When Raymond Gottsacker’s children called him at work, they received the only hint of the classified work he was doing on behalf of the U.S. government.
“Torpedoes — Gottsacker.” That’s how their dad would answer the phone from his workshop at Honeywell.
“He could never tell us what he did for a living,” said Mike Gottsacker, third oldest of the family’s six children. “We knew he was an engineer at Honeywell, but that was about it.”
Gottsacker died on July 29 at the age of 94. His legacy includes four engineering patents, a Purple Heart earned during World War II and a 500-word love letter to his wife, Carolyn, that he published in the Star Tribune in 1988.
Gottsacker was born in Sheboygan, Wis., where he was raised Catholic and dreamed of becoming a priest. But after graduating from a seminary prep school, he joined the Army, serving as a machine gun operator in Europe. “He got that job because he was the one who could carry it,” said his daughter, Mary Johnson. “It damaged his hearing.”
Gottsacker was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge and spent three days camped out under the Eiffel Tower in Paris before being sent home. After testing his IQ, his Army superiors offered him a free ride to medical school, but he turned it down to pursue an engineering degree at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Tio Campanile, a longtime colleague and family friend, said Gottsacker was a stickler for doing the right thing, even if it irritated his bosses. Once, he asked Gottsacker to sign off on a shipment to England, which their Wisconsin employer routinely disguised as a “gift” to avoid taxes. He said Gottsacker was the only co-worker to refuse.
“He said, ‘No, that’s wrong. You are misrepresenting the contents of a package, and that’s beyond my morality,’ ” Campanile recalled. “That is the fabric of Ray.”
Gottsacker spent most of his career at Honeywell in Minneapolis, where he worked on classified projects as a principal production engineer.
In addition to ordnance, Gottsacker worked on thermostats for the Gemini manned space vehicles, according to family members.
Visiting Gottsacker at work was almost impossible because of security protocols. Mike Gottsacker said he asked his dad if he could come to Honeywell for “career day” during high school, but his dad just shook his head.
“I wound up tagging along with a buddy of mine, whose dad was an attorney,” said Mike Gottsacker, who now works in marketing and communications. “I didn’t go into engineering.”
In 1988, Gottsacker published a love letter to his wife, explaining why he refused to call her “My Bride” even though she preferred the nickname. “That term is just too shallow to express my regard for her,” Gottsacker explained in the letter. “A bride is a promise, but a wife is a promise fulfilled over and over and over again.”
Family members said Gottsacker was proud of his German heritage and never forgot his links to Sheboygan, which the New York Times has described as the bratwurst capital of America.
Gottsacker ate brats at every opportunity, pestering local bakers for years in hopes of persuading one to replicate Sheboygan’s famous hard rolls, which are perfect for soaking up sauerkraut juice and brat drippings without falling apart.
At Gottsacker’s funeral last week, family members even served up brats — from Sheboygan’s top bratwurst maker, Miesfeld’s Meat Market. His favorite hymn was also sung in German. “The whole idea was to honor Dad,” Mike Gottsacker said. “People raved about it.”
In addition to his wife, daughter Mary and son Michael, he is survived by three other sons, Greg, Mark and Steve; five grandchildren and a great-grandson. Son Philip preceded him in death.