On September 30, 2017, Dr. Paul Bernhardt Otto, Ph.D. of Green Bay, WI, died unexpectedly with his elder daughter by his side. On this day, after faithfully serving his God, country, family and community, Paul completed his faith journey and met his savior, Jesus Christ.
Paul was born on his maternal grandfather's farm, near Hanover, Iowa, on June 27, 1933, to Ben and Lillie (Radke) Otto. As a child born in the Depression Era and the eldest of seven siblings, he learned the value of hard work and a love of agriculture on the family farm. Witnessing his Uncle Werner Radke's service inspired Paul's patriotism as well as respect for those who serve their country and particular interest in the events of World War II. Through baptism and confirmation in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod his strong Christian faith was solidified. Beginning with attendance at Diamond Center country school, he developed into a lifelong scholar and teacher. Following attendance at St. John's Lutheran parochial school, he graduated from Aurelia High School in 195l. After laboring as a farm hand, he developed a love of travel and learning that ranged from picking apples in Washington to welding on the Fort Randall Dam in South Dakota. During the Korean conflict, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, became a radio engineer, and served a tour of duty in Germany (his ancestral homeland).
Following honorary discharge from the Army he used the benefits of the G.I. Bill and became the first in his family to attend college, earning a bachelor of science degree from Southern State Teachers College in Springfield, South Dakota. He married his college sweetheart, Karen Lea Bailey, on August 21, 1960, and began teaching high school chemistry and physics in Howells, Nebraska. Together they raised two spectacular daughters, Stephanie and Michaelle, neither of whom ever learned to hold a trouble light in the proper position.
Following teaching assignments in Nebraska and Iowa, he pursued National Science Institute grants and became an Aggie, earning a Masters of Education degree from Texas A&M University. After teaching in Indiana and Iowa, he moved his family to Madison, WI, where he earned a doctorate of Philosophy and a distain for hippies and other "slackers." Returning to the Midwest in 1972, he accepted an appointment as Professor of Science Education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. Over 27 years at that institution, he published two books and innumerable papers, wrote endless grant applications, inspired (or tortured) hundreds of science teachers and started the South Dakota Science Olympiad for middle and high school students.
Owing to his dissatisfaction with the meager pay of teachers and a chronic inability to idle, he developed additional skills in his "spare" time. With his wife and daughters as often-recalcitrant apprentices, he became a carpenter, plumber, and electrician by building three houses; raised cattle and monstrous ;gardens, refinished furniture, and overhauled antique tractors and many other mechanical things.
On May 26, 1990. he married Kathryn Marie Tillo, and they began a multi-year acquisition of five Packer Pups. In 1997, he achieved Professor Emeritus status and relocated with his wife to Green Bay, WI. He failed to understand the "retire" part of retirement and so finished the basement of their home, helped to build a church, guided curriculum development for a Lutheran High School, acquired an acreage and five tractors that he used in creating a vineyard, orchards, and overwhelming vegetable gardens; volunteered in his community; and became an elder in his church. His leisure activities included hunting, fishing, carpentry, writing articles and another book, and cheering for the Packers, and tormenting his friends and family with a repertoire of awful jokes. Alone or with his family, he traveled throughout North, Central and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and New Zealand. At the age of 81, he climbed Machu Picchu in Peru and finally hung up his trekking poles.
Paul was preceded in death by his parents, brothers Leon, Wendell and Stanley and sister Carolyn (Janovick). He is survived by his wife, Kathryn; his daughters, Stephanie (Gary Johnson) and Michaelle (Don Hochhalter), Littleton, CO; his sisters, Ardelle (Don) Staver and Helen (Dennis) Holliday; his beloved grandson Cole Otto Hochhalter; former wife, Karen Otto; brothers and sisters-in-law John Janovick, Janice Werthman, Vince & Susan Tillo, Ted & Leigh Ann Tillo, and Joe Tillo; father-in-law, John Tillo; and many nieces, nephews, and friends.
Paul's funeral will be held on Saturday, October 7,, at 11:00a.m. at Christ of the Bay Lutheran Church, 450 Laverne Drive, Green Bay, WI 54311. Visitation will be from 10:00 - 11:00a.m., and a luncheon will immediately follow the service. Interment with military honors will occur Monday, October 9, at 11:00 a.m. at Diamond Township Cemetery, south of Aurelia, Iowa - V Avenue (M21) between 620th and 630th Streets. A luncheon will follow at St. John Lutheran Church-Alta, 169 630th Street, Alta, Iowa 51002. The family requests any memorials be directed to Green Bay Trinity Lutheran School, 120 S Henry St, Green Bay, WI 54302, or N.E.W. Lutheran High School, 1311 S. Robinson, Green Bay, WI 54311.