George H. Ottendorf at 97 does not know what it means to slow down.
After serving in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, he worked for 41 years with General Electric Co. before forming his own companies. He just officially retired last year and now gives lectures and goes out dancing. And the recently widowed Port Orange nonagenarian wants it to be clear he is open to dating again.
Mr. Ottendorf, who grew up in New York, described in detail his amazing life journey starting with entering the U.S. Navy at age 17. He became a Navy Aviation Pilot during World War II and had to “fight to get to combat” because of his age.
“I am very pro-military. I liked it. It was an adventure to me. I had a driving nature. I drove for anything I wanted to have, I got as a kid,” he said. “I think I still have a lot of drive. My dad’s philosophy was if you want something and you really want it, not just talking about it, you work for it and you will get it.”
For example, at 12 he learned how to operate a bulldozer.
After the Navy stint, he married his first wife and went to college on the GI Bill, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in aviation engineering. He remained available as a naval reserve officer and was called back for the Korean War, the first reserve squadron over there. During Korea he transferred from the Navy Reserve to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve where he flew as a Marine Corps pilot. Later, he flew a Phantom U.S. Air Force jet on special missions during the Vietnam War.
As to his career after the military, he said, “I have had the most beautiful career that anybody could have and you could not buy.”
For General Electric, he performed flying, testing and flight modifications, using both his engineering and pilot training. After he “retired,” he created a program to quiet the engines of popular planes, such as Learjets, several of which he owned himself. He has been the CEO of Ottendorf Aviation Inc., vice president of Noise Reduction Engineering Inc. and President and CEO of GoHushKit LLC.
Mr. Ottendorf has a repertoire of inspirational quotes to live by, with an infectious positive attitude he says he inherited from his father. “I like young people. I can live with young people better than old people. I have a young mind. I am not stopping doing anything.”
He also stressed how important it is to leave everyone you meet with a smile.
He has outlived two wives, and has five grown children and many grandchildren. Son Robert Ottendorf, also a pilot, moved to Florida to take care of his father. “It’s been a big part of my life – his experiences and the places he took us,” the son said. “I lived in Germany and France and Thailand and we were always around airplanes. Just the exposure to different things that I had just because of his life and the way he has lived his life. That has been a big benefit to my life.”
Mr. Ottendorf is a lifetime member of VFW Post 3282 and a member of the Korean War Veterans. At the time of this interview, he was preparing a presentation for the Veteran’s Museum and Education Center in Daytona Beach. He stated he has traveled the world several times and does not drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes.