Paul Francis Strittmatter
Paul Francis Strittmatter, beloved husband, dad and grandad, died Sunday, May 15, 2022, at home in Santa Barbara. He had just celebrated his 97th birthday three days before with champagne and shrimp.
A lifelong engineer who loved offering technical support to family and friends, Paul was born May 12, 1925, to Helen and Otto Strittmatter in Hastings, PA. His earliest memories were waking up before sunrise to feed the chickens and start a fire in the basement furnace for hot water in the house. When he was a boy, his grandpa took him on his first airplane ride at a country fair. He knew then that he wanted to be a pilot.
By the time Paul graduated from high school, World War II was raging and, rather than wait to be drafted, he enlisted with the Army Air Corps and was sent to basic flight training at Garner Field in Uvalde, Texas, flying the PT-19. Shortly after, he was combat qualified for the B-17. With the war winding down, he was sent to Roswell, NM, for B-29 training. While at Buckley Field, Colorado, waiting for a crew and aircraft, the war ended. Though his active duty ended, he continued as a reservist pilot until 1972.
Paul graduated from Penn State in 1950 with a degree in civil engineering. After college he worked at the family lumber company before being hired by Babcock and Wilcox in Barberton OH, where he designed the world’s largest electric overhead traveling crane.
In 1956 Paul was hired by General Motors (Delco) in Milwaukee, where his adventures really began. Paul was sent to Morocco, Tangier, Germany, Libya and the UK as a field representative providing technical support. In 1958 he began his space career with the Thor Missile Program, working with the Royal Air Force.
Paul was called back to Milwaukee to develop an all-forces airplane and oversee the modular cockpit systems. He began flying C-130s on weekends for the Air Force 440th Tactical Airlift Wing. In 1972 in Milwaukee, he married Kathleen Kelly, whom he had met at a St. Patrick’s Day party. After their wedding reception, they loaded up her VW bug and drove to Santa Barbara, where he began work on the Apollo program. He was in charge of flight readiness for the Guidance and Navigation systems of Apollo and the Skylab project.
After the birth of their daughter Elizabeth, Paul took up the mantel of doting father, attending piano recitals, volleyball games and poetry competitions. He also loved to travel, ski, write lists, make omelets and barbecue tri-tip with the Bishop Diego H.S. Dads’ Club. Paul had a keen mind and an amazing memory, which remained clear to the end. He had a font of knowledge, a deep faith and strong principles. His was a long and well-lived life.
He leaves behind his loving wife Kathleen, precious daughter Elizabeth (Charlie) Roberts, grandchildren Willie and Gracie Roberts, and sisters Eileen Alvarez and Margaret Rider. There will be a vigil for Paul on Wednesday, June 15th at 7 p.m. at Welch-Ryce-Haider Mortuary, 15 E. Sola Street. Funeral services will be at San Roque Catholic Church, 325 Argonne Circle, on Thursday, June 16th at 11 a.m., luncheon to follow. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Fr. Virgil Cordano Center, c/o St. Vincent’s, 4200 Calle Real, Santa Barbara, CA 93110, or to Catholic Relief Services, 228 W. Lexington St., Baltimore, MD 21201.