Vertalie Otis passed away Saturday, Nov. 18 in Spencer, IA. She was 94 years old.
Born June 29, 1929 in Spearfish, SD, Vertalie was the only child of Tena (Haraldson) and Bill Nelson. Vertalie grew up in Forest City, IA, where she met her future husband, Tommy Otis. Though they didn’t begin dating until junior high, the couple met as children when they attended the same elementary school. Romance blossomed on Valentine’s Day when, perplexed by how to spell her unusual name, third-grader Tommy handed second-grader Vertalie a blank valentine and said, “I’ve tried several times to write your name. Here, you fill it out.” The couple married in 1949.
Vertalie and Tom Otis spent their first 13 married years in Forest City where children Sally (Phelps), Bill, and Bob were born. Vertalie worked as a receptionist for Dr. Ivan Brown and Dr. Harvey Perman in Forest City before the family moved to Spencer in 1962. She raised her three children and also worked for Nelson-Otis Jewelry (1962-1982).
Vertalie and Tom moved to Laguna Niguel, Calif., to escape the Iowa winters, but the pull of family and grandchildren beckoned, and the couple returned to Spencer. Working alongside Tom and her son Bill, Vertalie performed bookkeeping duties at Otis Clothiers (1989-1994) and, more importantly, made sure the secret refrigerator in her office always had cold Coca-Colas for her grandchildren.
She was active in her Bethany Lutheran Church circle group, her PEO chapter, and volunteered tirelessly feeding the staff and registering patients with the cardiac/orthopedic children’s clinic.
Vertalie could fix almost anything with food. She was a gracious hostess, quick to share a recipe and a long story about it, punctuated with an eyebrow raise and “big eyes” to emphasize the important parts. She traveled with her own toaster and coffee pot, and believed that extra gravy was a necessity. Delivery of her famous homemade strawberry jam was a highly anticipated event each June, usually accompanied by a fresh loaf of bread made from scratch. She squeezed her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren often, called her youngsters “Scoot” and gave the best tush push-downs at bed time.
Vertalie is preceded in death by her husband Tom and her parents.
She will be remembered by children Sally (Dr. Bill Phelps), Bill (Tootie) Otis, and Bob (Mary Sue) Otis. Vertalie will be missed by her grandchildren Jennifer (Rick) Ferrell, Betsy (Bryan) Boesen, John (Ashley) Phelps, Tom (Brooke) Phelps, Elizabeth (Wade) Daggett, Christopher (Claudia) Otis, Sam (Hannah) Otis, and Ben (Taylor) Otis; and step-grandchildren Jenni (Demond) Winston, Jill (Aaron Hoppe) McClintic, and Matt (Angie) McClintic. She also had 16 great-grandchildren.
A private family memorial will be celebrated at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her name to the Spencer Community School Foundation.