Rolf Julius Engen-
Aug. 5, 1929- July 31, 2018
Rolf Engen passed away peacefully at his home in Laguna Beach, surrounded by his loving family. He was five days short of his 89th birthday.
Rolf was raised in Santa Ana, California, and was a life-long athlete, playing basketball and then becoming a champion volleyball player. He was recruited by John Wooden to play basketball at UCLA but following an injury, switched to volleyball. He became a member of UCLA’s first men’s volleyball team, won two National Collegiate Championships and was twice selected first-team All-American. After college, he was a nine-time USA Volleyball National Open Champion, 10-time All-American and 1960 USA Volleyball’s Most Valuable Player. Rolf played on the US National Team, winning a gold medal at the 1955 and 1959 Pan-Am games and World Games in 1960 and capturing the National Open Gold in 1964. Rolf’s accolades include the 1968 USA Volleyball’s All-Time Great Player Award, induction into Volleyball Hall of Fame in 1991 and into Southern California Indoor Volleyball Hall of Fame in 2017.
Wanting to give back to the sport, Rolf turned his abilities to the field of coaching. He coached the Laguna Beach High School boys team, leading them to two state championships, and formed the Laguna Beach Volleyball Club and led the team to three gold medals and two silvers at the Junior Olympics from 1975 to 1979. The Laguna Beach Volleyball Club became a model program for youth development and set the standard for future clubs. He also served as Commissioner of Volleyball at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Rolf was an avid tennis player, calling it “the sport of a lifetime” and continued to play through his 88th year.
In business,Rolf was respected and revered by his community. Of his many business ventures, Rolf’s Wine & Spirits was his greatest passion, opening his first store in Tustin in 1953 and several more in Orange County. Rolf’s Wine & Spirits were “game-changer” stores, offering wine education and events, tastings, custom gift packs, exclusive imported wines and private labels, all before their time. Traveling to Europe in the 1960s, he was one of the first to import French, German and Italian wines to the OC marketplace. As a wine industry visionary, Rolf became the southern California face of wine for six decades and mentored thousands of wine novices, as well as those more experienced.
Beyond his own accomplishments, Rolf will be remembered for his mentoring abilities, as he inspired hundreds of young athletes and businessmen to become the best they could be. Rolf’s life was characterized by an insatiable work ethic, big dreams and a love of people. He was an inspiration to those around him and his leadership and motivation will forever live on in the lives of those he so profoundly touched.
Rolf’s warm personality and kindness shaped his role as husband, father and grandfather. He and Carol, his wife and love of 51 years, were introduced by close friends and their friendship remains to this day. Rolf and Carol shared a love of travel and ventured to many places world-wide. If Rolf could tell you anything, it would be to love your family, maintain your health, dedicate yourself to helping others succeed and most of all “to enjoy the journey.”
Rolf is survived by Carol and his children: Hollie Ragland (Greg), Kip Engen (Sherry) and David Engen (Shauna); his grandchildren: Dylan and Dustin Ragland, Jackson and Thane Engen and daughter-in-law, Glynnis Engen. He is preceded in death by his children, Matthew Engen and Janalea Engen.
To share in a tribute to Rolf, view a video of his life at www.mccormickandson.com/obituaries/Rolf-Engen/.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach at 1085 Laguna Canyon Road or to the charity of your choice.
A Note from Frank Aronoff, Indy Sports Reporter:
The above obit was submitted by the family to honor Rolf. It is no secret to those involved in boys volleyball at Laguna Beach High School that the long, successful tradition of the program goes back to the first CIF playoff in 1974 and Rolf Engen. Back in the 70s, rules prevented a walk-on coach, so math teacher Mike Duncan was listed as the head coach, but in reality, it was Rolf, a former teacher, who trained the players and provided the game day strategy.
In 1975, he started a club program and that effort laid the foundation for Laguna to capture five CIF D-1 titles and have a remarkable 166-20 best-of-five set match record over the 10-year period from 1974 through 1983. His legacy continues, as Laguna has been the only high school team to have participated in every one of the 45 playoffs. Rolf last attended a Laguna match in 2017 and was recognized at the game.
Today, this same type of community commitment can be seen in the girls water polo program; our community youth are the lucky beneficiaries.