Joe Otter: The Passing of an Icon
(“Jokin” Joe, Say It Isn’t So)
By Lewis Underwood – courtesy Pattaya Mail
Our beloved Joe maxed out his contact’s capacity in his cell phone long ago with upwards of 250 names of friends from near and far.
Talk about connectivity! He stayed in touch with people better than anyone I knew. But then he loved his family and friends and staying current with everyone was a priority. After all, he cared for us, like a big extended family, and always signed off with his usual parting words, “I love you, man!”
Over the last few months, on his better days, he would call as many people as possible to let them know he was doing all right. Alternatively, he sent out his joke emails, which was another way to tell you that he was having a good day.
Towards the end when he was having more bad times than good, he was getting an average of 30 calls a day, and it added to his pain that he could not answer them all.
Joe used to love it when friends would look him up at the bar:
Mike Landau wrote: “For me and many others Joe had become the Wayne at Nacho Noi’s. Joe kept a lot of us connected to Pattaya when we were back here in the States, forwarding jokes, stories, and all the latest Pattaya news. He was there with a big smile and a welcome back coffee Baileys at the bar, which is where we all headed for our first stop back in Pattaya.”
Ronnie Gorrie wrote: “It is best to remember his ever smiling face, his huge presence, Herculean handshake and bear hug that would always greet you when you arrived at the bar.”
Mark Muehr wrote: “Joe was the first friend I made in Thailand, and as such, will always hold a special place in my heart.”
Joe also loved entertaining people at his house and was always the gracious host for his barbeques and gatherings. He was a real social animal both at work and home.
Joe was also a jack of all trades and whatever he took on, he would give it his fullest. You could always rely on Joe to get the job done.
According to his CV, he started his career as an apprentice plumber before earning his professional license in southern California. Eventually, he expanded his scope into construction both private and commercial, where he was the foreman for many of the projects.
Over here in Thailand, he worked with Gormley Commercial Contracting, helping Stephen with his glass art both locally and around Asia. He also worked with Geckotech both here and in China.
He was a construction manager in Dubai, a project manager for Fiber Construction in Kabul, Afghanistan, and later did another brief stint there as senior construction supervisor.
Strangely, not mentioned in his CV were some of his other pursuits, such as horticulturist, entrepreneur, chiropractor and, of course, bar manager; and he was the bar manager bar none.
But most of us knew him as Jokin’ Joe, the Prankster, who was always finding ways to clown it up. And god knows in this crazy, topsy turvy world, we need as much humor and levity as we can get.
Most of us when we go to visit our ancestral homes back in the west, buy essentials we cannot find here, such as foodstuffs, clothes, tools, bike parts, etc., but not Joe. His first stop would be to the gag store; you know those kinds of shops that make you wonder how they can even stay in business. They must have been glad to see Joe come in (again) to stock up on his props for pranks, and shock and scare tactics.
Eventually, this also included visits to other kind of shops, where you get those inflatable toys for adults. He would buy them for birthday gifts (or at least that is what he used to tell the lady behind the counter).
Even his own family became victims of his pranks to the point that initially, we could not find a straight picture of Joe for the temple and newspaper; all we could find were ones where he was wearing some goofy expression or even a mask over his face.
With his wife, Nas, when she would drive him to work, he would hide a life-like spider behind the sun visor in the car, so that when she would pull it down it would drop on her lap scaring the daylights out of her. Not once, but several times, sometimes substituting with rubber worms until at wit’s end, she said, “Don’t you ever get tired of that?” And, as you can imagine with that famous shit-eating grin on his face, Joe simply said, “No”.
Also at the bar, the staff was not spared his pranks either. Like, when he would offer them a stick of gum from the old-looks-like-a-pack of Wriggly Gum trick, but instead delivers an electrical shock. He did the same thing to the cashiers with a ‘hot’ stapler.
On our hash runs, he would place his stuffed crocodile out in the swampy parts or real-looking snakes along the trail to give the runners a scare. And, of course, he loved those potent fireworks like those Chinese cherry bombs that he would let off behind your back to scare the bejesus out of you.
And to the bitter end, Joe, even in his pain, was the joker; he would sneak up behind his kids, say sitting at the computer and slowly open his colostomy bag so when the stench reached their noses, they would suddenly turn round and blurt out, “Daddy, gross!”
And who could forget all of the great adventures we had together, such as haring hash runs, collaborating together, coming up with a theme and shirt design, and searching for new places to create a good trail. Joe knew the local area as good as anyone. And it was always a joy to add some of his trickery to accent the run; for which Joe was the King.
Joe succumbed to his epic battle with colon cancer on Friday, May 13th and is survived by his lovely wife and children, Nas, Lisa, Irin, Chris and Eric; and in California, his son, Chase, and his older brother, Russ and half-sister Judy Wood.
We like to think that if Joe had some advice to leave with us, he would say:
1. Get your house in order now!
2. Be sure you have full insurance coverage for you and your family
3. Fill out a living will; there is now a new form readily recognized by the Thai government.
4. Do an estate will; keep updating it; create a trust for your family. Even if you do not have a family, you need to do one, unless you want the bank to get your money.
5. Get a regular check up; there are labs around where you can check blood and urine as often as you want, which includes cancer markers, for colon, prostate, breast and liver. If something surfaces outside the normal range, then consult with your doctor.
6. He would also tell us that life is too short, so love people and tell your family and friends frequently that you love them.
Homer Kemper wrote: “We have lost a great warrior, a great man, and most importantly a great and longtime friend. Hopefully his pain is gone as he will now watch over us.”
There is a bereavement poem that goes something like this: Do not stand by my grave and weep, for I am not there, I am a part of the thousand winds blowing above…Sounds good to me.
In fact, Joe is probably up there now with that famous mischievous grin of his, sharing a laugh with Steve Donovan. And the joke is on us.
We are the luckiest people in the world to have known such an honorable, courageous, fun-loving and just plain-loving man as Joe Otter.
Joe, We Love You, Man! And That’s Forever!
This article was published in the Pattaya Mail newspaper on Friday May 27, 2011 (Vol. XIX No. 21).
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