Obituary of Earl James Otis
Earl James Otis, 96, died September 16, 2023. He was born and reared in Yankton, SD, to Clifford & Evelyn Otis. After living in Fonda, IA, for two years and graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Air Force as a cadet in December 1943, eventually training as a B-29 mechanic. He moved to Sunnyside with his family in 1944 and while awaiting active duty, took flying lessons and soloed in two aircraft.
Using the G.I. bill, Earl attended Washington State College, majored in Journalism, and after graduating in 1951, edited the Sunnyside Sun newspaper in Yakima County for six years. During his years in Sunnyside, he served on the city council for five years. As a reward, a street was named in his honor.
After his time in Sunnyside, Earl moved back to Pullman, WA, home of the then WSC, to become assistant manager of the University News Bureau. Following action by the Board or Regents, he wrote the initial story of WSC becoming WSU. After another six years in Pullman, Earl moved to Puyallup, WA as Information Specialist for the WSU College of Agriculture. He retired in 1993 after 36 years on the faculty.
Earl also worked as a Farm and General Reporter for the Tacoma News Tribune part-time for 20 years. Assignments included interviews with Bob Hope, Senator Henry Jackson, General Jimmy Doolittle, and Actress Cheryl Ladd. He joined the Puyallup Kiwanis club in 1964, becoming president in 1972, and was the club’s most senior member.
Earl married Catherine (Katie) Gochnour in 1951, to start a life of 62 years together. They had two children, Lou Anne and Susan. His dear wife had a stroke in 2002, was cared for at home for seven years before dying in 2013.
He was preceded in death by his wife Katie Otis, daughter Lou Anne Otis, and Sister Catherine Otis Morris. He is survived by daughter Susan (Martin) Martinez; grandchildren Rachel (Bradley) Barrett, Samuel (Aubrey) Martinez, and Isabel Martinez; brother Harley (Jeanette) Otis; nephews Patrick Otis, Steve (Kelly) Otis; and nieces Karen (Ken) Miller, and Nancy (Scott) Libbey.
Above is the obituary written for and by Earl James Otis, the Journalist, father, and friend to so many. While Earl stayed true to his reporter-ways with his obit, the family and friends who knew him will also remember his more personal side.
Earl was a humble and loyal man. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it, and with a smile on his face. Earl loved piano music, and specifically ragtime piano. Being the nephew of famous ragtime pianist and composer Charles L. Johnson, Earl grew up with an ear for music. He also enjoyed a good laugh. He loved the Three Stooges, Johnny Carson, Peter Sellers’ Pink Panther, and Seinfeld. It never mattered how many times he heard the punchline. He’d always laugh with his contagious smile.
Earl embodied kindness. As a devoted member of Christ Episcopal Church he left a heartwarming impression on those who knew him. His nearly four decades of service to Kiwanis of Puyallup has made a permanent impact on his community and fellow Kawanians. And his dedication to the WSU Extension Center eventually earned him an honorary professorship. But while awards and accomplishments could line his office walls, he preferred photos of family and friends.
Earl was a generous man. When Katie's dad, Bruce, was in a nursing home, Earl would visit him every day and play countless hands of gin rummy. Over the years, Earl would find himself at the bedside of his Mother, Wife and daughter Lou Anne at the same nursing home. Generous with his time, care, and love, Earl was so special to so many people. He loved celebrating other people’s success, and he empathized deeply with their sorrows.
We will miss Earl in so many ways. We will miss talking with him and telling him about our days, as he would listen intently and always have something to add, whether it was a word of sympathy or a whoop of joy. We will miss his smile and laugh. And most of all we will miss his heart