William H. Otto, 90, died Friday evening at Northern Montana Hospital of natural causes.
His memorial service will be 11 a. m. Wednesday, May 2, 2012, at First Lutheran Church with Pastor Michael O’Hearn officiating. A fellowship luncheon will be held at the church immediately after the service. A private family burial will be held. Memorial contributions in William’s honor may be made to First Lutheran Church or to the Saddle Butte RC Flying Club. Services and arrangements have been entrusted to Holland & Bonine Funeral Home.
William was born Dec. 16, 1921, in Havre, Mont., to Arthur and Gertrude (Heeter) Otto. A native Havreite has left his beloved Montana. He never missed an opportunity to refer to “his” state as "God’s country" and savored Beaver Creek and the unique wildlife of his area. He and his wife, Muriel, designed and built the house in which they raised their children, Patty Ann, Art, Barbara and Bill. Muriel’s only regret was that the house didn’t have two baths. Bill’s regret was that it wasn’t situated on acres of land.
Most remember Bill as a longtime railroad man, apprenticing and journeying in the machine shop and eventually becoming a foreman at the diesel shop.
He was an entrepreneur, owning his own gas station, making a penny per gallon, logging with his cousin Ray in the Polson area and selling Christmas trees from his garage. He tooled leather, fashioning decorative saddles out of old wooden saddle trees. He created tooled purses, belts, saddlebags and chaps. When his son, Bill, lost the class caps for his binoculars, a leather covering soon arrived in the mail to replace them. He and his sons rebuilt engines for cars that were driven to and from Havre High School, the ’55 and ’57 Chevies being the most coveted. William was a self-taught guitar player, and on really fine Saturday nights, he led family jam sessions in the basement. He supplemented the venison, fish and fowl that he hunted with vegetables from the garden he tilled, and he could make a really mean applesauce cake! His interests in planes (he had wanted to fly missions in World War II) was revived when he built and flew his own RC planes with fellow Saddle Butte RC Club members. The purchase of his first horses opened a new frontier for this would-be-rancher. He fenced his leased land and hauled water when the reservoir dried up, training his binoculars on the geese, ducks and foxes that called that land their home. Two of his favorite things to do were to help move cattle and brand for ranchers he knew, urging either of his two favorite horses, Bows or Hafeed, to cut and trail in the dust.
Bill contributed to his community serving as a Cub and Boy Scout leader, school board member, a grand master in the Masons and various positions at the First Lutheran Church.
He was preceded in death by his parents; and his daughter, Patty Ann.
William is survived by his wife of 69 years, Muriel Otto of Havre; his children, Art Otto of Kalispell, Mont., Barbara Larson of Phoenix, Ariz., and Bill Otto of Omaha, Neb. ; his two sisters, Louella Goertz of Malta, Mont., and Jessie Lee of Ohio; eight grandchildren: Joshua Otto, Gabriel Otto, Paul Otto, Reid Larson, Christopher Otto, Hans Otto, Katie McElroy and Christine Miller; and two great-grandchildren, Shaelyn and Frank.