Still going at 100, Bill Ott has deserved to slow the pace

  • Bill Ott worked for New England Telephone and Telegraph for 40 years and oversaw the addition of the first radiophone on Mt. Washington. Courtesy

  • Bill Ott Courtesy

  • Bill Ott —Courtesy

  • Bill Ott —Courtesy

  • Bill Ott —Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 1/13/2022 7:01:01 PM
Modified: 1/13/2022 7:00:08 PM

Bill Ott deserves to rest, and it’s not simply because he turned 100 this month at the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton.

That’s too simple. You have to go back to the 1930s, when Ott was about 10 years old and had already developed a deep loyalty to his family, a sense of responsibility and a strong work ethic.

He traveled to Nevada to attend the Civilian Conservation Corps. For two years, the grade-school kid fixed furniture and earned $30 per month, money his mother, as a single mom, needed after her husband left home and never came back.

Later, while still in high school, Ott worked at Curtis Wright Aircraft Company in Buffalo, building P40 planes near the beginning of World War II, and continuing to help his mother and siblings financially.

“I always had something going on besides what was going on at the moment,” Ott said by phone. “I was busy.”

His daughter, Kathy Ott, sat with him at the Veterans Home, helping him remember. Proud, she said he helped a number of Polish people escape the Nazis during World War II, although the details were a bit foggy.

His military career was quite clear. He flew 17 missions over a large swath of Germany during the war, bombing many of its biggest cities.

He commanded a crew of nine. He was a military pilot and a Second Lieutenant, and he was busy then too, flying missions, saving Polish people, refueling in the Soviet Union, finishing work in Northern England.

His brother, Eugene, was killed during the war.

Ott also made a name for himself while working for New England Telephone and Telegraph for 40 years. He oversaw the installation of the first radio-telephone on Mount Washington. He retired in 1980.

Ott saw his absentee father infrequently, until his sister, acting as peacemaker, arranged for father and son to meet at a family event. Together.

Ott was at least 45 by then, maybe 50.

“When I think back at that age,” he said, “I just accepted that was the normal way of life.”

It’s only been seven months since he moved to the State Veterans Home. He likes it, saying, “They treat me very well. They put me to bed and they get me up and the walls are being plastered.”

Ott officially turned 100 on Jan. 11. Employees attended the party, as did volunteers at the home and Ott’s fellow veterans. His left knee still hurts from the time he fell out of bed in Bedford. He’s smooth with a walker, troubled by canes. Mostly, though, he zips around in a wheelchair.

“I feel pretty good,” Ott said. “I am not too bad at all.”

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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