Jean Otte — August 14, 1935 – July 1, 2018

Jean Otte, 83, formerly of Pearl City, passed away July 1, 2018, at Waverly Place of Stockton.

Here is her obituary, in her own words:

I was born Avis Jean Plenger (but don’t ever call me Avis!) on August 14, 1935 in Lena, Illinois. My parents were John Anthony and Sarah Avis (Morgan) Plenger. My dad worked for the Illinois Central Railroad, so when he was transferred to Freeport in my early teens, that meant we had to move.  I did not like attending school in Freeport, and decided to quit after the first day of my junior year.  When I went home and told my mother what I did, she told me I had to get a job and pay rent. It didn’t take me long to land a job at the telephone office. Yes, I was one of those “Number, please” girls, who answered your call and plugged you into the switchboard to connect your call.

When I was sixteen, I met my future husband, Floyd Robert Otte. I wanted to get married shortly thereafter, but he said I was too young. We waited until I was the ripe old age of 17 and he was 26.  We were married in Freeport on October 3, 1952.  Rumors ran wild throughout the party lines that I was pregnant and had to get married. But my first child wasn’t born until 1955!  Apparently, it was a very long pregnancy.

In the early years of marriage, I worked with my husband to re-establish his business, Otte Repair Service. We put our money into the business to make it the success that it was. We dug the basement for our house and lived in that until 1962 when we finished the house. After it was sided, we couldn’t decide on a color to paint it. He wanted green with white trim and I wanted white with green trim. So we compromised by having it painted green and white striped. Our house was a landmark for many when driving along Route 73. All we had to do was say we lived in the green and white striped house, and almost everybody knew exactly where we lived!

During our marriage, we had three daughters: Debra (Gary) Brubaker, DeKalb, Cindy (Ronald) Heitkam, Lena, and Sally Healy, Lena.  We also had four grandchildren: Brett RN (Joe Bonnell) Heitkam, Dixon, Scott Heitkam, Lena, Michelle (Stephane¢) Chevallier, Rochester, MN, and Lori (Bryce RN) Williams, Columbia, SC. I was lucky to have seven great grandchildren: Peyton, Benjamin, and Natalie Heitkam, Lena, and Chloe, Emily, Asha, and Jo Williams of Columbia, SC.

I was a stay-at-home wife, helping my husband’s business by going to Freeport “chasing parts” for him. I was also an assistant Girl Scout leader. When my youngest, Sally, started junior high, I decided it was time to get a job outside the home. I began working in the kitchen at the nursing home in Lena and stayed there 27 years.

During our marriage, my husband taught me many things. Shortly after marriage he taught me how to drive. And it was a STICK shift!  In 1968 he assisted me in getting my GED. I couldn’t have done it without him. When I was in my late thirties, he taught me how to ride a motorcycle. Eventually I took over his 750 Honda and he got himself an 1100 Yamaha.  We put a lot of miles on those motorcycles. Our grandkids thought it was so cool to have motorcycle riding grandparents.

I outlived my parents, my husband, who died December 9, 2006, my brothers Jim, Verne, and Dick, and my sister Frances.  I wanted to live long enough to see my great grandchildren grow up, but knew it was not going to happen. But I also wanted to go be with Floyd, as I missed him so much. I have chosen not to have a funeral.

My ashes and his are going to be mixed together by my grandsons, and we will be buried together at a date chosen by the kids in our plot at the Lena cemetery.

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