Virginia Beach—Roger Lee Oberndorf passed away on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, at Norfolk General Hospital, as the result of complications from a brain injury. He was 75.
Roger was born on Nov. 19, 1936, in Jersey City, N.J., the third son of Jerome and Sadie Oberndorf.
Growing up, he excelled in music, playing the saxophone and clarinet. Roger proudly earned the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest honor in the Boy Scouts of America.
He started college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and performed in the famous Marching Illini marching band. When his father passed away unexpectedly, Roger moved back to New Jersey to help his family, and finished his undergraduate degree at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He earned his master’s degree in organizational management at George Washington University.
While attending a mixer in New York City in the early 1960s, Roger met the love of his life, Meyera Fran Ellenson of Newport News, who was attending college at Stern College for Women. He moved south to enlist in the U.S. Coast Guard’s Officer Candidate School in Yorktown, Va. He and Meyera were married at the historic Chamberlin Hotel in Hampton on June 11, 1961.
Roger served on active duty in the Coast Guard for four years and was ultimately promoted to the rank of captain as he continued his service in the reserves for 26 years.
Entering civilian life, Roger began work as an engineer and supervisor at the Ford Motor Plant in Norfolk. He and Meyera moved to the Kempsville neighborhood in Virginia Beach, and became the proud parents of two daughters, Marcie and Heide. The Oberndorfs welcomed another daughter into the family in later years when they became the guardians of Linda Smith.
Roger soon discovered his true passions in life besides his family: aviation and local politics. He earned his private pilot’s license and often flew his family to events and vacations. Beginning in 1976, Roger was the campaign manager and the driving force for Meyera’s political career. She started on the Virginia Beach Library board and became the first directly elected mayor of the city in 1988, an office she held for 20 years. Meyera and Roger were a familiar, popular couple around town, often appearing at events and ceremonies in one of Roger’s sporty Ford convertibles.
After retiring from Ford, Roger focused on charitable and community efforts. He was a dedicated member of Kiwanis International and was a volunteer pilot for Angel Flights, an organization providing free air transportation to hospitals for individuals and their families in medical need. For 10 years, he served on the Virginia Aviation board, eight of those as chairman.
As an engineer and military veteran, Roger had an outwardly practical and regimented demeanor, but his family and friends knew him as a man with an adventurous spirit, an irreverent sense of humor and a kind heart. He dearly loved his many dogs and enjoyed music ranging from Sousa marches to Broadway show tunes. He was a loving father and grandfather, a devoted husband, and a true friend to many.
Roger is survived by his wife Meyera; daughter Marcie Oberndorf-Kelso, son-inlaw Marty Kelso, granddaughter Lila Kelso and grandson Joey Kelso of Charlotte, N.C.; daughter Heide Oberndorf and partner Sharon Bispo of San Francisco, Calif; and his brother Bill Oberndorf of Fair Lawn, NJ.
A service was held at the Laskin Road Chapel of H.D. Oliver Funeral Apts. Burial was at Hebrew Cemetery in Hampton.
Donations may be made to the Town Center Kiwanis Club of Virginia Beach, P.O. Box 62111, Virginia Beach, VA 23666.