Chester Edward “Chet” Ott
Chester Edward “Chet” Ott August 6, 1924 ~ November 1, 2019
Chester Edward “Chet” Ott passed away peacefully at his home in Gardnerville on November 1, 2019. He was born on Pablo Ranch, in the Big Smoky Valley, Nevada to Fidelis and Frances (McCann) Ott on August 6, 1924. He was the oldest of 4 boys. The family moved about as mining jobs dictated. Growing up in the vast open spaces allowed him the freedom to explore on foot and horseback – fostering a lifelong love of solitude and a strong self-reliance. Raised primarily by his father and uncles, he learned to blacksmith and “mechanic” at an early age. He used to sneak out of chemistry class to work on his cobbled-together Model A Ford.
When war broke out he enlisted in the Army. His father advised him “don’t shoot as good as you can”; instead, his mechanical abilities landed him in rigging and recovery. When the allied troops landed on Normandy Beach, the day after the assault Chet was assigned to operate heavy equipment unloading the troop carriers onto the beach. His ‘take charge’ attitude was recognized with a field promotion to Sergeant right there on the beach – he was 19 years old. Crossing through Europe as the troops headed inland he ended up operating a crane unloading freight in a train station in Verviers, Belgium. Unbeknownst to him he was being watched from a nearby window by a beautiful Belgian girl, Jeanne DeFrance. Every day she would watch the auburn-haired soldier until her brother-in-law decided to play matchmaker. He took his young son to the train station under the guise of meeting a G.I., and invited Chet to dinner. Not wanting to miss out on a home-cooked meal, he accepted. He didn’t speak any French and she didn’t speak any English, but six weeks later the always-chaperoned couple married. Special permission had to be granted by the Army as Chet was one of the first soldiers to marry a local girl.
After the war Chet picked up his bride as she disembarked from a troop ship in Mobile Alabama and they headed west. Under the G.I. Bill he apprenticed at Mickey’s Automotive in Denver, CO where he learned how to do everything from working on engines to bodywork. Upon completion, he was awarded with an essential box of tools to begin his career. He was hired right away to drive long haul trucks. Their daughter Lucy was born, and they bought their first house. After a brief stop in Arizona, the burgeoning state of California beckoned and they moved again. Here their second daughter Nancy was born. Chet worked for pipeline company Hood Corporation where he operated and fixed the heavy equipment (trenchers, dozers, backhoes, etc). Being a journeyman mechanic in the Operating Engineers, he was entrusted with the training of young apprentices. Chet relished the chance to pass along his skills (both mechanical and life lessons) to these young men, some who were rather “wild and woolly” as he put it. He cherished hearing from them throughout his life.
In 1971 Chet started his own company, C&O Manufacturing, to build rubbish truck bodies. He designed and engineered many innovative features, such as the bubble rear door, which are in widespread use today. At it’s height the company had 25 employees. During this time he was active in the Santa Fe Springs Rotary, where he spearheaded the effort to equip local high schools with state-of-the-art welding equipment. After selling the company, he became self-employed with a fully equipped service truck and the motto “have torch, will travel”. One landmark project was a sand and gravel conveyor system he engineered and built in Littlerock, CA. He was 65 years old and still “blowin’ and going”.
A few years later the mountains called, and they moved to Gardnerville. Two months later Jeanne died, leaving Chet alone after 47 years of marriage. He returned to SoCal with his service truck to work. There he was fixed up by daughter Nancy and her best friend Nancy with a lovely lady named Lela. After 7 months of courtship they were married, and returned to Gardnerville to start their new life. The two Nancy’s became step-sisters. At Lela’s urging they joined Trinity Lutheran Church where they were active members of the “55+” group. Many happy dinner parties were hosted at their home. Chet had a shop built behind the house where he could fabricate and weld. He provided repair services there, and mobile repair with his service truck, to the local ranchers. He delighted in the friendships he made through church and business. In his 80’s, as the heavy work became more difficult, he began his ministry of making small crosses out of horseshoe nails. He produced thousands of crosses of different designs, never selling them but instead giving them away. He explained that the gift of salvation was given freely through the blood of Jesus Christ, so too those crosses were to be given away. In classic Chet style he trained others in the fabrication of the crosses. When Lela passed after 17 years of marriage, Chet began baking pies. A favorite was apple, but he also used rhubarb grown in his bountiful garden.
Our hearts are broken as we have been spoiled by having him for so long. But our sadness is tempered with knowing he is in the loving care of our savior Jesus Christ, reunited with many loved ones who have been wondering where he’s been. We imagine him running through the canyons around Pablo Ranch, delighting in the heavenly smell of the sagebrush, and eating his grandma’s homemade cookies as she calls him “Scamp.” He modeled many virtues such as honesty, perseverance, charity, and a good work ethic, and he passed along his love of fishing, reading, gardening, and lifelong learning to multiple generations, and for that we are forever grateful.
Survived by daughters Lucy Corliss & Nancy Rennie, stepdaughter Nancy Eckert, granddaughters Jennifer Corliss & Lisa Marglin, great grandchildren Matthew Corliss, Allison Corliss-Baldoz, & Kyle Corliss, brother George Partee, nephews Eddie Partee & David Partee, nieces Susie Partee & Vickie Partee, nephew David Ott, niece Debra Ott Reeves, great nephews Ted Ott, Delbert Ott, & Ken Ott, and many friends. Preceded in death by brothers Delbert & Ted, wife Jeanne, wife Lela, grandson Charles Wickward, granddaughter Chelsea Joy, and many friends.
Services will be held on Veteran’s Day, Monday November 11, 2019 at 11 a.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church, 1480 Douglas Ave., Gardnerville, NV 89410. Arrangements are in the trusted care of Walton’s Funeral Home, Gardnerville, NV, 775-783-9312.