William D. Toth, who retired in 2015 after a 47-year-career at Northrop Grumman Corporation—lastly as Director of Space Systems Payloads, responsible for all Space-Based Infrared System Sensors—died on Friday, May 18. He was 72. The cause was prostate cancer.
Known as Will to his family, Billy to his mother, Bill to his colleagues and Willy to many of his childhood and college friends, he was born December 10 to Ilse Katzenstein Toth, who retired at 85 from her third job, and Frank Toth, a technician at Brookhaven National Lab, volunteer firefighter and EMT on Long Island. Will was raised in Patchogue, NY and graduated from Patchogue High School and Union College in Schenectady, NY. His sister, Barbara Toth, lives in Asheville, NC. He also has a niece, Jess Boudreau, and a nephew, Alex Boudreau.
“Will brought a joy and intensity to everything he did,” said Mary Toth, his wife of 45 years. “He once took over our microwave for days to test some ceramic for an early work project.” A lifelong sports fan—particularly the Baltimore Orioles—Will was a standout student-athlete and played and followed golf throughout his life.
In 1965, Will made the game-winning catch to clinch the NCAA College Division Atlantic Coast Regional Championship at Yankee Stadium. Gary Brown, who pitched that long-ago game, recalled the victory, “The 3-1 win over Old Dominion created a memory for all of us that has never faded….” Centerfielder Greg (Swede) Olsen added “‘The Catch’ is only one of the many things I remember about Bill....He was a GREAT teammate….during the highs and lows of the season, we could trust him to be supportive and encouraging. This helped our team to be resilient and optimistic….He would do all the little things to help our team win. Bill was not a "rah-rah" kind of guy, he led by example. No one worked harder than Bill. His work ethic and attitude rubbed off on his teammates. You could always depend on Bill to do his job.”
In 2015, the 1965 baseball team was inducted into the Union College Sports Hall of Fame.
And that personal drive did not change. Bill began his career with Northrop Grumman as an engineer in 1970. His technical knowledge and leadership skills led him to success, first within engineering, then within Program Management at the Oceanic Division in Annapolis and later in Space Systems. One of his great moments was meeting the late John Glenn, who was attending an event as an astronaut, not as a senator, complete with his gold astronaut’s medal, and John Grunsfeld, a veteran of five space shuttle flights and a NASA chief scientist. Grunsfeld’s wife talked of their children imploring their dad at dinner one night that ”it was okay to go to the moon, but please do not go to Mars.”
Will always focused on people. He worked to develop his team—and their families—and the next generation. He was always proud of Northrop Grumman’s commitment to ethics and increasing diversity in the workforce. At his 2015 retirement celebration, he conferred the coveted ‘blue shirt’ awards, newly laundered from the large collection of blue shirts in his closet, to several rising leaders within engineering and program management. His passion, energy, creativity, strategic and results-driven approach were instrumental in the significant growth of the Space Division under his leadership.
Will married Mary Euler in 1972 and together they raised their two children, Alison and Brian, now grown, in Columbia, Md. He was always immensely proud of his children. Since retirement, he and Mary traveled the US—especially the National Parks—but also across Europe. Will carried another responsibility through his life. His mother’s family, the Katzenstein’s and Phillipson’s, fled Germany in 1938 to settle in America. They lost more than 20 members of the family—most were children--in the Holocaust. Will was the first child born in America. He honored their memory through his determination and how he lived his life. He earned additional graduate degrees in engineering and business from New York University and George Washington University, respectively.
A final word about golf, that last great passion of his life. He played regularly with a group of guys, known as the Fredneckers, around Maryland and southern Pennsylvania. He came home full of joy—if not with the score he wanted. His clubs are in the living room, waiting for him.
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