Teamwork and Tradition
On the job, Michael J. Otten was a dedicated, third-generation firefighter. He joined Ladder Company 35, near Lincoln Center, when he was 26, and spent nearly 16 years there.
The maiden name of his wife, Marion, was Otten, an odd coincidence that made them a team right away, she says.
"We'd go food shopping together and he would want to push the cart, and I would want to push the cart," she said. "He was not afraid of cooking or cleaning or fixing anything or trying anything new." Newborn babies didn't faze him; neither did fixing a broken washing machine or putting a new wing on the house. "He was in a very comfortable place in his life," Mrs. Otten said. "We were happy with what we had."
That included a four-year-old tradition: inviting the firehouse to a summer barbecue at their house in East Islip, N.Y. The menu always went beyond hot dogs and burgers, since Firefighter Otten watched cooking programs. Recently, the three Otten boys asked their mother if she planned to have "that fireman barbecue" again. And yesterday, with everyone pitching in, she did.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on July 14, 2002.