and as a man, I’m reminded of a few words of T.S. Elliot: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and to know the place for the first time.”

I believe this world would be a better place if there were more people in it like my dad: • Everyone familiar with my father knew that he was a man without guile. He could be trusted implicitly. He was a straight shooter in life, as well as in golf. In his prime, he was as steady, dependable, and unshakable as anyone I’ve ever known. • My father was someone whose natural inclination was to help others – usually without any particular recognition. The examples are far too numerous to recall. Similarly, he was the consummate caregiver, offering all manner of assistance to any number of lucky folks over the decades. • In that same spirit, he was a most remarkable and consistent supporter in times of trouble. If you were having concerns or misgivings about anything, there wasn’t a more reassuring person to have by your side than my father. • My father was an optimist, and his optimism was contagious. This wasn’t a philosophy developed after years of reflection. He just lived his life with an attitude that things would work out; and perhaps not surprisingly, they usually did. Often, my mother was an important part of these outcomes. • He could also have a great sense of humor. In a recent hospital stay, one of the nurses said to him, “Mr. Sepic, you certainly must be quite tall. How tall are you?” He replied, “I’m 7’6”. He was about 5’9”. Also not so long ago, and not surprisingly, it seemed all he wanted to do was sleep. He was dozing away one afternoon; I roused him slightly and said, “Dad, you can’t sleep all night AND all day.” He raised his head slightly and said, “But I can try!” Then he dropped his head back onto his pillow and closed his eyes. • My father was the most pleasant person to be around you could imagine.Those who knew him can attest to that. I found him to be a bright ray of sunshine virtually every morning. He routinely enjoyed singing portions of any number of simple tunes when he first got up and started moving about the house. • Last, but definitely not least, ruthlessness and cruelty were totally alien to my father. He was as warm, honest, and decent a person as I’ve ever had the privilege to know.

I realize today, now more than ever, that I was so fortunate, and am so thankful, that Joseph Barth Sepic was my father. He has left me, and many others, with a wealth of beautiful memories that I know will hearten and sustain us immeasurably in the months and years ahead.

I’ll conclude with a few verses you may have heard that I think go a long way in capturing the essence of my father and how he lived. The author, who is unknown, wrote: At the end of life, what really matters is not what we bought, but what we built. Not what we got, but what we shared. Not competence, but our character. And not our success, but our significance. Live a life that matters, live a life of love.

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JOE SEPIC: A MEMORY

Sometime around 1930, a young boy 12-years of age was introduced to the game of golf. He soon discovered the first love of his life. He continued to play, round after round, year after year. The tens of years and the thousands of rounds went by, and, while his competence level grew by leaps and bounds, that most elusive prize- a hole-in-one – continued to elude him. Then, almost eight years ago- March 13, 2012 - to be exact, the golf gods finally smiled on Joe Sepic, as he got his first ever hole-in-one on the second hole at Cypress Links at Mangrove Bay. At this point, it was hard to figure out whether Joe or his golfing partners were more excited. It was a long time coming. That evening, my phone rang about 8:00, and it was Joe. He asked what he could do to share this moment with the other members of our Tuesday golf league. After a brief discussion, we decided to order golf balls for every member, with the course, date and hole number of Joe’s momentous feat. He paid for the golf balls himself, five or six dozen if memory serves. Nothing to my way of thinking better epitomizes the man that we came to know and love than that gesture by one of the finest men I have had the privilege to know.

  • FAMILY

  • Ronald Sepic, Son
  • Sally (George) Scott, Daughter
  • David and Douglas Scott, Grandchildren
  • Heaher Kraudel, Grandchild
  • Sally Sepic, Wife (deceased)
  • Mr. Sepic also leaves five great grandchildren, Sara Grace and Jackson Kraudel, Cameron, Alden and Emily Scott to cherish his memory.

Services

  • Celebration of Life Service Saturday, February 15, 2020

Memories

Joseph B. Sepic

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Harry Provan

February 10, 2020

Golfed with Joe in the Fri. Men’s league at Mainlands for many years. It was always a good day when I golfed with him. One day when I believe he was still 98 yrs old on the par 3 number 12 hole his ball stopped about 1 inch from a hole in one. How we both would have enjoyed that. He made the birdie putt. He was a good man and will miss him. My prayers are with his family. May god be with and bless you in this time of sorrow.

Harry Provan

February 10, 2020

Golfed with Joe in the Fri. Men’s league at Mainlands for many years. It was always a good day when I golfed with him. One day when I believe he was still 98 yrs old on the par 3 number 12 hole his ball stopped about 1 inch from a hole in one. How we both would have enjoyed that. He made the birdie putt. He was a good man and will miss him. My prayers are with his family. May god be with and bless you in this time of sorrow.

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY