James Joseph Rast, an amazing man and father, died Tuesday, June 25th, 2019 at 7:00 pm after complications from surgery.
A few months shy of his 90th birthday, he had just celebrated his 65th wedding anniversary to Margaret Myers Rast, his beloved wife and mother to his children.
He is survived by his wife Margaret and their five children John L Rast, a civil engineer; Margaret AE Rast, an architect; James E Rast, a chemical and fire protection engineer, and his wife Katsura F Rast; Carolyn A Rast, a database administrator and Mary Rast Sergeant, a residential and interior designer; and five grandchildren Rachel C Stanoyevitch, William V Stanoyevitch, Anna E Stanoyevitch, James E Rast, and Taylor J Rast. Jim was pre-deceased by his only sibling John R Rast who was killed in action during the Palau invasion of WWII.
After graduating from the University of Maryland in 1953 with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering, having served in the university Air Force ROTC, he went into the Air Force and served as a navigator doing reconnaissance missions from Slt St Marie, MI. After being promoted to Captain, Jim was honorably discharged following an incident in which he saved his parent’s home from catching fire but left himself with severe burns. Following discharge, he worked at Naval Ordinance Laboratory and then moved to NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center where he worked for the next several decades, retiring in 1990. Many of the rockets and satellites displayed at the National Air & Space Museum, DC and Edgar-Hazy Museum, VA, have components that he or he and his team designed. After retiring from NASA, he was in high demand for his quick and effective designs and became a consultant for agencies such as Conatec, Rocket Support Services, Interstel, and Astrotech until finally retiring at age 82.
The two things Jim loved most in life were his family and his work as an aeronautical engineer. He once stated that “it’s good that I have a job that pays me, otherwise I’d have to pay them”. He stood at the forefront of space exploration designing sounding rockets and vehicles that supported scientific experiments in space.
Jim never used a computer; he ran calculations by hand and used a copier to enlarge and reduce his designs. He knew that his hand calculations were within tolerances so that when the computer guys had the results months later it was merely confirmation that his design had merit.
Amongst his amazing feats was raising five strong successful children on one government salary from NASA. Always planning well in advance, he was also able to put them through college.
His family was most dear to him and when being interviewed for a project on “secrets to how long-term marriages survive”, he said that his expression of love was to let his wife do whatever interested her without interfering, a revolutionary stance for marriages in the 1950’s. When asked what he regretted in life his only thought was that he could have let Margaret know she was using too much waterproof paint on a wood boat she was building with the children!
He allowed his kids to be kids, to run around, to crash into things, to create, to explore, to basically go out into the world and come back alive! Something kids are not allowed to do anymore. He treated his daughters and sons the same regarding math and science; they were tools to use and not concepts to be afraid of.
Jim was a quiet man except when he was in his element talking about science, engineering and mechanical things. He then transformed into an animated, engaged, brilliant and interactive person people gravitated to. Still waters run deep, and he will be missed. Smooth sailing and know that you set us all up for success; job well done.
James J Rast will be cremated and his ashes spread on Sugarloaf Mountain, MD which always held a special place in his heart. There will be no additional services.