Oliver Bischoff Habicht, 53, of Ithaca, NY passed away at 6 PM on September 25, 2020 in his home surrounded by his loving family after a two year battle with pancreatic cancer. During his last few months of life, Oliver was pain free and lucid until the last couple days as he approached death with dignity and grace.
Oliver was born in Guatemala City to Jean-Pierre Habicht and Pat Habicht (née Hinxman) on May 15, 1967, the third of three children. In 1985, he graduated from Ithaca High School where he completed his degree a half year early in order to join a host family that spring in Geneva, Switzerland to improve his French. While in Geneva, he also spent time with an American Boy Scout troop to complete the requirements to earn the rank of Eagle Scout with Ithaca’s Troop 4. He completed two traditional years at Cornell University before taking a leave of absence to learn to fly private airplanes. He went on to work and otherwise engage in a circuitous process of growing up, eventually earning his B.S. at Cornell University in 1997, while working as an employee there.
Oliver’s adventurous spirit was evident early when he built and slept in igloos during elementary school. Shortly before taking his leave of absence from college, Oliver adventure-traveled alone one summer to Chile, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. In Costa Rica, a flight out of an isolated biological research station’s grass strip in a four-seat small plane inspired his passion for flying. Back in Ithaca, he learned to fly a similar plane the following spring. He subsequently took a glider lesson, complete with two loop-the-loops! Since that single glider flight required him to wear a parachute, it planted the idea that he should learn how to use one. Several years later, he learned to skydive, where he met his future wife, Amelia, who was taking the same training. Naturally, they fell for each other.
A few of his other adventures include running several marathons, including in Alaska and Florida, and bicycling solo on self-supported trips in the Northeast and Europe. A life-long passion for outdoor backpacking ranged from innumerable winter trips to crossing the remote southern Costa Rican mountains in the rainforests near Panama with a local farmer he recruited from an isolated village to serve as a guide. In the past few years, Oliver engaged in solo, ultra-light backpacking trips covering over 25 trail miles per day. These included traversing a northeast portion of the Appalachian trail late one November and a January trek through California’s Ventana Wilderness near Big Sur, where he awoke to several inches of snow on his last day.
During his 30-year career at Cornell University, Oliver worked as an IT manager, gaining his 15 minutes of fame when interviewed in the fall of 1997 by the New York Times as the creator of the Cornell PumpkinCam . He served as an EMT, firefighter, board member, and chairperson in the Varna Volunteer Fire Company, where he was honored with a Lifetime Member award. Most recently, he was an active congregant and served as a board member at the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca.
Oliver is survived by his spouse of 23 years, Amelia B. Habicht (née Bischoff), son Peter B. Habicht, daughter Cadence (Cady) B. Habicht, father (Ithaca), mother (New Mexico), sister Heidi Habicht Peterson (Rhode Island), and brother Christopher (Chris) Habicht (Alaska).
A celebration of his life will be scheduled by Amelia and Reverend Margaret Weis of the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca for a time when large gatherings can be conducted safely (post-COVID). The time and place will be posted on Oliver’s CaringBridge site, https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/oliverh.