Rolf Nedelmann | Passages

Rolf Nedelmann | 1934-2019


Rolf Nedelmann passed away peacefully in his sleep on December 7, 2019. He was in Seattle, surrounded by family and the warm thoughts of many who loved him.

Rolf was born in Essen, Germany on November 6, 1934, the eldest of three boys of Ernst and Dore. He emigrated to the United States in 1960 and met his future bride Ruth shortly after arriving in New York City, where he – with uncharacteristic patience – taught her to drive a stick shift, hosted dinner parties into the wee hours, and fell deeply in love. His love for Ruth and devotion to family defined him.

Rolf and Ruth married in 1962, and they lived in NYC for two years before moving to London, England where their sons Christopher and Marcus were born. The family lived briefly in Düsseldorf, Germany before relocating to Houston, Texas in 1972. Rolf & Ruth discovered Orcas Island, Washington in the late 80’s and eventually retired to the island full time in 2001.

Professionally, Rolf spent his thirty-nine year career with the M.W. Kellogg Company which he described as the finest engineering and construction company anywhere in the world. He was immensely proud of his accomplishments there and rose through the ranks with challenging assignments that took him all over the world. To colleagues he was a respected leader, clear communicator and wise mentor. Rolf made strong friendships at Kellogg and maintained them long after his retirement in 1999.

Rolf was a straight shooter and never hesitated to tell you how he felt, yet he was always quick to share his warm smile and generous heart. He appreciated the lighter side of life, never took himself too seriously and could find humor in pretty much everything, including dinner party cooking mishaps like a Thanksgiving turkey sliding across the kitchen floor and a curry soup exploding through a blender top, covering him nicely. When he laughed everyone in the room felt good (and the whole house seemed to shake). Rolf later perfected his cooking technique, with spectacular results that many dinner guests enjoyed.

He was a passionate sailor. Family vacations and weekends were often spent on the water. Lake Travis in Austin and Galveston Bay were favorites, and longer vacations were taken in the Caribbean and the San Juans. Rolf treasured the relaxation that sailing brought him and chuckled about the occasional misadventures which led to several colorful stories. He also loved a good road trip, especially camping trips to discover the Western States and escape the oppressive Houston heat.

Rolf was a wonderful, loving and insightful husband, father, and grandfather (Sidney and Natalie). He touched all with his kind, gentlemanly ways and will be deeply missed. A small family gathering to celebrate his life will take place in the new year, after which his ashes will be spread in the waters around Orcas that he loved so much. Rolf was a lifelong lover of the arts and classical music, especially Bach, and he would have appreciated memorial donations to the Orcas Island Community Foundation – Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival (OICMF) Music Education Endowment Fund at