Thomas W. Otto
The Rev. Thomas Warren Otto "Tom"

The courageous, humble and honorable Rev. Thomas Warren "Tom" Otto, age 78, of Gainesville, FL, took the trip to heaven that he had planned most of his life on Jan. 26, 2020.

He was born in Barberton, OH on Aug. 21, 1941. Howard and Lillian Otto reared him on their rural farm between Marshallville and Canal Fulton, OH. He graduated from Northwest High School and played football for the University of Mount Union. He also earned master's degrees from Loyola University of Chicago (Educational Administration and Supervision) and United Seminary of Dayton, OH, (Divinity).

Tom supported numerous charitable projects through his membership in the Bahia Shrine in Apopka, FL, where he served as chaplain, and in The Villages Masonic Lodge.

Beyond his athletic accomplishments as a player and high school basketball, football and track coach, Tom was a true Renaissance man, lifelong learner and Naturalist. He was a creative painter and carpenter, initiating a Woodcrafter's Club at Continental Country Club in Wildwood, FL. He carved birds and ducks, made garden whirligigs, more than 100 birdhouses and bird feeders, old fashioned toys, nativity sets and Christmas decorations for family and friends. He was a member of the Manatee County Hibiscus Club as he enjoyed gardening since childhood.

Among the many ways he modeled Christian leadership to people of all ages in each community, Tom played basketball with local youth, brought together ministerial services that support the homeless and hungry, and developed a united Easter sunrise service. As a result, many people discovered God's love and forgiveness, some even entering the ministry themselves.

An Ordained Elder in the Florida United Methodist Conference, he pastored United Methodist Churches in May's Lick, KY, Bradenton, FL, Wildwood, FL, Jasper, FL, Ellenton, FL, and Flagler Beach, FL. In addition, Tom teamed with other volunteers to help people in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas. He helped build clinics and additions to churches and schools, and aided after two hurricanes. He served as a World Methodist Council exchange pastor to two Circuits of 12 churches in England: Lytham St Anne and The Midlands-Hinckley. Tom also ministered to those he met while touring Germany, Norway, Ireland, Iceland, Nova Scotia, Canada, Bahamas and Jamaica with his wife. A highlight was his personal visit with Mother Theresa at her Calcutta orphanage and Home of the Dying.

In retirement, Tom served as interim pastor of five Methodist congregations in Eleuthera, Bahamas for 10 weeks. Throughout his career he enjoyed incorporating his harmonica music and skillful gospel magic, scripture and poetry memorization, in his services.

Tom is paving the way for his family members to join him in heaven later: his wife Annie of 54 years; his daughters Heidi Salmon (Christopher) of Melbourne Village, FL and Liesl O'Dell (Jimmy) of Gainesville, FL; his grandchildren, Olivia Douglas (Matt), Michael Kopy, Katie O'Dell, C.J. Salmon, Will O'Dell, Mark Salmon, Casey O'Dell and Heidi Rose Salmon: his siblings Carol Perrine, Margaret Nettle (Larry) and Jimmy Otto (Charlene), and their families; his other relations including Aunt Mable Otto, cousins Mark, Donnie and Danny Otto, Janice Cogswell and Larry Blanc and many relatives in Ohio, Florida and Alabama, as well as friends and extended family in many other locations.

Tom's oral history is available on YouTube under "An Oral History with Thomas W. Otto." His earthly remains will be cremated by Milam Funeral Home in Gainesville, FL.

A celebration of life is planned for Saturday, Feb. 22, at 2 p.m. at The Atrium, 2431 N.W. 41st Street, Gainesville, FL 32606. A reception for family and long-time /out-of-state friends will precede the service at 1 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, feel free to donate to The Atrium Garden Club Fund, in memory of Tom Otto, who loved working in the garden. His plantings are at each entrance as well as the two garden spots that are always creative and inspirational.
Published on February 6, 2020

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