Dennis J. Ottley, 87, passed away on Thursday, Sept. 5. He was born on Jan. 28, 1932, in Salt Lake City. He was the third of six children born to Terrell Lott and Larna Loveland Lott. His life was not easy. By the time he was 10 years old, he had attended eight different elementary schools in numerous communities; he had tragically lost a younger brother, Ronnie; and had witnessed extreme family discord that resulted in his parents’ divorce.
As a youngster on the heels of the Depression, he took on a fierce loyalty to a mother he was devoted to and the siblings he had shared his history with. His mother was an elevator operator during WWII and he and his brother Kent would do anything to help her make ends meet. They would shine shoes for the soldiers, sell newspapers on the street for a two-cent profit, go door-to-door selling magazines and mow lawns when they could.
His mother married Grant Ottley in 1944, and Denny would eventually be adopted by him and take his name. It was Grant Ottley who brought Denny and the family to Evanston when Denny was 15.
From the moment he first saw Evanston, he fell in love with the community that would be his home for the next 72 years. It was here that he met and fell in love with Sandy Fotheringham. They were married on July 26, 1950, and they spent the next 69 years writing their own story. She was barely 17, he was 18 and they literally grew up together.
Denny dropped out of school at the beginning of his senior year and enlisted in the 141st Tank Battalion of the Wyoming National Guard. He was deployed to Korea just two months after his first son, Rand, was born. Denny loved the military — he loved the structure, the discipline and the purpose. He served as a gunner and a tank commander and used that military experience to hone the leadership skills he would use later in life.
He returned home in May of 1952, and, together with Sandy, began the work of building a life for their young family. Over the next 12 years, Dennis became a father three more times. David was born in 1953, Tib in 1957 and Cody in 1964. He worked hard to provide the stable family environment that he had missed as a kid growing up.
He believed in service — service to your family, service to your community and service to your country. He exemplified that belief by devoting 28 years of his life serving the community of Evanston as both city councilman and mayor. In his three terms as councilman and his three terms as mayor, he put his fingerprints on many of the projects that make this community what it is today.
His service spanned some of the most difficult times in Evanston’s history, as the community dealt with both the up and the down sides of a boom-bust cycle. He was able to navigate the challenges of infrastructure strain while growing a progressively better quality of life for those who lived here. If it happened between 1967 and 1995, Denny was a part of it.
The youth of Evanston also benefitted from his commitment to service. As a boxer himself, he started a boxing club that gave many area boys the opportunity to develop as young men (from 1957 to 1971). Even at age 87, he could still reminisce with virtually total recall the names of his boxers, the venues and their accomplishments.
He also was a driving force in establishing the Pop Warner football league in Evanston in 1962, which continues today. His community involvement included other organizations as well. He served as commander of the American Legion Post from 1961 to 1964, president of the Lions Club, Cowboy Days Committee Chairman, and he was named outstanding Jaycee for the state of Wyoming in 1967. He also received national recognition as a Jaycee that year.
Although his formal education ended after grade 11, his life experience continued to inform his mind and develop his character into his 80s. His career choices took him from the railroad to the oilfield. He was an entrepreneur as owner of the Frontier Truck Stop and the Lockerroom Etc. He was a corporate officer with the Wyoming Railway Car Corporation and he was the owner and broker of Uinta Realty into his 80s.
His most recent career began at that time, and that was author. He wrote the first of his seven books at age 80. The book was called “Just a Kid Growing Up.” It was written not for publication, but as a gift to his boys — a narrative of his life that would help them understand who he was and how that came to be.
Dennis passed peacefully at home on Sept. 5. In Sandy’s words, he passed with quiet dignity, just as he lived. He was a quiet, kind and humble man who will be missed greatly by all of us who loved him.
Denny is survived by his loving wife, Sandra (Fotheringham) Ottley; his sons, Dennis Randell (Linda) Ottley, David (Kerri) Ottley, Ronald Tib (Diana) Ottley and Cody (Rhonda) Ottley; his siblings, Dean (Pam) Lott, Jeanne (Michael) Lovell and Berta Clegg Richins; 15 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren, two great-great grandchildren, and dozens of nieces and nephews who meant so much to him.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Terrell Lott, Larna Loveland Ottley and Grant Ottley; his brothers, Kent (Delores) Ottley, Robert (Sandra) Ottley, Mack Lott and Ronnie Lott; his sister, Teralene (Johnny) Hutchings; and his grandson, Patricio Tib Ottley,
A memorial service celebrating his life will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 13, at the Evanston Roundhouse. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Evanston Police Department Benevolent Association or the Wounded Warriors Project in his memory would be appreciated.
Online condolences may be given at crandallfhevanston.com.