January 28, 2020

From JPL to Extreme Sports

Joe and Roz Witt; Photo courtesy of Joe Witt

Joe Witt, 82

Joe Witt worked at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) until 2002. Today, he spends his time with his wife of 60 years, Roz, his son, and his two grandchildren. Every year, Joe and his family go on two major trips. To date, they have traveled to Botswana, Rwanda, Tanzania, Canada and Costa Rica, and are headed to Japan this summer. 

Witt, who attends the Synagogue for the Performing Arts in Hollywood on the High Holy Days, said he loves traveling because he and his wife like to experience nature. “We go to places where we see animals we don’t see here. We go bird-watching and see wildlife. It’s also nice meeting new people, especially from other countries.”

The couple also enjoys skiing on Mammoth Mountain and kayaking in Northern California throughout the year. Having common interests, Witt said, is what has kept their marriage strong for the past six decades. 

“We enjoy doing the same things. We both love to ski and travel. We like to go to the theater, do tai chi, go to meditation, folk dance and go on the same types of trips. We have common interests and respect each other.”

“We have two dogs and they keep you alive. You feed and nurture them, and they also help you.”

Witt keeps busy with another favorite hobby: kiteboarding, which combines aspects of wakeboarding, snowboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, skateboarding and sailing. He’s been taking classes with his son and grandson since 2013. One of his goals is to get over his fear of the water, which he is doing slowly by practicing kiteboarding in Corpus Christi, Texas, where the water is shallow. 

“I thought I’d be up and riding by this time, but in the Pacific Ocean the water gets deep very rapidly and it’s above my head,” he said. “I panic. My kite is fastened on my waist and I get in the water and start floating and the wind takes me away. I’m doing it down in Texas because I want to be able to ride. I’m pretty sure I can overcome anything else once I know I can get up and ride. It’s important.”

Witt attributes his longevity to his love for his job at JPL, saying he really looked forward to working there every day. He also touts the benefits of eating well, exercising, having two pets and staying centered. 

“I enjoy life,” he said. “We have two dogs and they keep you alive. You feed and nurture them, and they also help you. We take meditation classes, which help our anxieties considering the nature of things in the world right now. I’m learning that I can only take care of what I can for me. I can only do so much. I can’t cure the world. Now I’m hoping my grandsons find something that they can do and enjoy, too.”