Robert Cowles Otis | Aug. 1, 1927 – Oct. 22, 2019

Aug. 1, 1927 – Oct. 22, 2019

If Bob Otis wrote his own obituary he may have said something like this ….

I loved life, but I loved Barbara above all else. I married my true love and best friend. The day we met is as clear as if it was yesterday. I saw her across the dance floor in 1946, leaned over to the guy next to me and said “that’s the girl I’m going to marry”. Nearly 70 years of marriage. Imagine that. You’re still my girl Bub!

I was passionate about working with the land, creating beautiful outdoor spaces filled with vegetable and flower gardens, fruit and ornamental trees, and sunny sitting areas. I remember swinging on the bench I built, laughing and holding hands with Barb. I even enjoyed mowing the lawn on my red rider mower. I recall once telling my son Jeff that I would’ve been a gardener if I hadn’t felt obligated to support a family. Do I regret it? No, I was still able to create wonderful outdoor spaces everywhere we lived. I became a part of the land and it became a part of me.

I have always been drawn to the outdoors, the mountains, the ocean, hiking, camping, sailing, skiing, traveling to new places, meeting people, and sharing stories. I loved the sound and feel of the wind and waves while sailing Cap N’ Bub throughout the Salish Sea (though Barb wished the boat wouldn’t tip so much), and of discovering hidden wild places. I remember those trips Barb and I took in our little silver camper trailer before the kids were born, and later camping trips with the kids to Yosemite, the Sequoias, Mineral King, and our big trip around the US in our brand new 1960 station wagon. I’ll never forget the time in Yellowstone waking from my outdoor slumber to the stench or garbage, heavy breathing, a big black nose and long canines. I’m not sure who was more surprised, the bear or me when I screamed upon opening my eyes.

I suppose people want to know what I did, where I spent my youth, and all the things that are normally in an obituary. I’ll get to those, but first I want you to know that connecting with others and making life-long friendships was my embodiment of heart and soul. I hope that a part of me stays with the people I shared life with, not just the things I did, the places I worked, and the positions I held. I enjoyed being involved in the community, it gave me a sense of connecting with others and making a difference. Like participating in the Kiwanis Club programs of reading to kindergartners at the library, giving candy to kids at the 4th of July parade, and awarding scholarships to graduating high school seniors. By being part of the Community Church fellowship ushering and greeting people at the Sunday services, as well as copying and cataloging the tapes of the sermons. Volunteering as Treasurer for the Senior Center and other community organizations. The friendships I made with people at the Orcas Island Yacht Club (Commodore 1995), the Tennis Club (President 1996), the Westsound Community Club, the Community Church, Kiwanis Club, the Walkie-Talkies hiking group, and at the weekly coffee gatherings at Teezers, were my strongest connections to the Orcas Island community.

I enjoyed 34 years of life on Orcas. Retiring early from corporate life as a financial strategist with Unocal was an easy decision as was deciding to make our home on Orcas Island in Westsound. We had such fun boating in the San Juans in the early 70’s, camping on the outer islands, and drinking too much vodka at the Kelton’s historic over-water house in Westsound. What’s more fun than shucking oysters off the tidelands and eating them on the shell, raw, salty and slippery, or cracking pot-fulls of crab and downing a few or more beers. Those nighttime boating adventures to and from the Orcas Hotel were little miracles of survival.

I liked to entertain and invite people to our home. We even occasionally took some of the overflow guests from local B&Bs, providing us the opportunity to meet people from throughout the world. I enjoyed telling stories about my youth, of hanging out at the beach in Southern California, fixing up old jalopies, pushing cars to Bob’s Big Boys drive-in Restaurant to save gas during the WWII rations, enlisting in the navy and helping with the reconstruction of Japan, going to UCLA business school and joining the Kappa Sigma fraternity.

I rarely talked about heartfelt things like love and God. Not that I didn’t feel those things, I did, but I held them close to heart. One thing I know is that I’ll see Barbara again. I remember holding her hand and smiling at her the day before I left my body. Even though I couldn’t talk, I knew she knew I loved her and I’m pretty sure I heard her say “I love you Bob. See ya later alligator.”

You are all invited to a celebration of my life on Nov. 16 at 2 p.m. at the Orcas Island Community Church; remembering my first breath on Aug. 1, 1927 and my last on Oct. 22, 2019. Ninety-two years. Not bad. You’re still my girl, Bub. A good life never ends. Should you desire to make a donation in Bob’s name, please do so to the Orcas Island Community Church or the Orcas Island Kiwanis Club.

Please note: Due to a medical emergency, the memorial service has been postponed to a date to be decided. he Community Church sanctuary will be open from 2 – 3:30 p.m. on Saturday for anyone interested in self-guided prayer/meditation.

I’m survived by my wife Barbara, my sons Jeff and Greg, and many nieces and nephews.