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Otto Woike (1926-2018)
It is with great sadness that his grieving family announces the passing of Otto Gerhart Woike on May 31st, 2018, at Good Samaritan Retirement Community in Denton, Texas. Otto succumbed to complications related to Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 92.
Otto, the third child of Emil and Bertha (Ritz) Woike, was born in Bristol, Connecticut on April 1, 1926. Otto was a lifelong Lutheran who attended Immanuel Lutheran Church in Bristol, Connecticut (where he also attended elementary and high school, graduating from high school in 1943), and later attended Immanuel Lutheran Church in Hamilton, Ohio and Augsburg Lutheran Church in Cincinnati with his wife of 64 years, Elaine (Bowman) Woike.
Growing up in Bristol, Connecticut during the depression and at the outset of World War II, Otto learned the value of hard work, first by delivering copies of The Bristol Press starting at age 9 – continuing a years-long association with that paper – and later by helping to cultivate the family’s Victory Garden for the war effort. It was during this period on May 6, 1937 that the airship Hindenberg flew over his childhood home in Bristol. As he recalled the event in later years, Otto revealed that he even conversed in German with some of the airship’s passengers as they waved to the ground – just hours before the ship crashed at Naval Air Station Lakehurst in New Jersey.
Shortly after graduating from Bristol High School at age 17 in 1943, Otto apprenticed as a machinist at New Departure, GM, and also joined the Connecticut State Guard. On August 18, 1944, he was called up for service in the U.S. Army, and was subsequently shipped off to the Army Corps of Engineering Basic Training at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. After completing basic training in October 1944, Otto was assigned to “Diesel School” in Aberdeen, Maryland for additional training, graduating on December 30, 1944, and qualifying as a Special Diesel Mechanic.
Otto would eventually ship out from San Francisco on March 16, 1945 on board a general class troop ship, initially debarking at Tacloban, Leyte in the southern Philippines. He served as a Technical Sergeant in the 239th Battalion, Combat Engineers, first on Panay Island, and then on Mindanao Island. His deployment lasted until July 16, 1946, when he received notice of his return home – after turning down a job offer from the Philippine government. Otto was honorably discharged from military service on November 4, 1946.
After his return home, Otto enrolled at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana, in February 1947. While at Valpo, he met Elaine (Bowman), a “rather cute coed,” and the two married on June 11, 1949. During this time, Otto and his fellow engineering students built the university’s first College of Engineering building; before that, engineering majors had to finish their last two years of engineering classes at other schools. Otto and Elaine would eventually graduate in 1950, Otto with his B.A. in Business Administration (with a minor in Mathematics), and Elaine with a B.S. in Chemistry. Otto would then graduate with his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 1951. After graduation, Otto entered the General Electric Training Program, which would take him and Elaine to Lockland, Ohio, Schenectady, New York, and Fort Wayne, Indiana, before finally settling in Cincinnati, Ohio. Otto would spend the next 35 years with GE, leading and contributing mightily in the areas of aircraft nuclear propulsion, New Town Studies (which would lead to a collaboration in the infrastructural development of Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida), the CF6-50 Jet Engine (still in wide commercial use to this day), the GE-KFA (Kernforschungsanlage Corp. in Julich, West Germany) Study in Nuclear Process Heat, the NASA Energy Efficient Engine project, and numerous other initiatives and patents.
As testament to his “can do” attitude, Otto and Elaine designed and built their own home – by hand – in Fairfield, Ohio, and were among the founders of that city when it incorporated in 1952. It was here that they raised their family, including sons Louis and David, daughter Lois, and several cats, including Mitty, the queen of all she surveyed. Otto retired from GE in 1986, but along with Elaine remained very active in the church, schools, and community. Among the accomplishments of which he was most proud were: serving as the Fairfield Schools Music Booster Organization President; planning and organizing the high school band’s multi-day performance tour to the Portland, Oregon Rose Festival and the west coast; and, lobbying the city council for a sidewalk along a very busy thoroughfare.
After retirement, Otto and Elaine devoted most of their energies to their kids and grandkids. “Grandma and Grandpa” placed great value on formal – and informal – education, taking the kids and grandkids all over the country and teaching them many valuable lessons in life. Four of the Grandkids accompanied them to Europe during a school year. Grandma Elaine prepared lesson plans for each grandkid and stuck to their school schedule during the trip, while Otto served as the “stern” headmaster. While there, the grandkids also learned about European history and how to get around in a place where no English was spoken. All four grandkids came back transformed.
Otto and Elaine moved to Denton, Texas, in 2011. After Elaine’s untimely death in 2013, Dad courted and married his current companion and fellow Good Sam resident, Betty Rohrer, on May 24, 2014.
Dad leaves behind a grieving family including his current wife of four years, Betty Rohrer, children Louis (Debra) Woike, David (Betsy Morgan) Woike, Lois (Chuck) Villarreal, nine grandchildren (Erin, Maria, Danielle, David, Andrea, Melissa, Deanna, Robert, and Stephanie), four great-grandchildren (Aurelia, Elise, Jaxon, and Maddox [with two more on the way…]), his extended family with second wife Betty Rohrer, and numerous cousins, nieces, nephews and friends. Dad is preceded in death by his first wife Elaine, parents Emil and Bertha, and brothers, Rodney and Harold Woike.
A celebration of Otto’s life will be held at Augsburg Lutheran Church, 11676 Hamilton Ave., Cincinnati, OH, 45231 (Tel: 513.825.2240) on June 30th, 2018, with a reception at 1:00pm, memorial service at 2:00pm, and interment at Rose Hill Cemetery, 2565 Princeton Rd., Hamilton, OH, 45011, immediately afterward. Pastor Grace Werzinske of Augsburg will officiate.
In lieu of flowers his family requests that Otto be remembered through contributions to The Valpo Fund, Valparaiso University, 1100 Campus Drive South, Valparaiso, IN 46383. Contributions can also be made to Augsburg Lutheran Church of Cincinnati, at the address listed above.
Today Dad is designing more efficient power distribution networks and mousetraps for Heaven, Inc., and enjoying a joyful reunion with his many, many loved ones – and the Lord in all his patience. Dad is also now remembering fondly the many amazing life experiences he shared with family and friends – and guiding us all as we navigate this thing called Life. For that his heartbroken family is truly thankful.
Dad, Grandpa, und Great-Grandpa, wir lieben dich und vermissen dich.