Laurel A. Benn Otte Obituary

Laurel Otte, a resident of Dickinson Avenue since 1975, passed away peacefully on Saturday, June 2, 2018. She will be so greatly missed.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1939, to Phyllis Wolven Benn and Clarence Benn, Laurel attended Dearborn High School. In the summer of 1956, she won a choir scholarship to Interlochen Music Camp. Later, she was thrilled to discover at the University of Michigan that she could apply to work at the camp in summer. Working in the dining hall there, she met Daniel Otte, who invited her to go on an outing with three other staffers at Lake Michigan. 

They went back to work at Interlochen every summer until 1963, when they were married. Laurel finished her M.A. and that September became a University of Michigan librarian, while Daniel worked his way through graduate school as a teaching fellow. Their twins, Jennifer and Jessica, were born in April, 1967. In June, 1968, Daniel finished his Ph.D., and the Ottes moved for a year to Australia.

Returning from Australia, they lived outside of Austin, Texas, for six years. Daniel’s work at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia brought them to Swarthmore in the summer of 1975. Laurel joined Merrie Lou Cohen as a Swarthmore Elementary School librarian, a joyful friendship which endured the rest of her life; they lived a block apart and travelled regularly to London together for many years. Laurel also worked at Marple Public Library, and until a few years ago, volunteered at the Swarthmore Public Library.

Laurel Otte was wonderful singer, a member of the University of Michigan’s Gilbert & Sullivan Society, who sang show tunes and opera around the house. Her daughters know one particularly tragic aria only by its common Otte household name, “The Vacuum Cleaner Song.”

She was a talented quilter and seamstress; vacations and field trips were accompanied by small bags of patchwork pieces — she was a perfect travel companion for Daniel and would sit anywhere, any time, and sew, sing, and read while he collected specimens in all kinds of places, day and night. She loved PBS, especially “MYSTERY!,” and mystery novels, Fred Astaire, antique markets, flea markets, art, museums, books, a really good chocolate milkshake — ‘really chocolate-y’ — and travel with lifelong friends and family. She was a talented and inventive cook, and kept a comfortable, beautiful house. 

Beyond all else, Laurel Otte was, without fail, gracious. She was kind, and thoughtful, gentle and polite. Her family treasured her and will miss her terribly. 

Laurel is survived by her cherished husband of 55 years, Daniel; daughters Jessica Otte (Amy Boyle) of Phoenixville, Pa.; Jennifer Otte Vanim of Swarthmore; sister Linda Fox (Talbert Fox) of Kailua, Hawaii; 13 nieces and nephews; and 11 great-nieces and great-nephews. 

Visitation is at 2:30 p.m., Saturday June 9, with funeral services at 3:30 p.m. at Carr Funeral Home, 935 S. Providence Road, Wallingford, PA 19081.

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