People who served on various Township of West Milford boards and committees with the late Douglas Ott are in agreement that they cannot find enough words to adequately describe the dedicated volunteer.
Ott, 77, passed away on Tuesday, Dec. 17.
Mayor Michele Dale asked for a moment of silence in his memory at the start of Wednesday’s Township Council meeting, praising Ott’s volunteerism efforts and offered condolences to his family.
West Milford Library Director Ricardo Pino found it hard to point to any particular story about Ott.
“He wasn’t in any way flashy, showy, or pretentious,” said Pino. “He went about doing what he viewed as his duty and joy in service to the library as a member of our board and as a Friend of the Library. That would have been more than enough for most people, but not for him.”
The library director pointed to the other boards and committees that Ott also gave his time and effort to.
A memory he recalled is Ott’s presence over almost two decades at the ice cream social celebrating the end of the annual summer reading program.
“In my almost five years here I remember him at every celebration with a big smile as he scooped out ice cream for children and their parents,” he said. “His quiet but firm constancy is a trait I aspire to. I can look to him as an example.”
Library Board President Joan Oberer, on behalf of the entire West Milford Library Board of Trustees, extended sympathy to the family.
“We will all certainly miss Doug’s wonderful contributions to the business of the library board,” Oberer said. “His intelligence, integrity, even temper, kindness, perseverance and patience made him a role model for all of us. He was a gentleman and a supportive friend to all. He was a pillar of the community and one of West Milford’s greatest volunteers.”
Jim Rogers served with Ott in several volunteer capacities.
“Doug was an inspiration to everyone who worked with him,” Rogers said. “As president of the library board, he paved the way for (acquiring) the property that the library is situated on and the construction of the building.”
From South Carolina where she now lives, former Mayor Bettina Bieri, who initially found and suggested the Finn property as the library site, commented about Ott’s volunteerism.
“Doug was an incredible role model for all ages,” said Bieri. “He led his life with dedication to our community and ongoing volunteer efforts to protect, improve and save our environment, our lives and our quality of life. I am privileged to have worked with him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. His passing will be felt by all in West Milford.”
Rogers pointed out that as a long time member of both the West Milford Planning Board and West Milford Environmental Commission, Ott was the voice of reason for protecting the environment and balancing the interest of residents.
He was especially enthusiastic lately about the ongoing Belcher’s Creek Recreational Enhancement Project in the five-mile waterway that flows from Bearfort Mountain through the center of West Milford Village area.
Discussions at EC meetings pointed out little used space along the creek might be used for a recreational area.
Enhancing this major tributary to Greenwood Lake and monitoring phosphorous and nitrate levels of the creek also had Ott’s interest and effort.
An avid hiker, Ott introduced Rogers and others to many of the trails in the township.
Fellow Environmental Commissioner Don Weise said he not only worked with Ott on the EC, but worked out with him at the gym and saw him on the trails of West Milford.
“As a commissioner and resident for over 50 years, Doug understood the value of West Milford trails and open space and helped develop the township’s open space and trails master plans,” Weise said. “He was a pleasure to know and he will be sorely missed. I was very sad to hear of his passing.”
“Above all else, Doug was a devoted family man,” Rogers said. “He cherished the time spent with his wife Carolyn, his two daughters Julie and Jennifer and his five grandchildren. Every Thanksgiving he and Carolyn hosted a gathering at dinner for as many as 30 family members. He would say there was always room for one more.”