George “Dick” Ott was a committed volunteer with the Sheriff Community Oriented Policing Effort Incident Response Team, and in recent years was president of University SCOPE. Fellow volunteers and his family are mourning after Ott died in January of complications from a fall while he was on duty.
Like Ott, Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey is a member of the SCOPE Incident Response Team, which provides traffic control assistance at the scenes of major car accidents, fires and other incidents. Towey, who volunteered with Ott for years, has continued to pull regular on-call SIRT shifts while he serves as mayor.
“He was on a SIRT call when he tripped and fell,” Towey said. “A deputy saw him go down.”
It appears that Ott simply tripped over a curb, Towey said. The deputy helped him up and asked him if he was OK. Ott said he was fine, Towey said.
But Ott was taking blood thinners because of an artificial heart valve put in his chest years ago. Family members went to his home to check on him the next evening and found him on the floor. “We had to break in the door,” said daughter Charlene Guttromson. Ott had bleeding in his brain and died a couple of weeks later on Jan. 29. He was 69.
The grief his family feels now is reminiscent of the grief Ott felt when he first signed up as a SCOPE volunteer. His wife of 33 years, Lou Nettie, died in 2003 of stomach cancer. Before she died, the two had discussed volunteering with SCOPE together. “They just thought it was beneficial for the neighborhood,” Guttromson said. “They didn’t want to sit around doing nothing. When she died, he was totally lost.”
After a couple of years had passed, Guttromson got a phone call from Ott. “He said, ‘I’m going to do what Mom said and go to SCOPE,’ ” she said.
Ott threw himself into the effort, working more than 9,000 hours and spending part of nearly every day at the University SCOPE office. He also continued his work as a booth manager and judge at the Spokane County Interstate Fair, which he did for 27 years.
His work with the fair stemmed from growing up on a farm near Dear Park and his career selling fertilizer to local farmers. He worked for Inland Farmers for 19 years and Greenacres Gypsum for more than 20 years, and he retired shortly after his wife died. “He would go out and test the soil,” Guttromson said of her father’s work. “He knew almost all the farmers in the area.”
Some people will remember him because of his farm work or his volunteer time with SCOPE, but his family will remember him for his loving heart. When he married his wife she already had four children. He welcomed them into his home and treated them as if they were his own children, Guttromson said.
In turn, he also welcomed his nine grandchildren into his home, all of whom lived with him for at least a little while.
“For 20 years I don’t think their door was ever locked,” Guttromson said. “There was always someone coming or going. It was a homey home. You just felt at home.”
That feeling of home is what she will miss the most, Guttromson said. “That was my home, knowing that if anything went bad or wrong I could always count on him,” she said.