June 15-16, 2009

The Otte Family

by Laurel Otte

Daniel is a descendant of German and Norwegian pastors who were sent to South African missions. Bishop Nils Astrup and his wife Anna brought their daughter Anna with them from Norway.

Anna married Heinrich Otte, another pastor. They travelled to their mission station in Zululand in a covered wagon, a prairie schooner, that Heinrich had ordered from America. Their first child, Carl (Dan's father) was born at Entumeni in 1900. Mission families were large — Carl had three brothers and five sisters.

Carl married a mission nurse, daughter of a farming family in Cooperstown, N.D. They had six children and, understandably, couldn’t keep close track of them all.

Daniel and Paul were allowed to take bag lunches and walk wherever they liked (the precipice was a favourite) all day. It must have been good training for collecting insects in rugged country. The Otte kids provided exciting entertainments for children of visiting missionaries. Lillian Otte often dressed the children in clothes she cut down and altered from the “mission boxes” sent from America by their sponsoring congregation. Daniel must have loved the red shirt.

In 1959 Daniel came to Decorah, IA, for his freshman year at Luther College, his father’s alma mater. He arrived in NYC in January, was met at the ship and put on a train, a trip he’d taken before when his family went on a 1.5 year sabbatical in Decorah. He already had great friends there, and the Henning family welcomed him. Mrs. Henning added him to her brood and fed him good midwestern comfort food on week-ends. That summer, Darrell Henning and his sister, who worked in the food service at the National Music Camp, Interlochen, each summer, took Daniel along. His first job was dishwasher.

At Interlochen Daniel met Laurel Benn, a new food server who’d first gone to the Music Camp on a high school choir scholarship, summer 1956, and was thrilled to discover at the University of Michigan that she could apply to work at the camp in summer. Daniel invited her to come on an outing with three other staffers at Lake Michigan.

They went back to work at Interlochen every summer until 1963, when they were married. Laurel finished her M.A. and that September became a University of Michigan librarian while Daniel worked his way through graduate school as a teaching fellow. Richard Alexander’s teaching convinced him that entomology was the work for him.

Jenny and Jessie were born in April, 1967, and, even with feeding and diapering babies, by June, 1968, he had finished his Ph.D., and the Ottes joined the Alexander for a year of cricket research in Australia.

In 1969, when we returned to the U.S., Daniel became an assistant professor at the University of Texas, Austin. Always a great daddy, he carved the girl’s first Jack O’Lantern there.

In 1972 Daniel and Tony Joern worked in Tucson’s fierce summer heat. I entertained the girls with stories and jigsaw puzzles.

Hired by the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia in 1975, Daniel worked in the insect collection. When Radcliffe Roberts retired, Daniel became Curator of the collection and Chairman of Entomology. He did a lot of work on Hawaiian crickets. (That was a field location Jenny and Jessie loved!)

He continues to collect at every opportunity, and we often have the pleasure of travelling with the Alexanders.