Civic-minded entrepreneur made time to unwind
Little joys pervaded Joe Ott's laborious life.
“He worked to live,” said his son, Douglas Ott of South Park. “Staying out late in his early years playing cards. A good gin and tonic. He was one of those guys who had a lot of fun along the way.”
Joseph C. “Joe” Ott, of Diamond Run in Ohio Township, died on Friday, July 11, 2014, in his home, surrounded by family, ending a 2 1⁄2-year battle with esophageal cancer. He was 77.
“His agile mind, endless curiosity for learning, zest for life, generosity and irreverent humor will be sorely missed by all who knew him,” said his daughter, Michelle Crookenden of Connecticut.
A civil engineering graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, Mr. Ott was a local pioneer in computer software, working in California for Douglas Aircraft — later McDonnell Douglas — as a computer specialist designing missile simulations for the Nike and Skybolt Missiles, and the Saturn IVB rocket booster. He founded his first company, Ecco Consulting, in 1964, followed by Acclamation Systems and most recently, TowerMetriX.
Mr. Ott was chairman of Pitt's Institute of Entrepreneurial Excellence and was a volunteer, chair and fundraiser for ACHIEVA, a South Side-based special needs advocacy group.
“Joe could speak volumes with a single look,” wrote former Acclamation vice president Terri Slesinski of Upper St. Clair.
He could be a fierce competitor and demanding leader, Crookenden said. His high expectations infused a sort of entrepreneurial ambition that emboldened his children, his son said.
“He liked the free time, liked to smell the roses,” Ott said. “Dad's drive in that way showed me that you could build a life with your own structure, your own priorities.”
Douglas Ott started his first venture, Surface Jet Tours, after decades watching his father navigate the evolution of technology, he said.
“Growing up, we'd go to his office and see the punch-card machine in his office. We had one of the earliest home computers,” he said.
Mr. Ott was a Steelers fan and an avid golfer who parlayed his love into the Acclamation Million Dollar Golf Challenge, a multiyear ACHIEVA charity that raised more than $500,000 for the organization, his daughter said.
In addition to his children, Michelle Crookenden and Douglas Ott, Mr. Ott is survived by his wife, Rae Ott of Ohio Township; sister, Joan Davies of Connecticut; brother, Patrick Ott of Montana; and three grandchildren. Rae's daughter and granddaughter, both of California, also survive him.
Visitation is 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in Schellhaas Funeral Home, 1600 Stone Mansion Drive in Franklin Park. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday.
Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at 412-388-5815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.