Ott, Father George Earl

1984, August 26

Date of Birth: 1893, September 25

A long life of priestly fidelity, marked by a spirit of warm, gracious fraternal love and expressed with generous good humor, came to a quiet close when George Earl Ott, S.S., died on August 26 at the age of 91. Suffering from the infirmities of age, including a broken hip at 90, Father Ott until the last year found much enjoyment in his retirement at St. Charles Villa. His last months were spent in the infirmary of St. Martin’s Home under the gentle care of the Little Sisters of the Poor. He died at St. Agnes Hospital two days after being admitted there.

Born on September 25, 1893, in Washington, D.C., George Ott was one of the three sons of William J. and Josephine E. (nee Hartbrecht) Ott. His brothers, Raymond and Ernest, preceded him in death. His early education was at Immaculate Conception School. In 1911, he entered St. Charles College, Catonsville, along with Lawrence J. Shehan, as that venerable institution began its first year on the new campus after fire had destroyed the original Ellicott City institution. Both young men desired to be priests of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and they were ordained priests the same year, one to spend his life in seminary ministry and the other to become the revered Cardinal Shehan, and they both died in Baltimore on the same Sunday.

George Ott completed his seminary studies at St. Mary’s in Baltimore and the Sulpician Seminary in Washington. Later he did graduate study in biology, receiving an M.S. from The Catholic University of America. He also took biology courses at Columbia, Johns Hopkins, and Stanford Universities. On May 25, 1922, he was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore by Archbishop Michael J. Curley in the first class ordained by the successor to Cardinal Gibbons.

After one year of teaching at St. Charles College and another there as assistant treasurer while completing the Sulpician year of formation, Father Ott was admitted to the Society of St. Sulpice in 1924. He was then assigned to St. Patrick’s Seminary, Menlo Park, CA, as treasurer and to teach sociology.

That apprenticeship in seminary business and financial affairs was to lead to many more years of similar work, first in Baltimore at St. Mary’s Seminary on Paca Street, to which he was assigned in 1928 as treasurer and to teach biology. From 1938 to 1940, he did his graduate study, followed by another assignment as treasurer and professor of biology at St. Edward’s Seminary in Seattle, from which he returned to St. Mary’s, Paca Street, in 1945, again as treasurer and to teach sociology.

In 1948, a still greater challenge was placed on Father Ott, when his superiors asked him to be in the vanguard of the Sulpician mission to Plymouth, MI, to work with the team building the new St. John’s Provincial Seminary under the joint ownership of the bishops of Michigan. Living at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, where he taught a history course, Father Ott acquired a familiarity with the new institution that was of enormous assistance to Father Lyman Fenn and the Sulpician faculty who arrived in the summer of 1949 to open St. John’s.

By 1954, however, Father Ott found himself growing very weary of the burden of his office, which had engaged his constant and meticulous attention for thirty years. He was grateful when his superiors heeded his request and assigned him again to St. Charles College without treasurer’s duties. A special concern of his from then until 1973 was evident in the devoted personal care he gave to the Sulpician cemetery. He was again called on to exercise his gift for overseeing property and material details of Sulpician life when, in 1969, he consented to be the on-site supervisor for the construction of St. Charles Villa.

Retiring from teaching, he moved to St. Martin’s Home and became chaplain to the Little Sisters of the Poor while the Sulpicians’ retirement home was being built on property adjoining St. Martin’s. With its successful completion, he was first to move in when the Villa opened in December 1971. Later, from 1973 to 1976, he served as coordinator of the Villa before finally being allowed to begin real retirement.

Father Ott’s life as a Sulpician was devoted in a particular way to ensuring the well-being of his brother priests, the seminarians, the staff, and the employees with whom he lived and worked quietly, steadfastly, and faithfully. Into his long service to others, he brought a spirit of cheerful obedience and generous dedication. He gave not only his energy and talents to the seminary community but throughout his life made contributions out of his personal possessions, always with an unassuming, simple style. He found much delight in taking long walks through the city and countryside, partly out of necessity, because he never learned to drive an automobile, but also because it kept him in shape and in touch with his surroundings, which may have grown out of his habit of constant surveillance of the properties which were so long under his direct supervision. He also found much enjoyment in long trips in vacation periods for visits with classmates and seminary alumni and to see new lands, which gave him needed relief from his daily concerns.

The Provincial, Father Edward J. Frazer, was principal celebrant of the Mass of Christian Burial and the homily was given by the Rev. Raymond F. Hesler, S.S. Burial was in the Sulpician cemetery.

Father Ott is survived by a nephew, Mr. Ernest Ott, Silver Spring, MD, and two nieces, Mrs. Virginia Ott Gallagher, Tacoma Park, MD and Sister Ernestine Ott, C.D.P., Ashland, KY, and by several other nieces and nephews.

May Father George Ott live forever in the joy of the Resurrection.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

William J. Lee, S.S.

Provincial Secretary