Edward Rondthaler: One Old but Cool Relative

UPDATE – To see the Centenarian ad from Genworth Financial featuring Ed Rondthaler, follow the directions here.

It seems every year during the family gatherings around the holidays I learn something new, or rediscover some interesting tidbit about my family. This year my father mentioned our eldest relative, a cousin of my grandmother’s (I think), and also my father’s godfather, Edward Rondthaler. I remembered him most from family gatherings on the Connecticut shore almost every summer while growing up. As a little kid I thought he was a fascinating old man who told really great stories and jokes. When I was a bit older I visited him again with my family, at his home, and was amazed at how many books filled his old house, and was impressed that at his age he knew his way around a computer (in the days before Windows). I always thought he was an interesting man, but at the time I never learned much about his history.

In conversation with my family on Christmas Eve, my father mentioned that Ed Rondthaler had turned 100 years old in 2005 and had written a collection of thoughts, memories and anecdotes into a short memoir, 1905 – 2005. In it he writes just a paragraph or two on dozens of subjects including things such as education, news, doctors, showers and television. On topics big and small he describes how he has seen them change in 100 years. It’s fascinating to read. One of my favorites is his paragraph on ‘Girls’ which reveals some of his humor and old-fashionedness:

Girls. Tastes, of course, differ. But I think the fair sex today should look back at the 20s and 30s when we had a superb crop of high school and college girls. They dressed attractively — no overalls, no sloppy slacks, no T-shirts, no sneakers, certainly no $14,500 Bloomingdale designer dresses. They had long curls if possible — none of this kinky hair that you see on TV. They were neat, ladylike, and made you hope desperately that somehow the one you longed for would not discover what a bum piece of humanity you really were.

To which I heard a great response from a girl, “Maybe we gave that all up because we did discover what you really were.”

Edward Rondthaler’s legacy doesn’t end there with a few sentences reflecting on his past. He has also written a book titled Life With Letters: As they turned photogenic, which is part history, part autobiography on his experience with typography from the days of type-setting and letterpress. He was a co-founder of ITC, and perhaps also Photo-Lettering Inc., both of which brought countless popular typefaces into the world. A Google search even turned up this CNN Health article featuring Ed Rondthaler as a model centenarian, complete with a photo of the young chap.

Quite an impressive man. Now to track down a used copy of Ed’s book and his e-mail address.

13 thoughts on “Edward Rondthaler: One Old but Cool Relative

  1. Katharine Rondthaler

    My name is Katharine. I am Ed Rondthaler’s Grandaughter. I can’t seam to find you name on this article but I’m interested to know who you are. Maybe I have met you before. I live in California and i just started college. I agree with your comment about my grandfather. His books are so interesting. He is quite a character.

  2. Ana Bach

    hi, my name is ana. i used to have this mini-book that Ed rondthaler wrote. i received it when i met him at a senior citizen’s meeting, where he gave a speech and then gave out a book/pamphlet labled “1905-2005….by a centenarian….” i can’t remember exactly. i was wondering if I could possibly recieve another copy, as i have lost mine, and was very interested in finishing it and showing it to other interested people. if you have any suggestions, please email me.

    thank you so much

  3. Mark Decker

    Hi, my name is Mark Decker. I knew Mr. Rondthaler through my father who worked with him in the very early years of Photo-Lettering, designing many of the photographic machines that manipulated the typesetting and fonts into interesting forms and shapes. I also worked at Photo-Lettering during my high school summers and came to learn much about the whole process by helping out wherever it was needed. My father, Richard Decker is mentioned in the book Life With Letters, a copy of which I still have … along with at least one font catalog from Photo-Lettering. I too just finished reading the “1905 – 2005� and found it enormously interesting. What I find interesting about your comments above is that you had the same reaction to Mr. Rondthaler that I did … at an age when old people generally weren’t that interesting, he was a fascinating man. I am glad to be able to say I knew such an interesting person.

  4. Anthony C.

    Is there any way to get a copy of these memoirs? Ed sounds like a really interesting man, and I’d greatly enjoy reading these memoirs. Have to say I agree with him completely on the subject of girls.

  5. Anonymous

    Hi, I live across the street from “Uncle Ed” as the neighborhood kids call him. When I was little he would say that he considers himself the adoptive grandfather to the neighborhood kids. I consider myself extremely lucky to live across the street from such an amazing person. I can remember from a very young age, he would come over to the house and tell us fun stories and sing fun songs. My favorite story was his story about the days of the week. I always called it the “Sunday, Monday” story. I loved going to his house every Christmas to look at his Putz (?) I can’t remember anymore exactly what it was called. I also have the short stories book that he wrote, and the 1905-2005 book that he wrote and I treasure them! I have so many priceless memories of growing up having Uncle Ed as a neighbor. I love his stories about what the town was like long ago, and how the street was nothing more then a dirt road. And how his house was one of the only houses on the street at the time he and Aunt Dot put it together. I can go on and on :) Growing up, I never realized how lucky I really was knowing him. I didn’t appreciate it until I grew up and learned of all his incredible accomplishments in life, and how loved he is by so many people. I still love going to his speeches held at the library, although I haven’t been to one in a couple years now.

  6. Bernadette S

    I can’t believe I just saw a PearleVision commercial on TV tonight featuring Ed Rondthaler. I lived in Croton-on-Hudson, NY until 1993 and still fondly recall his many submissions to the local weekly newspaper. I was thrilled to see him stating some of the things he remembered and revealing his age of 102. I live in Florida now. It really, truly is such a small world.

  7. Chris Pidgeon

    I recently lost my father at a ripe 88 years of age. I’ve seen the Genworth Financial ads repeatedly and in those few short seconds I’ve seen Ed Ronthaler’s face with his (perhaps someone else’s voice-over)and can’t help but think of my father. He seems to be “the father” or maybe the “grandfather” that we all would like to have had. I’m sure he, as a human, had his faults too, but what a wonderful face, smile and shining eyes full of over a hundred years of life and, I’m sure, interesting experiences. I’d love to sit on a porch swing with a glass of fresh-squeezed lemonade on some hot summer evening with him and just listen. Thanks for your posting and information. You’re a very fortunate person.

  8. Scott

    I had the pleasure of meeting Ed a few months ago when I went over to his house to record him for use in the PearlVision ads. I too live a few streets away from him in Croton. I was mezmerized listening to him recount his memories. We recorded for over an hour and there was just so much to listen too. He is still a sharp man.

  9. Pat McCarthy

    I grew up on 88th St in Brooklyn, N.Y. Ronthalers lived across the street.I played with Edward, who was about my age. I saw Ed on the Pearl Vision commercial and knew it had to be the same person. After they moved to Croton on Hudson my family drove up and spent the day. We moved to Middletown, N.Y. Edward rode his bike to our house one summer.The family name was Connelly.

  10. Mary Pat Rondthaler

    Ed Rondthaler was my father-in law. I feel privileged to have been blessed with such a beautiful man, as my father-in-law. He always assumed a positive attitude. His smile was contagious. He loved to laugh and share his stories, which we had all ready heard numerous times! He was a fiercely loyal husband to Dorothy, and a caring father.
    He died this last summer, very peacefully, with his family with him. We will miss his wonderful stories and his smile!

  11. Jane Fraser

    Ed was an inspiration to me when I took over as head of the Stuttering Foundation. He and Dot visited us often and we wrote over the years. His buoyant optimism always left me charged up and energized.
    I’d love to hear from his family. I have a collection of letters from Ed going back to 1981!


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