Norman L. Sothan (1930 - 2018)

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  • "Dear Sothan Family. I just today learned of Norm's passing...."
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Norman L. Sothan, 87, of Littleton, Colorado
passed away on May 13th, 2018. A Celebration
of Life service will be held on Friday, June
15th at 1:00 at St. James Presbyterian Church,
3601 W. Belleview Ave, Littleton, CO. A private
family burial with full military honors took
place Friday, May 18th, 2018, at Fort Logan
National Cemetery. Norm was born in Exeter,
Nebraska to Harvey and Geraldine (Ingram)
Sothan on August 31, 1930. He grew up primarily
in nearby Geneva becoming the town's
first Eagle Scout and starring on both the
high school's basketball court and baseball
diamond. He graduated from the University of
Nebraska's Naval ROTC program and received
his Master's Degree in Internal Relations from
George Washington University. Naval Aviator
Training took Norm to Pensacola, Florida.
There, on June 13, 1953, he married Janet
Kokjer of Wahoo, Nebraska. Together, they
embarked on a military career spanning 26
years, including wartime service in both Korea
and Vietnam. Norm was an adept aviator of
a number of different aircraft
including F4D Skyrays, F3H
Demons, and F8 Crusaders, all
carrier-based jet fighters. In 1957,
during qualification landings on
the USS Essex, a brake malfunction
flipped Norm's fighter upside
down crashing it into the sea.
Miraculously, he survived by
performing the first successful
underwater ejection. The mishap
resulted in the initiation of
lifesaving safety changes in jet cockpit design
and construction. The modification to the F4D
canopy became known as the "Sothan Door."
Of all his duty stations, Norm was most proud
of commanding his own jet fighter squadron,
VC-4, stationed out of NAS Oceana, Virginia.
He also relished his time aboard the attack
carrier USS Intrepid, flying combat missions
over North Vietnam's Red River Valley; as well
as his role as military liaison to NATO and as
congressional liaison to the Chief of Naval
Operations. He was awarded the
Legion of Merit for exceptionally
meritorious conduct in the performance
of outstanding services
and achievements in his career.
Upon his Navy retirement, he
served on the administrative staff
of Congressman Bill Armstrong.
He was later appointed Director of
Colorado's Center for Occupational
Safety & Health (COSH) which,
in short order, inspired him to
launch a second successful career through
the formation of Safety Services, a consulting
business dedicated to the practice of ski area
risk management. He spent the next 20 years
working, writing, traveling, and speaking nationally
as an industry expert, often from the
acclaimed safety manual "bible" he authored
and saw widely adopted. Believing that actions
speak louder than words, Norm was a proud
and active Rotarian, serving as president of
the Rotary Club of Littleton from 1990 to 1991.
He passionately and tirelessly volunteered his
time and talent to a number of other organizations
and causes, including St. James Presbyterian
Church, Town Hall Arts Center, Citizens
Police Academy, Littleton Museum, and Save
Chamber's Farm. Extensive travel highlighted
his retirement including a number of trips
to Littleton's sister-city of Bega, New South
Wales, Australia, and one especially memorable
trip back to Korea as a guest to the government
to commemorate the 50th anniversary
of the end of the war there. Norm is survived
by loving wife of 65 years, Janet Sothan;
children, Laura (Joe) Spendolini, Anne (Paul)
Potter, Ryan (Cori) Sothan; 11 grandchildren
and 8 great grandchildren. Memorials may be
given to Rotary, or
Navy Marine Corp Relief Society. Condolences
and memories may be shared at the guestbook
Funeral Home
Horan & McConaty
3101 South Wadsworth Boulevard
Lakewood, CO 80227
(303) 986-9615
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Published in Colorado Community Newspapers from June 6 to July 5, 2018
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Lakewood, CO   (303) 986-9615
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