CORTESI ROGER SPENCER CORTESI Roger Spencer Cortesi of Washington DC passed away July 7, 2020 at the age of 85 after a long period of failing health. His wife of 45 years Deborah Shapley was at his side. In addition to his wife, he leaves two daughters from his first marriage (to Wendy Makins): Tina (Elisabetta) Cortesi (m. Michael J. Cima) and Isabella Cortesi. He is also survived by his and Deborah's son Roger (m. Jen Cortesi) and daughter Kate (m. Benjamin Wheeler) and seven grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister Katherine Cortesi Armstrong of Boston, MA. His younger brothers Henry Cortesi and Alexander Cortesi, both of New York City, died in 2015 and 2020 respectively. Roger was raised in New York City and attended Milton Academy. He graduated from Harvard University in 1956 with a BA in Mathematics. He earned a PhD in Physics from the University of Virginia in 1961. He spent most of his career at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in positions of responsibility. These included: Director, Criteria and Special Standards Division; Deputy Director, Office of Health Research and Director, Office of Exploratory Research. From 1999 to 2009 he headed the Quality Program of the Office of Research and Development, earning a Special Achievement Award for leadership and guidance. A colleague recalled: "His leadership reflected a deep understanding of how government organizations, systems and people can overcome challenges." All told he spent almost 40 years in the service of his country His lifelong passion for math and science was accompanied by an impressive memory for verse and song. His wide-ranging curiosity meant that the entire Oxford English Dictionary and Encyclopedia Britannica were kept close at hand and frequently consulted in the days before electronic searches. The New York Times crossword puzzle was a daily ritual. It rewarded his prodigious knowledge and sent him diving in the dictionary for any of the few words he did not know already. Roger also loved opera, sailing, New York City, and the Brooklyn Dodgers - until they left Brooklyn. He learned tennis during summers at the Spencer home in Narragansett, RI, and played tennis for the rest of his active life. He took up squash when he arrived at Harvard in 1952. He helped the squash team's four-year winning streak and earned varsity letters in his junior and senior years. He was Metropolitan Club Squash Champion in 1976. When not playing sports his preferred attire was a suit and bow tie, even when doting on small grandchildren. His many lifelong friends and large extended family will miss him a lot. His burial will be private at Oak Hill Cemetery. The family is sharing memories via photos at rogercortesisr on Instagram.The family is sharing memories via photos at rogercortesisr on Instagram.
Published in The Washington Post on Jul. 31, 2020.