Pictured at age 88
Saturday my grandfather’s family and friends gathered in his home in Phelan to pay their last respects and share their memories and stories of this unique and wonderful man. I learned things about his life that I’d never known myself, and I enjoyed reading the obituary that had been printed in the Daily Press, his local newspaper. I’m posting it here in its entirety (the photos are mine). It’s kind of long, but then my grandfather packed more living into his life than most people do.
Otis W. Fosmo, son of Orin and Sadie Fosmo, was 90 years and 43 days old when he died from a lung tumor, in his bed, as he wished. He was being taken care of by close family members and the exceptional hospice employees through the Visiting Nurses Association. Thanks to all.
Otis chose to leave while he had a clear mind and a strong grip, and was still able to walk.
Otis was born in Burnett County, Webster, Wis. He was the oldest of eight children. He was the son of a successful farmer. When the depression hit the family hard, his father worked with the WPA.
Otis graduated from Milltown High School in 1935. He joined the Civilian Conservation Corps after graduation, as he was too young for the Works Project Administration.
The family left for California in 1936, making it only as far as Denver, CO. While working for Gates Rubber Co., he met his future wife, Helen. They married May 29, 1940. After arriving in California in 1942, Otis left for Alaska to work on the Alaskan Highway as a carpenter. After 18 months he returned to California to join the United States Navy in the submarine service. After his discharge, Otis and his family settled in Woodcrest. Otis was very active in the community, being a charter member of the community club, and a member of the volunteer fire department. He was also a volunteer with the sheriff’s department.
When Otis became a widower in 1966, he moved to the Baldy Mesa Area in Phelan. He built his house and garage, fabricating the trusses for both. He was part of the Carpenter’s Union from 1942 to 1972, working on Inland Empire schools, churches, University of California at Riverside, University of Redlands, Kaiser Hospital, and the surveying of San Jacinto Community College. He also worked on Cajon Pass. His last job before retiring at age 54 was working on the bridges on the south side of Lake Silverwood.
He was fond of saying he “never stopped working, just no longer has a boss.”
In the 40 years he was in the Victor Valley area, he was active in the Phelan Phun Days Parade. Otis enjoyed many years of western dancing. He also enjoyed land sailing on El Mirage dry lake beds.
Otis drove a Meals On Wheels wheelchair van during his late sixties and early seventies, often filling in with extra weeks of driving.
In his middle seventies to middle eighties, he maintained approximately six miles of roadway along both sides of Highway 395 as part of the Adopt-A-Highway Program. Occasionally friends helped.
Even after giving up the highway, Otis continued to care for the earth he loved, becoming well known at recycling centers and the Victor Valley and Hesperia Hazardous Waste centers. Otis often referred to himself as an environmentalist and an advocate for recycling. In his later years, he often said that “the earth has been good to me, so let’s take care of it.”
Otis expressed a gratefulness for the USA and its ability to recover from the Great Depression; the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Alaskan Highway, the US Navy during wartime and the Carpenters Union allowed Otis to fulfill his ambitions in his life. Social Security and the Carpenters Pension Fund provided a comfortable retirement.
As a father, he often spoke to his sons, Dana and Vaughn, of the joys of traveling, camping and boating.
During his twenty years as a father-in-law to Jaime Lynne, Otis developed a great admiration and appreciation for her. He often said, “You are so pleasant.”
Otis appreciated each day, from the sunrise, coffee, and and waiting to receive his first phone call in the morning, to the beautiful sunset at the end of the day. During moments of enthusiasm for life he would often say, “this is good,” or some variation of those words.
Otis will be greatly missed by all his family members and close friends.
Private services are being held by the family.