November 16, 1931 - July 19, 2023
Albert Donald Wittman, age 91, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, July 19th, following a brief illness. He is survived by the love of his life, Rita
(nee Crow); children, Robert, Catherine, and John Wittman; Claire (Tom) Dombrock, and Ellen (Eric) Tronnes; as well as grandchildren, Albert, Joanie, and David Melichar, Helen and Rosie Dombrock and Amelia, Veronica, Frances, and Collin Tronnes. He is also survived by his brother, Thomas (Nancy) Wittman, and many nieces and nephews.
Al was born November 16, 1931 to Charles and Amelia Wittman in Toledo, Ohio where he was raised at 847 Wylie Avenue, living the life of a mid-century American boy; including gathering and storing acorns to defend their ravine from possible invaders. He graduated Valedictorian from Toledo Central Catholic High School. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in Architectural Engineering from the University of Detroit in 1955 and a Master's Degree in Civil Engineering from Case Institute of Technology in 1957, where he also worked as an Architectural Planner. He was a proud member of the U.S. Coast Guard for 36 years (3 Active Duty and 33 Active Reserves), retiring with the rank of Commander in 1991. Al's first assignment with the Coast Guard saw him design the Aids to Navigation for the Saint Lawrence Seaway, a project he was so thrilled to take part in, when told to report following a two week leave, he replied, "I'll be there tomorrow." He saved his hand-drawn charts, and loved to pull them out and show others, or simply review them himself.
Al met Rita Crow in October of 1959, during her last year of college, and fell in love immediately. After a mostly long-distance courtship (and a chest X-Ray required by Rita’s physician father to make sure he didn’t have tuberculosis) they married on July 15th, 1961 at St. Agnus Church in Walker, Minnesota. They lived in Cleveland, Ohio for two years, then moved to Richfield, Minnesota in June of 1963, where Al worked for the Twin Cities Metropolitan Planning Commission until 1967. He then became Director of Planning for Dakota County, Minnesota, where he suggested the future location of, and assisted in early planning for, the future Minnesota Zoo. In 1969 he became Assistant Superintendent for Planning and Development for the Minneapolis Park Board, a position he held until his retirement in 1997.
While with the Park Board, Al helped lead the transition of Minneapolis Parks into the world-renowned system it is today. He was part of the re-designing of well over 30 parks in the city, the establishment of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden at the Walker Arts Center, and the redevelopment of Saint Anthony Falls area. But his most significant achievement, and the one for which he was most proud, is the designing and implementation of the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway – the conversion of twelve of the city’s parkways into one continuous system that covers 51 miles from Northeast Minneapolis, along Victory Memorial Parkway, through Theodore Wirth Park and the Chain of Lakes, along Minnehaha Creek to the Mississippi River, and ending at the Downtown Minneapolis Riverfront. Due in large part to Al and his planning team's efforts, the Grand Rounds is designated one of the Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byways.
As great as his professional accomplishments were; Al was most proud of and dedicated to his family. He was a loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather. After he retired, when asked what he did for fun and to stay busy, he would reply, proudly, joyfully, and with a touch of humor, “I live in service to my wife and adult children.” He was humble and confident in himself, and never wavered in his dedication to his family. Al was an amazing man and will be greatly missed, but will live on in our hearts and memories.
A light luncheon will be served in the church hall immediately following mass.
Memorial donations preferred to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
Mass of Christian Burial
Wednesday, August 2, 2023
Assumption Catholic Church
305 E. 77th St.
Richfield, MN 55423
Tuesday, August 1, 2023
Morris Nilsen Funeral Chapel
6527 Portland Ave. S.
Richfield, MN 55423