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Kermit Otteson

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KERMIT OTTESON 12/31/1925 ~ 05/31/2011 Kermit was an only child, born to Martin and Marvel Otteson, on a farm close to Hawick, Minnesota. Kermit started school during the depression and he impressed all of us by telling us how he walked three miles each way regardless of the weather. In fact he often mentioned his mother made him wear his long johns until school was out each May. His grandmother left an old pipe organ to the family and thus began his early interest in music. His father, Martin, played the accordion and helped teach Kermit how to play this instrument. He took weekly piano lessons again walking several miles each way. The cost was 35 cents per lesson which was often difficult for his father to provide. Kermit recalled his father digging deeply into both pockets to provide the money. Kermit graduated from high school in 1943, turned eighteen on December 31 and joined the Navy January 2, 1944. He married the love of his --life, Carol Elaine Johnson, before he left for the Navy. He often said that during his time in the Navy "he preserved his sanity by playing the ships organ". In fact the aircraft carrier he was on, the Block Island, of which he was part of the first crew and therefore a plank owner was used in rescue operations in picking up survivors of the Battan Death March who had been held as prisoners of war. As he stood watching the first prisoners being carried on board he was summoned to the bridge and the Captain had him play hymns on the organ over the speaker system. Two days later one of the survivors was brought to him so he could tell Kermit, when he heard the music as he was carried onboard, he thought he had died and was in Heaven. Kermit graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Music in 1948 and began his teaching career in Baudette, Minnesota located on the Lake of the Woods. He later received his Masters degree from the University of Northern Colorado, routinely teaching by day and playing in bands at night for his now growing family. He taught music for 36 years finding his niche at Sierra Middle School in Riverside, California. He retired early to care for his wife Carol, who died of cancer in 1985. He was fortunate to have two other loves later in life. Elizabeth Arnold who died in 2005 and Evie Anderson, who survives him. He was preceded in death by his parents, his son Martin, his daughter Kathy and three daughters who were still born. He is survived by seven children, Suzanne Geyer and husband Lynn of Silver City, NM; Kerry Winchak of Mesa, AZ; Mary Spencer and husband Charles of Watauga, TX; Lori Trudo and husband Greg of Kingman, AZ; Janet Coggins and husband Bruce of Kirksville, MO; Julie Sieben and fiancé Mark Wilson of Sonora, CA; Kirk Otteson and wife Kim of Perris, CA. He is also survived by fourteen grandchildren and fifteen great-grandchildren. Kermit was a man of honor, devotion and pride in his family. You could always count on him for sound advice. He was an outstanding musician and entertainer. He often said of all his other jobs he liked playing the organ at the Mediterranean restaurant in San Bernardino the best. The family would like to publicly thank Simcare for their loving care of Kermit as he battled Alzheimer\'s the last few years of his life. The family request that memorials and remembrances be given to Eden Lutheran Church in Riverside where Kermit directed the choir for many years. Services will be held Friday, June 10, 2011 at 1 PM at Eden Lutheran Church in Riverside.
Published in Press-Enterprise from June 4 to June 7, 2011
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