Otto Gustav Lee, 95 , of Wilkes-Barre, a career seaman, passed away on Tuesday, June 18, 2013, at Golden Living East Mountain, Plains Township.
Born in the seaside village of Lid, Norway, on March 9, 1918, Otto found his love of the sea as a young boy on a fishing vessel on the Norwegian coast. His career as a seaman began in 1939 on an oil tanker bound for Iran. The outbreak of World War II brought the ship back to Europe to ferry fuel for the British Royal Navy. It was sunk by a German submarine shortly after Mr. Lee quit the ship for a berth on a U.S.-bound vessel.
Otto arrived in New Orleans in April 1941 and by December, with the entry of the U.S. into World War II, found himself in the U.S. Merchant Marines. He was put aboard a Danish ship, training American seamen. After attending navigation school, Otto was assigned to his first American vessel, the Francisco Coronado, in 1943, working his way up to second officer and subsequently serving in the U.S. Coast Guard.
After the war, Otto joined the U.S. Fruit Co., transporting goods and passengers to the East and West coasts. In 1951, he joined Lykes Bros. Steamship Co., again working his way up from junior third mate to captain.
In 1977, after 40 years on the oceans of the world, Captain Lee retired to the home he built on Greer's Ferry Lake, Ark. He said his 1,600 acres there reminded him of Norway. "It's rocky and I love that. This is my little Norway," he would say.
Otto and his wife, the former Helen Halecki, of Plains Township, relocated to the Wyoming Valley in 2008.
He was preceded in death by his parents; his brother, Christopher; and sisters, Edith and Klara, all of Norway.
Surviving are his wife; brothers-in-law, Leonard Halecki, Plains Township, and Frank Halecki, Baltimore, Md.; sister-in-law, Florence Semko, Olney, Ill.; and numerous nieces and nephews.
"I like the peace and the quietness out on the ocean, breathing clean fresh air," he would say. "You're not disturbed. All the hullabaloo is unknown to you."
Captain Lee's wishes were to be returned to the sea that he loved, and with the cooperation of the U.S. Navy, his request will be granted.
Condolences can be set to the family at www.yanaitisfuneralhome.com.
Arrangements by Yanaitis Funeral Home Inc., Plains Township.
Yanaitis Funeral Home
55 Stark St
Plains, PA 18705
Published in Times Leader on June 29, 2013