Cover photo for Herbert “Bert” Otto's Obituary
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Herbert “Bert” Otto

Herbert “Bert” Otto

Herbert “Bert” Otto, age 92, died peacefully in his home on January 21, 2016. Bert was born November 27, 1923 in Alderwood Manor, a small community north of Seattle, Washington, to Hans and Margaret Otto. In 1935, Bert and his brother Carl moved with their mom to Boise, Idaho. After graduating from Boise High School, Bert volunteered for service during WWII, and was inducted in April, 1943. His tour of duty took him to Bombay, India and “over the hump” into China. A highlight of Bert’s tour was being selected to drive the Burma Road, a dangerous 530-mile long passage over the Himalayan Mountains, to deliver a load of communications equipment.

After receiving an honorable discharge in 1946, Bert took a millwork and cabinet making course at Edison Technical School in Seattle, Washington where he received his degree. Returning home to Boise, he was introduced to his one-and-only love, Carol “Boots” Affleck. Bert and Boots were married June 11, 1950, and had four wonderful children, Vic, Bruce, Nancy and Dave.

Bert and his partner owned and operated the Rathman Cabinet and Fixture Shop for many years, which turned out handmade bars, back-bars and lunch counters for businesses all over Boise and Idaho — the Eastman building, the Yellowstone Hotel in Pocatello, the old Torch Café, the basement of the Idanha Hotel, and the glass museum case which held the silver service from the USS Boise. Bert considered the highlight of his woodworking career was when he had the opportunity to mill all of the molding for the Cathedral of the Rockies.

Bert and Boots loved spending time in the outdoors. Their activities included sage-hen and rattlesnake hunting, riding motorcycles, trips to Silver City, fishing, chasing wild horses, bottle digging with the Gem Antique Bottle Club, camping, cutting firewood, and panning for gold. In retirement, Bert and Boots were bitten by the “RV bug” and spent over 24 years of traveling enjoyment with the Good Sam Club where they made many great friends and memories.

It was during this time that Bert began his hobby of creating beautiful walking sticks and canes from all types of wood he would find and acquire during their travels. He would let the wood reveal itself to him, and in doing so, created many hundreds of unique treasures. Bert refused to sell a single stick or cane, but derived his greatest pleasure in giving them away; stating that seeing the resulting joy in the recipient meant everything to him. Often referred to as the “Stick Man”, he was the subject of an Idaho Statesman article entitled, “The Gift is in the Giving” where he noted “People have been so good to me. This hobby has opened so many doors.”

Bert said very little and was extremely humble, yet his artistry, integrity, wisdom, and generosity made him a giant among men. With regard to his sticks and canes, he once was quoted as saying “There’s a little bit of me in each piece.” Fortunately, there’s a little bit of Bert in each of us, and he will never be forgotten.
Bert is survived by his loving wife of 65 years, Boots Otto, brother Carl (and Gloria) Otto, son Vic (and Laura) Otto, son Bruce (and Karen) Otto, daughter Nancy (and Mike) Youngblood, son Dave (and Debby) Otto, one nephew, three nieces, 9 grandchildren, (Leslie, Andy, Cherisan, Caitlin, Angie, Scotty, Kirsten, Kyle and Kalli) and 8 great-grandchildren.

It was Bert’s desire for his remains to be cremated without a formal funeral service. True to Bert’s sense of humor, he reflected that by leaving this world that way, he would at least be warm!

The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, those who may be so inclined may consider making a contribution to one of Bert’s favorite organizations: The Nature Conservancy, www.nature.org, or The Salvation Army, www.salvationarmyusa.org.


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