Ellis Katz

November 21, 1921 to March 12, 2020 (98 years)

Autobiography

Ellis was born 21 November, 1921 in Atlanta, GA. As his Dad was a traveling salesman, the family moved every now and again to his base of sales: Chattanooga, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, Providence...and back again to Atlanta and, then, Jacksonville. At one time, Ellis and Marjorie (unbeknownst to one another) were in the same elementary school in Atlanta: the 10th Street Elementary [but I, of course, was an "upper classman"] All through elementary school, Jr. High (O'Keefe), and part of high school (Boy's High), his constant and best friend was Hiram Horne...his parents were Ellis's parents and vice versa. It was painful to leave him when the family, in the summer of '37 moved to Jacksonville.

Ellis Katz in a football crouch

Ellis played first-string Left Tackle on the Lee championship football team when they won the Florida State "Big-Ten"

Ellis attended Robert E. Lee High in Jacksonville, FL where he soon made wonderful friends. Of particular note is Billy Lasarow of Studio City; he and Billy continue to enjoy long walks and talks in the hills surrounding their homes. Ellis, Harvey Leitman, and George ("Bubba") Benjamin were among the founding members of the still-extant Esquire Club and you will note (below) a listing of the "officers"...and Ellis played first-string Left Tackle on the Lee championship football team when they won the Florida State "Big-Ten" Championship in 1939-40. "Arnie" [Silverberg], my best friend, is also seen in the "All Star's" photo

After graduation from Lee, Ellis with Billy and other close friends entered the University of Florida in Gainesville, Class of '44. And they became members of the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity with experiences that continue to afford many pleasant memories.

Ellis Katz pictured with his fraternity, 1940, Florida

He is located in the middle row, 10th from the left.

Of course, Dec 7, 1941 pretty much shook up things on campus and a number of "brothers' went to war but most engineering students, of which Ellis was one, were deferred to complete their studies. By the summer of '43, Ellis entered Georgia Tech to complete his last semester. After graduation, he was hired by Bell Aircraft in Marietta, GA as a liaison engineer for the manufacture of the B-29 bomber aircraft. As the war ended, he happily took a job in aeronautical research at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics at Langley Field, VA (outside Hampton). The "happily" word refers to the fact that it was from Hampton that Ellis was invited to attend an afternoon tea party in Richmond...and it was there, that Ellis first saw his beautiful Marjorie.

Ellis and Marjorie's wedding!

They met on a Sunday in March 1946 at a tea party-dance in Richmond, VA where Marjorie was completing her college degree in Fine Arts at RPI, an extension of William & Mary. Ellis, who worked as an engineer/scientist at the NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics; predecessor of NASA) in Hampton VA, had taken a train to Richmond where he met Marjorie at the party. They were engaged in June and married in Chattanooga, Marjorie’s birth place, 28 July, 1946

Katz Family photo around 1967

This picture could have been taken around 1967, possibly at the temple. It includes Leah Schulman Blumberg (Marjorie's mother), the three brothers - Ronald, Dan, and Paul Katz, Ellis and Marjorie Katz, and Robert and Ethel Miller Katz.

I met the "Love of My Life", Marjorie Ruth Blumberg, at a Sunday Dance/Tea Party in Richmond, March 1946, just as she was completing her studies at William & Mary's College of Fine Arts in Richmond. On the 28th of July 1946, in Chattanooga, her birthplace, Marjorie Ruth married Ellis Katz for a lifetime of love, three sons and families, and happiness.

Ellis lounging by the pool

Retirement in early 87 has led to some of the best years of our lives. Marjorie and I have driven through France, Sicily, Italy, Spain; hiked the English Cotswolds, the Alps, the High Sierra and our local Santa Monicas; joined the Calabasas Golf & Country Club where we played lots of great golf and celebrated our 50th Annivesary; made many new friends; and I joined the SAGE Society and have participed in and led many studies of wide-ranging interest.

My Connection with the Manned Lunar Landing Program (APOLLO)

Much of my career has been associated with rockets in one form or the other. It began in 1945 with my job as an "Aerodynamics Research Scientist" at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) at Langley Field, Va. It was there that I began to launch aerodynamic research models on rocket boosters at Wallop's Island, just off the east coast of Virginia. These rockets were surplus WWII solid propellant units that we used to achieve supersonic speeds for our research.

Wallops Island

At the NACA (later NASA) we used Wallop's Island off the coast of Maryland to launch our research rockets. This is a photo of one of my aerodynamic models [Jan 47]...using such rocket models, we obtained and reported the earliest supersonic aerodynamic data.

In 1951, I left the government (NACA) for jobs in industry: first with Fairchild Aircraft Missile Davison in Long Island, NY and, then in 1955, with North American Aviation's Missile Division in Downey, Ca.

In late 1956, at North American Aviation, Downey, I led an advanced engineering group in a proposal to the U.S. Air Force for a study to create a lunar base on the moon.. The idea behind the proposal was that a base on the far side of the moon would provide an ideal site for military surveillance and authority over the entire face of earth. The study was not funded.

The Russian "Sputnik" spacecraft flew in Oct 57. The event had global repercussions, especially in the U.S.

In 1958 I briefed Werner Von Braun at Huntsville on a proposal to use the existing North American Navaho rocket booster for an orbital mission. The proposal was judged too far ahead of its time.

In 1959, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was formed out of the NACA to put a man in earth orbit before the USSR. The main effort was led by the staff of the former Pilotless Aircraft Research Division (PARD) at Langley Field, VA. (As noted above, I was one of the original staff (circa 1945) of PARD but had left the NACA by the spring of 1951 to join Fairchild Aviation in Long Island, NY..)

In early 59, I led a North American design team in a study of very large rocket boosters, which would be needed for space missions. I presented our study results to top management at the newly-formed NASA Headquarters.

In 1959, in response to an RFP (Request for Proposal) from NASA, I led a North American engineering team to design and propose a large rocket booster for space missions. The program was awarded to McDonnell Aircraft.

In 1960, following the loss of the above proposal, I joined Hughes Aircraft as Director of Advanced Manned Space Programs. As Hughes was the leader in air and space-borne computer technology, my job was to develop business opportunities for Hughes in the budding manned space flight program. In that capacity I led a study of potential hazards during a lunar landing mission that could require an onboard computing system to safely return astronauts to earth.

In 1963 Ellis returned to North American Aviation as an engineering manager on the Apollo [NASA’s Manned Lunar Landing] Program.

From my study of lunar mission hazards, I prepared a paper, "A Mission Management Subsystem for Advanced Manned Space Missions" which I presented at the AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) Annual Meeting in NY in Jan 61.

After Gagarin flew the first manned space orbit in Apr 61, things really heated up. In May 61, President Kennedy announced a national goal of placing a man on the moon before the end of the decade.

The Space Task Group, which had been, formed out of PARD (see above), succeeded in flying a manned sub-orbital mission (Alan Shepard) in May 61 and, a year later, an orbital mission by John Glenn.

In late 61, North American won NASA Apollo contracts to engineer and build the Command Module and the second stage (SII) of the Apollo rocket booster.

Ellis with Apollo team

I joined North American Aviation (at Downey, CA) in May 55, assigned to Advanced Programs. In 1957, I led the Preliminary Design of the GAM-77 ["Hounddog"] air-to ground missile . During the years 60-63, I was a Director of Advanced Man Space Systems as Hughes Aircraft, Culver City. But, in Oct 63, I was called back to North American Aviation to direct the Systems Engineering of the Apollo-Saturn II Program. The photo below shows some supervisory members of my group being awarded honors for work on the program.

Following the Dec 61 SII award, North American asked me to return to participate in the program. However, it was not until a second request (and a much more favorable offer) in Dec 63 that I accepted the position of Director of Systems Engineering..

During the next four years, I led a large team of engineers to resolve problems and interface issues regarding the various systems, (e.g.: hydraulics, fuel, propulsion, etc.) which made up the Saturn II stage.

My final activities with regard to the Apollo Program came to an abrupt conclusion as a result of the Apollo 1 fire in Feb 67. As a result of what was perceived as a national calamity, all higher management of the North American Aviation's Apollo programs was "fired"…including myself. The wholesale "firing" was widely regarded as a required catharsis to heal a tragic break in the program. To compensate, a job was created for me: "Director of Advanced Launch Vehicles", which I held until moving to Rocketdyne's High Energy Laser Projects in Oct 1980.

A Love Story

Their first home was an apartment in Hampton where Ellis was an aeronautical engineer at the NACA, Langley Field. Here they are with a group of friends at an outing. Their special friends in Hampton were the Savages and the Gales who later joined them for their 50th wedding anniversary.

Their first home was a small one-bedroom garden apartment in Hampton, VA. Hampton was the site of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics {later NASA) where Ellis was an Aerodynamics Scientist. They were happy there and,without a car, they walked and walked and walked: to “downtown” Hampton, to the little inlet on the Hampton Roads, where, for a while, Ellis docked a small sailboat, to the Hampton Institute (an all-black college) to see performances of operas, plays, and concerts. On some occasions, they would get a ride with friends to Williamsburg or to the Blue Ridge mountains.

The young couple made close friends in Hampton who have remained dear throughout the years: Phyl and Mel Savage and Harriet and Larry (now gone) Gale…who now live in Boca Raton FL. Both couples were here to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in 1996.

group of friends

Ron came along on 28 Feb 50 and their little family was on its way. They moved out of their one-bedroom flat in Hampton to a “spacious” two-bedroom apartment in Newport News. By this time they had a car of their own: a 49 Ford!

With Ron and Dan

In May 51, they moved to Levittown, NY, where Ellis began work for Fairchild Aircraft Guided Missile Division. After a year, they rented a small house on St Marks Lane in Islip (farther out on the island). They were very happy there and decided to build a home nearby. Marjorie and Ellis were thrilled to finally have their own home (below), but, unfortunately, Fairchild began to lose business. In May 55, Ellis was offered a promising position by North American Aviation in Downey, CA and, so after one year in their new home, they moved to California.

In May of 1951, Ellis was offered an attractive job at Fairchild Guided Missiles in Wyandanch, NY…So the couple, with son Ron, traveled to Long Island and rented a Levittown house for a year. It was the first time Ellis gave in to the idea of watching TV…the house had a built-in unit. One year later, they moved to a rented house in Islip, a community far out from the city and where the couple felt they would want to live for the rest of their lives. So they began to build a home in Islip and, each day, Marj and Ron (in his little red pedal car) would go the several blocks to the building site and watch the construction. It became a lovely home and the family moved in by the fall of 1954.

Levittown, New York

Unfortunately, by that time, Fairchild had begun to hit the skids and, by early 1955, Ellis was enticed to accept a job offer from North American in Downey, CA. Also, by that time, Marjorie was “with child”….to become Danny.

While Ellis traveled to California in May ’55 to find a home and begin work at North American, Marjorie with Ron traveled to Dalton, GA (her parents had been living there for years as proprietors of a jewelry store) to give birth on 24 June to second son, Daniel Marshall.

Whittier is a lovely Quaker-founded town to the east of Los Angeles. The family lived near a beautiful WPA-constructed park that was like the family’s playground. Very soon Marj and Ellis made good friends of Florence and Harold Ehlers and some of Ellis’s co-workers. Harold, to this day, is one of their closest friends and living in San Luis Obispo.

On 20 Sep ’58, Marj gave birth to third son, Paul Elliott, as happy a “happening” as could ever be. Grandparents, Bob and Ethel Katz, were overjoyed to be present at that wonderful moment. God had been good…the family was happy and healthy and active. There were excursions (often with the Ehlers) to the beaches, to the mountains and snow, to Sequoia National Forest, to Big Sur, and to Mexico. Ron became the leading pitcher for the baseball Little League of Whittier and, later, in Encino.

The boys

As Marjorie was about to give birth to her second child, she traveled to Dalton, GA, to be with her parents where on, 24 June 55, Dan was born. Ellis, meantime, had found a house on Penn St. in Whittier and, so by July 55, the family was reunited. The family enjoyed nearby Penn Park and became good friends with the Ehlers family who lived nearby. On occasion there were trips to Baja, Mexico, to the beaches and to nearby mountains. But a special treat was being able to visit with Ellis’s parents who had moved to Los Angeles back in 51. By 20 Sep 58, Paul rounded out the happy family.

Family with baby Paul

At the time, Ron was 10, Dan 5, and Paul 2. Marj was always at home to see that the boys were provided for, to see them off to school, to prepare their lunches, to be home for them when they returned from school, to take them to the park, to prepare the family dinner. Dinnertime was very special for the family; it was more than a time of delicious food…it was also a time for conversation about what had happened at school, what happened in the city or country, and a time to reflect upon events. It was most special on Friday nights (the “Shabbat”) when Ellis would arrive home early from work, and the family would dress for dinner in the Dining Room, and Marj would light the candles and say the blessings. Those beautiful moments remain with us all.

Marjorie with baby

In May 60, Ellis was offered a substantial promotion by Hughes Aircraft in Culver City. As the commute from Whittier was difficult, on Labor Day 60, the family moved into their present home on Hayvenhurst Drive in Encino.

Hayvenhurst, Encino house

Encino became a very happy home for the family. They became active members of Temple Judea, made many friends, explored the beautiful mountains and seacoasts and have been blessed with health and prosperity.

In the moutains near Encino

During all the years of raising her family, Marjorie had put off her love for creating fine art. Now…she took up her her brushes and began to display and sell her works in local art galleries. The photo is of Marjorie standing before her self-portrait at a local art show.

Marjorie at her art show

There were many happy moments with friends…their Havurah group from Temple Judea (below on an outing to Napa Valley) and Marjorie’s Investorette stock (and social) club

Friends

Walking and hiking were always a part of their lives. They have hiked the High Sierra, the Cotswold’s (England), the Swiss Alps, and trails in Spain

hiking

And there were adventurous driving trips through the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Sicily, and Switzerland. Here on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, they enjoy a scene with their friends, the Goodman’s.

Italy

…And their sons grew and prospered. Ron became a Memphis entrepreneur and businessman, Dan created a successful advertising company, and Paul became an attorney-at-law.

Sons

…And here is where their “cup did truly runneth over”! Their sons gave to Marjorie and Ellis three darling daughters: Susan, Michelle and Tina who brought beauty and love into their family… and four grandchildren: Byron, Elysa, Erica and Joelle. And Byron, with Dearest Susanne, living in Atlanta, has now added a great grandson, Cameron, while Elysa has married Dan Simone and lives in Portland, OR.

Daughters

But the most wonderful moment of all for the happy couple was their children’s gift of their 50th Wedding party held at the Calabasas Country Club. It was a festive occasion with their family and friends from far and wide.

50th Anniversary

brothers at 50th

Ellis Katz being serenaded by Marjorie Katz at their Fiftieth anniversary party

Katz women

top row, from left: Michelle Margolin Katz, Marjorie Blumberg Katz bottom row, from left: Tina Faver Katz, Susan Goodman Katz, Susie (Lieberman?)

Ellis Katz and his son, Ron Katz, at the wedding of Ron's son Byron Katz to Susanne Stone, Braselton, Georgia, 2003

Yes…and for sixty-six “story book” years, Marjorie and Ellis have lived…and do live…a “Love Story”

Letter to the inlaws, asking for Marjorie's hand in marriage, May 9, 1946

Envelope side 1 Envelope side 2 page 1 page 2 See Marjorie's letter
                    Ellis Katz-
                    445 Newport News Ave. Hampton, Va.
                    SPECIAL DELIVERY
                    
                    Mr. and Mrs. L. Blumberg C/o C & S Jewlry Co.
                    308 S. Hamilton St. Dalton, Ga.
                    
                    May 9, 1946
                    

My dear Mr. and Mrs. Blumberg,

I hope my letter find you in the best of health and spirts. I'm going to do my best to write to you of some very serious thoughts which have been in my mind recently.

Your daughter, Margie, and I have known each other for only a relatively short two or so months; if I recall correctly, I related to you in my first letter the story of our meeting.

However, in the short time which has elapsed since our introduction, Margie and I have shared a number of fine experiences and have learned a great deal about each other. Every one of our weekends has been wonderful and vividly different from all the others. We've played and had great fun and we've also seriously studied one another and found ourselves in happy agreement with each other's principles and ideals. We each find in the other the same zest and flavor of eagerness for living that we do our own selves. In short, Mr. and Mrs. Blumberg, your daughter and I find ourselves very seriously in love. I don't believe that I am really revealing much to you that you haven't suspected. I shaln't go into my feelings for Margie but only to say that I am sure that she is the most wonderful person for me and that I love her very dearly. Our acquaintance and love began in our mutual understanding of and reaction to a way of life that we both love.

I wouldn't, and I'm sure that Margie feels the same, have had it any other way.

I've asked Margie to be my wife so that we can continue together to best realize the true happiness that can't fail with our love. I am very earnestly seeking a happy successful life and I'm sure, that with Margie, I shall not fail for, if I know my own heart, she shall be my inspiration.

I haven't as much to offer Margie as I would like; that is, with respect to material comforts. At the present, I am an Aeronautical Engineer on Civil Service and am drawing an annual salary of about three thousand dollars. I expect to do better in the not-too-distant future. We would be able to live in comfort but some of the luxuries to which we have both been accustomed will have to be dispensed with as is evident. But Margie has expressed a willingness to sacrifice some of her old life for a new one which I shall insure with my devotion.

And so I ask you, Mr. and Mrs. Blumberg, for your daughter as my wife. To quote the familiar, I only hope that you will feel as tho you are gaining a son rather than losing a daughter. Margie and I would like to announce our engagement on her graduation and be married this summer with your permission. I shall look forward to our meeting on the seventh of June in Richmond when we shall discuss more at length the future in store for Margie and I.

Hopefully, your son-to-be,

Ellis

Ellis Katz in swimsuit age 16

young Ellis Katz, maybe 3 years old

Robert Katz, Marjorie Katz, Ethel Katz, Ellis Katz, at the beach

Ellis Katz and Marjorie Katz, with probably baby Ronald Katz, maybe about 1950

wedding photo of Ellis and Marjorie, with family

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This page was last modified on 2024-03-03T20:36:43 by byron