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In Memory of

Robert Osterrieder

July 18, 1960 – October 9, 2012
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Bob is known at CORE as a “Donor in Spirit” because although he was a registered organ donor his wishes weren’t able to be fulfilled. Bob was hospitalized for five months and was on and off mechanical ventilation several times suffering several strokes and brain damage during that period. His journey initially began as a healthy 52 year old but that quickly changed as we learned that he had a genetic blood disorder (Factor V Leiden) that had caused a major blood clot in his brain. Medical staff exhausted treatments that might improve his condition and our family made the very difficult decision to remove him from “life support” but inquired about organ donation during the decision process. It was during these difficult days that the kids and I were quickly educated about the intricacies of organ donation. We met with wonderful personnel from CORE but were disappointed to learn that Bob wouldn’t meet all of the protocols to be an organ donor. We were very discouraged because we wanted something good to come out of the horrible situation that we were confronted with. We were familiar with living donation and during a discussion with a trusted physician decided to inquire about donating one of Bob’s kidneys prior to removing him from life support. We had to meet with the hospital’s ethics committee and their legal department also had to approve of the procedure. Both gave their approval but then we couldn’t find a surgeon willing to perform the surgery because living donors normally give their consent but in our case the donor was on life support. Needless to say we were very disappointed. We proceeded with our decision to remove Bob from life support and he passed about 48 hours later. Since his passing CORE and our family have continued to work together to advocate for imminent death donation and are hopeful that someday another family faced with an imminent death will be able to fulfill their loved one’s wishes to be an organ donor. I think if you read the eulogy that my son delivered at his dad’s funeral you’ll better understand why this issue is so important to us.

Attitude is Everything

Eulogy delivered by Daniel R. Osterrieder (son)on 10/13/12 at St. John Neumann Parish.

My dad lived a relatively simple life in a truly extraordinary way.

He was a dependable man whose faith, love, and devotion to his family are unquestioned. So much so, that he did what most people vow they could never do and moved in with my mom’s parents 22 years ago. I’m sure – like most of his decisions – that he overanalyzed it and figured picking up another cook, maintenance man, gardener, babysitter, etc. were perks worth having and over time this relationship grew into much more. Every night he would spend time with my Mom and her parents even if it meant napping on the couch as they watched TV, occasionally piping in with a jeopardy answer that always seemed to come too easily to him.

His intelligence continually amazed me and I know he put it to good use during 28 years at Westinghouse, however when you talk to his colleagues you rarely hear them mention it. It’s because he had a bond with colleagues that went well beyond nuclear power plants and all of the technical stuff that nearly bored Kim and I to tears when we attended “take your kids to work” day. Recently, we’ve heard over and over from his colleagues that ‘Bob was the guy’. Things like…
“Whenever we had a crisis situation that needed to be dealt with – Bob was the guy to put on it.”
“When I first started and needed a mentor – Bob was the guy there for me”
“When we worked long hours for days on end and were on the elevator heading up to the hotel, Bob was the guy to press the down arrow and convince us to head back for a beer. ”
We also heard from an employee’s wife in Tennessee who told us “never before in our 13 1/2-year marriage had anyone in my husband’s ‘professional circle’ ever recognized my role or our family’s role in his work” until Bob did. He was ‘the guy’ who helped show the personal side of Westinghouse.

Bob was often also ‘the guy’ with his family. He always kept a very close relationship with his parents and would take our immediate family to their home every Sunday after church. He was ‘the guy’ who cared for his father before his death even knocking down the door to enter their apartment after he passed away. The bond he maintained with his mother was truly special and went well beyond their mutual love for chocolate. For his 8 siblings and many cousins, he was a leader beyond his years and as one put it, ‘the younger brother that we always looked up to’.

With all these people and many more, I wasn’t surprised when someone approached me on Thursday night at the funeral home and said, “Wow – this is really pretty loud for a wake”. I smiled and said “I know….and my dad wouldn’t want it any other way.” My Dad lived for others and always taught us the importance of helping others in anyway that we could. He gave his time and talents to many different charities and encouraged us to do the same. We made some great memories as a family working on houses with our church down in West Virginia.

He lived his life adhering to various basic principles, that while seemingly simple, the engineer in him would have to examine in as many ways as possible, eventually teach to us in detail and then – what all kids love – repeat again and again. The kind of repetition that after it sticks firmly in your head, it is repeated again and again so much so that as a young child you’re rolling your eyes; as a teenager you’re openly mocking on occasion; and as an adult dealing with the most challenging situation you’ve ever faced, you’re grateful that he took the time to pass on these lessons.

Some were very practical tidbits like paying attention to your circle of influence or 3 way communication. All of the lessons were grounded in his Christian faith and his family, but the two that will remain especially vivid are ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING and CARPE DIEM (seize the day).

The first, attitude is everything, is something that those who’ve read the updates have heard time and time again. As long as chocolate was within reach and his name was spelled correctly, there wasn’t too much that ever bent him out of shape. He was a firm believer that you can’t always control the hand you’ve been dealt…you can try to alter and improve it, but ultimately some things are out of your control. However, the one thing that is always – without question – in your control is how you respond to situations. Your attitude is everything…and his oozed with positivity.

The second phrase, Carpe Diem, is one my Dad truly lived day in and day out as he seized each day and didn’t leave anything on the table. He taught us that life is too short to pass up opportunities. He always took opportunities to visit his family, travel all around the world, go fishing, climb Mt. Katahdin and…the list could go on and on. He encouraged others to live life and do things outside of their comfort zone, such as going on a cruise when you’re afraid of water, heading to Ireland when you’re not keen on flying or getting on stage to belt out a karaoke song when you can’t hold a tune. One of my personal favorites is when he and I were at a bar in a port city waiting to re-board our cruise, he convinced a Canadian Grandma to get up and dance on the bar. Once he got down, the first thing he said was, “you think your mother will be ok with that, right?”. I said, “Dad, that was like a 70 year old woman who was cheered on by a sizable crowd…of her grandchildren; yes, she’ll be fine.”

My mom was always the first thought on his mind and with him every step of the way, but I couldn’t even attempt to put into words their relationship. However, on behalf of my father, please join me in thanking my Mom for the incredible role she has played, especially with his health issues over the past few years.

There is no question he seized the day and was able to do more in his short 52 years than many people do in much longer lives so I’ll leave you with something he’s left with me. I look out and see many people who aren’t too different from him – Osterrieders and engineers, family and friends…he didn’t wait until it was too late to build an absolutely incredible life and you shouldn’t either. Carpe Diem – seize the day and make your life extraordinary.

Kathy Osterrieder (wife)