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Frederick Louis Ott

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Ott, Frederick Louis Passed away on April 10, 2008, peacefully at his home in the Washington Highlands. His family and friends were with him. Of his long life of public service and community involvement, former M&I Bank CEO Jack Puelicher once told Ott's son, "Milwaukee will never know how much your father has done for this community, not to mention Wisconsin." His life actually touched the world. Ott was born February 28, 1921, to Walter and Fredericka Louise Ott and raised in Milwaukee with his three sisters. His paternal grandfather, Emil H. Ott, took Fred birding as a young boy, sparking a life-long love of birds, bird habitat, and conservation issues in general. In 1929 at age 8, Ott saved "a whole quarter" to become a member of Save-the-Redwoods League. Ott graduated from Kenyon College after two years so he could join the war effort. During World War II, Fred drove support trucks for a squadron of P-38 Lightning fighters. If success is measured by promotion, he made sergeant three times. What happened between the promotions is the subject of many a "good story, if true," as he liked to say. After the war, Ott worked in the last logging camp to use horses in northern Wisconsin. Logging led to paper mills, launching his career in the paper industry. However, his first job at Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company was cut short when Fred testified against his boss for killing a trumpeter swan. Fred ultimately wound up with Leslie Paper Company. Ott was with the Citizens' Natural Resources Association when it sued Wisconsin, first to ban the neuro-toxin DDT, and later to stop plans to drain Horicon Marsh. Ott helped raise awareness to ban DDT nationally. The 32,000-acre Horicon Marsh became a state wildlife area and a national wildlife refuge. Fred had a unique gift of making friends easily of all ages. His keen intellect, priceless sense of humor, genuine human interest, and compassion for all life touched people's hearts. One long-time friend said, "Freddy keeps his friends." Ott connected many people and funds with causes. Dr. Merlin Tuttle counts Ott's early involvement with Bat Conservation International as critical to saving bats worldwide. Tuttle wrote, "Bats were very unpopular when we founded BCI and only a very few, extraordinarily enlightened individuals would support their conservation. Without those few, our now global impact on behalf of almost a quarter of the world's mammal species would not have been possible." A consensus-builder, collaborator, and visionary leader, his numerous board credits include: Friends of the (Milwaukee Public) Museum (1959-2008); Milwaukee County Zoological Society (1956-2008); Foundation for Wildlife Conservation (1994-2008); Citizens' Natural Resources Association (1951-2008); International Crane Foundation (1978-2008); Society of Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus to conserve prairie chickens (1977-2008); and founder of Bat Conservation International. He met and married, Wauwatosa resident Elizabeth "Jolly" Needham, who shared his love of the outdoors. The union was blessed by nature writer and influential conservationist Sigurd Olsen, who told Fred while they were canoeing together that Jolly was "a keeper." The couple had three children: Fredericka (Riki) Ott, PhD, (Cordova, AK), author and marine biologist, who has founded three nonprofit organizations to deal with the lingering harm from the Exxon Valdez oil spill; Bradford Ott (Bend, OR), also a Kenyon College graduate and working with the High Desert Museum; and Lisi Ott (Leavenworth, WA), who owns and manages Purple Crayon Ranch (llamas and alpacas) and is a founding board member of Leavenworth Recycles. Fred and his family and friends shared many adventures from the Amazon to Alaska to the Antarctic to Africa, from Belize to Bhutan, from Costa Rica to China-and many, many wild places and byways in-between. One of his favorite things to do late in life was to fly "co-pilot" in a friend's ultra-light, soaring quietly at sunset over Wisconsin prairies that he helped to restore. All three children credit their parents and upbringing with their love of animals, conservation ethic, community involvement, voracious reading habits, and lives enriched by travel, adventure, and friends. As Fred always said, "Every good story deserves embellishment." His life defined it. We all close a door behind us when we depart this life. Fred Ott has touched so many lives, ensured the survival of so many other species, founded and supported so many causes, and effected so many future generations that he has left his door wide open so his light can illuminate the path for others still to follow. As the 12-year old neighbor girl said recently, holding his hand, "We love you, Fred." She spoke for many. A celebration of the life and legacy of Fred Ott is planned for April 26, 2008, 10 AM to 2 PM with a service to start at 11:30 AM, at the Boerner Botanical Gardens, 9400 Boerner Drive, Hales Corners. The family asks friends to bring Ott stories to share. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in Fred Ott's name to the Milwaukee Zoological Society, the Friends of the Museum (Milwaukee Public Museum), the International Crane Foundation, or the charitable organization of your choice. Sympathy Expressions www.BeckerRitter.com BECKER RITTER Michael Feerick Associate Brookfield (262)782-5330
Published in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Apr. 20, 2008
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