July 5, 1918 – Sept. 30, 2012
TORRINGTON – Norman A. (Norm) Otto, 94, passed away peacefully on Sept. 30 at his home in Lincoln, Neb.
He was born in Gering, Neb., on July 5, 1918, to J. Arthur and Pauline Otto.
He grew up in the Yoder area and graduated from Torrington High School in 1936. After attending the University of Wyoming in Laramie and receiving his teaching credentials, he taught country school in the Yoder area, where he met Vera Eklund, who had come to Wyoming to teach from Kearney, Neb. They were married in Kearney on May 25, 1941.
Norm flew bombing missions over Germany as a B-17 navigator in World War II. After the war he returned to Kearney and obtained his bachelor’s degree from Kearney State Teachers College on the GI Bill. He taught and served as superintendent of schools at Amherst, Neb., until 1952.
As a building contractor in the 1950s and early 60s, he built many homes in the Kearney area. In 1954, he was elected to the Nebraska Legislature from the 34th legislative district. He represented Buffalo and Sherman counties in the Unicameral from 1955 to 1961, when newly elected Gov. Frank Morrison selected Norm as his chief of staff.
In 1964, he was named Nebraska director of the U.S. Small Business Administration. He also was elected to the state board of education, and served as its president during this period. In 1971, newly elected Gov. Jim Exon named Norm as his chief of staff.
After serving eight years as Exon’s chief of staff, Norm joined Austin Realty (now Home Real Estate). He was intent on proving his worth to himself by making more money in the private sector than he earned in the public sector. In doing so, he made many friends in the real estate business.
Satisfied in his ability to succeed in the private sector, he returned to his love of public service when U.S. Sen. Jim Exon asked him to join the Exon senate staff as state director. Norm retired from that position in January of 1991. Later in 1991, Gov. Ben Nelson appointed him to the newly formed Coordinating Commission for Post Secondary Education. In 1992 he was recognized as one of UNK’s Distinguished Alumni.
Survivors include son, Steve Otto, of Lincoln; son and daughter-in-law, Jim and Beth Otto, of Lincoln; grandson, Rich Otto, of Lincoln, granddaughter and grandson-in-law, Lori (Otto) Olson and Seth Olson, of Sioux Falls, S.D.; grandson, Michael Otto, of Chicago; great-grandson and great-granddaughter, C.J. Olson and Josie Olson, of Sioux Falls; and great-granddaughters, Vera Otto and La-Isha Otto, of Chicago; sisters, Ellen (Otto) Smith, of Yoder, and Martha (Otto) Greene, of Lincoln; brother, Paul Otto of Kearney.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Vera Otto; brother, Carl Otto; sisters, Lorraine (Otto) Clawson and Nellie (Otto) Jackson.
Services will be at 11 a.m. CST on Thursday, Oct. 4 at Grace Lutheran Church in Walton, Neb. There will an opportunity for viewing prior to the service but no visitation at the funeral home. Burial will be 11 a.m. MST on Friday, Oct. 5 at Valley View Cemetery in Torrington.
Memorials may be sent to the Center for People in Need in Lincoln and Grace Lutheran Church.
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