Surratt and Mr. Rothe worked together at several papers, including The Inquirer.
Mr. Rothe did some writing during his career, but he worked primarily as an assigning editor, sending reporters out on stories, or as a news editor, laying out and designing pages.
At The Inquirer, where he worked from 1987 until retiring in 1999, he designed pages for the City and South Jersey sections, then shepherded them from the composing room to the printing press, among other duties.
"He could spot a hole in a story and get it fixed with urgency and grace," said Robert J. Rosenthal, The Inquirer's editor and executive vice president. "He was always cool under deadline pressure."
Mr. Rothe approached each problem with the arched-eyebrow attitude and droll humor of someone who had been there, done that, and gotten the T-shirt many times over.
Once, while working in The Inquirer's composing room, he came across a page that clearly needed help. With deadline bearing down on him, he was faced with approving the flawed page or reworking it as quickly as possible.
First, he glanced at it. Then he muttered, "Whoever put this together was drunker than a Cleveland Indians pitcher," and proceeded to reconfigure the page and get it into production - on time.
With the exception of about 18 months in the early 1980s when he quixotically started his own landscaping business, Mr. Rothe spent his entire working life in newspapers.
After earning a bachelor's degree in journalism from Baylor in 1967, he went to work as a news editor for the Baytown Sun in his native Texas. Within a few months, he had moved to the Cincinnati Enquirer, where he became one of the industry's early environmental writers.
Mr. Rothe left Cincinnati in 1971 to attend graduate school at the University of California-Berkeley. He received a master's degree in journalism in 1973, then joined the San Francisco Chronicle, where he was assistant business editor. He also wrote features and a gardening column.
Mr. Rothe, an avid gardener, decided to take a shot at doing it for a living. He took a leave of absence from the Chronicle, bought a pickup truck, and launched a one-man business, designing and installing gardens.
But he proved constitutionally incapable of staying away from newsprint and soon returned to the Chronicle. He changed papers - and coasts - in 1985, joining New York Newsday as the news editor responsible for the opinion and editorial page.
From Newsday, he went on to The Inquirer, and when it reduced staff in 1999, he decided it was time to get out of the business, this time for good.
He sold the big, old house he had been restoring in Haddonfield and retired to Roanoke.
Mr. Rothe is survived by his former wife, Ginger.
Plans for a memorial service were incomplete. Burial was private.
Rusty Pray's e-mail address is email@example.com.