Mountain View Online - Lasting Memories - Joel Norman Rossen's memorial

Joel Norman Rossen
June 22, 1927-Nov. 19, 2020
Palo Alto, California

Joel Norman (“Norm”) Rossen, 93, of Palo Alto, CA, beloved husband, father, and grandfather, passed away on November 19, 2020 at his residence, after a long illness.

Norm was born in Detroit, MI, on June 22, 1927, the son of Louis and Bessie Rossen. He is survived by his wife, Nancy Weeks Rossen, his sons, Jonathan and David (Joyce), and his daughter, Rebecca (Chris). He is also survived by his five grandchildren, Shaina, Audrey, Aaron and Ethan Davis and Sarah Rossen. He was predeceased by his first wife, Barbara C. Rossen, in 2000.

After graduating from George Washington High School in Alexandria, VA at the age of sixteen, Norm attended Georgetown University, where he discovered that he didn’t want to be a dentist after all. After a short stint in the Navy, he returned to college and received chemical engineering degrees from M.I.T. (B.S., 1947, M.S., 1948). While at M.I.T., Norm met a young Lasell Junior College student named Barbara (“Bunny”) Cohan, eventually convincing her to marry him and move to Virginia, where he would begin his first job at the Atlantic Research Corp. When Norm traveled to San Francisco on business, he was enthralled by the beauty of the Bay Area and soon after, the couple and their three young children moved out West. There, Norm spent a successful 25-year career as a project manager with United Technologies’ Chemical Systems Division, where he oversaw numerous contracts for the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs, and received NASA’s Public Service Group Achievement Award. Retiring just before his 60th birthday, Norm and Bunny were free to pursue their love of travel, both domestic and overseas, and enjoyed participating and meeting new friends in the Elderhostel programs. They also shared many wonderful trips to Morrison’s Lodge on the Rogue River, even though the salmon were often elusive.

Music was a huge part of Norm’s life, with baroque and swing/jazz his favorite music genres. He played the saxophone and clarinet in high school and college, and later became a proficient blockflute (recorder) player, participating in several local chamber groups. Norm and Nancy were fortunate to have found each other, as they shared this love of music as well as theatre, attending many seasons of the San Francisco Symphony, the Music at Menlo program, and Theater Works.

Norm also enjoyed being a community volunteer. He was an enthusiastic computer tutor for many Russian immigrants who came to the Bay Area in the mid-1980’s, and he volunteered as a driver for the Avenidas organization.

He had so many wonderful traits that will be remembered fondly by his family - puns and wordplay, whistling tunes and tapping a beat, a crushingly strong handshake, tinkering and Rube Goldberg-esque designs, and reading all road signs and license plates while driving. Vitality, charm, and a warm, welcoming smile are his legacy.

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In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in memory of J. Norman Rossen to any of the following organizations: Oshman Family JCC (, Hebrew Free Loan of San Francisco (, Alzheimer’s Association (, Music @ Menlo (

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