May 19, 1923-Dec. 11, 2017

A graveside service will be held for James "Keith" Ott, 94, of Brookings, at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 21, at Sunset Memorial Cemetery in Coos Bay.

James "Keith" Ott, known as Keith by his family and friends passed away in Brookings, Dec. 11, 2017. Keith was born on May 19, 1923 somewhere between Allegany and Coos Bay, on the launch of the Coos River. His father Jess Ott, who piloted the boat, stopped at a farm and picked up the wife of a farmer to act as midwife.

The only mode of transportation between Allegany and Marshfield (now Coos Bay) was by boat. His father Jess Ott owned a series of boats that carried passengers, milk cans from the many dairy farmers along the river, and anything that needed to be transferred to town. The boaters picked up shopping lists from the farmer's wives and did their shopping when they docked in Marshfield. Jess Ott, Keith’s dad also had the mail contract and carried the mail to and from Allegany and Marshfield. The boat captains would drop off mail and shopping orders along the river and to the post office in Allegany.

Keith was an award winning scholar. His elementary education was in Allegany and his high school was about 10 miles downriver at, Coos River High School. Yes, the children then went to school by boat. Keith remembered many picnics, school and social events that were facilitated by the boats. Some of the boats were steam powered stern wheelers.

After graduation from high school, as the class valedictorian and the third of the “Ott” siblings to win the Johnson Scholarship Cup, Keith started as an apprentice to Loyal Neish, who had a machine shop on the Marshfield water front. He spent one winter in Cleveland, Ohio learning special welding and machining techniques.

When World War II broke out, Keith wanted to join the U.S. Navy Seabees, but couldn’t due to his eyesight. He could have joined to carry a rifle but that wasn’t what he wanted. He elected to accept an industrial deferment and worked on building ships, The Liberty, Victory and minesweepers for the duration of the war.

On April 17, 1943, Keith married Alice Louise Rourke. Keith built their first house in Millington, Coos Bay on his father-in-law’s property. On Oct. 9, 1946, Keith and Alice welcomed twin sons, James Richard and John Rourke. James Richard passed away three days later.

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Keith decided to go to work for Cape Aargo Lumber Company to become the head millright. This job paid a few cents more than the job at Loyal Neish. He worked for Cape Arago Lumber for 10 years. He then built his own machine/diesel shop on the same site as the former Loyal Neish shop. This shop opened in the fall of 1960. He later relocated to a site in Charleston, on the Seven Devils Road.

On Sept. 23, 1996 Keith married Lois Seaman in Las Vegas, Nev. and they subsequently moved to Brookings.

Keith is survived by his wife, Lois Seaman-Ott; son, John Ott and wife, Sandy Ott; and numerous nieces, nephews and their progeny.

Keith was preceded in death by his parents, Jesse James and Florence Edwards Ott; siblings, Harold Ott, Doris Calhoun, Carol Smith, and Joyce Gault; first wife, Alice; and infant son, James Richard.

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