Otto Blassnitz

In Memorial

1926 to 2012

When you are sorrowful, look in your heart and you shall see that in truth, you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

-Kahlil Gibran


In Germany

Otto was born in Neuhuetten, Germany, on June 3rd, 1926

In Canada

Otto came to Canada, aboard the Arosa Klum, in April 1953

His Family

Otto is survived by his wife Marianne, his children Steve, Kate and Richard, and two of his four siblings.  He is remembered fondly by his son and daughter in law, and his grandchildren.


Memorial Service

Saturday, September 8th, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Music by Gwyneth Jones and Rob O’Brennan

Welcome and Closing remarks by Wanda Morris, Executive Director, Dying with Dignity

Remembrances of Otto by Evan Jones

Visual Memories by Kate Blassnitz


Welcome (Wanda Morris, Executive Director of Dying with Dignity Canada)

Welcome to this quiet place as we come together to celebrate the life of Otto Blassnitz – and to mourn his death. Scarcely more than two weeks ago Otto Blassnitz was very much alive – perhaps a bit frail, as befits an 86 year old – but very much alive. Today we are here because Otto has died. The ashes in this urn bear testimony to his death.  Otto Blassnitz, husband of Marion, father of Steve, of Kate and of Richard; grandfather, neighbour, friend  – he is here no more. But we are here, because in some way or other, and to some degree or other, our lives have touched and been touched by his. And so we have turned aside from our accustomed ways – in recognition of the way in which death cuts across life and alters all our plans. On this day in summer, when nature all around us is singing a song of life, we gather in this quiet place to find some expression for the thoughts and the feelings that well up within us at this time of death, of separation and sorrow. Our feelings no doubt, are many.  There is gratitude for the special and unique person Otto was and for what he gave to us during  his time on earth.  There is love – love that is inextinguishable through all the changes that time may bring.  There is grief which must always be the outcome, when love is combined with loss. Today we gather to grieve his death, and to celebrate his life.  We gather to hold him tightly in our hearts, because we know, as long as he lives on in us, he is not truly gone. Otto was a simple man.  His joy was in nature.  Not for him a cathedral of stone.  Otto found peace by walking in the ever changing and deeply beautiful cathedral of nature. The pansies you see today are thus as important as any words or music in this service, for they are here as a symbol of the natural world he so deeply loved.


Now to help us remember Otto, Evan Jones, will come forward to read the eulogy.

Otto Blassnitz was my father in law.  I first met him shortly after I first met his daughter, Kate, when Otto and Marianne came to visit Kate in Vancouver in the early 1980s.  So I’ve known Otto for over 30 years, and in that time I’ve developed many memories of him.

But how do we choose to remember someone, after they have left us?

Will we always remember them just as they were when we saw them last?   Does their final image become our final and over-riding memory?  In Otto’s case, that was as an uncomfortable, restless, and unhappy person trapped in a body that was failing, trapped in a hospital where he clearly didn’t want to be. While I will always recall those images, just as I recall the similar images of my own fathers final days, that’s not how I choose to remember Otto.

Other memories are formed by recalling people’s stories, and the images or myths that those stories create in our own minds.  Otto as a young child in pre-war Germany, the middle of five children raised by tough parents in a tough time, a childhood that was lacking in tender moments, support and open displays of love.  An immigrant to Canada after the Second World War, when the war was still fresh in Canada’s consciousness, keeping his own experiences that he would not or could not share held tightly inside. An independent personality who built an independent business, literally using his own two hands, strongly supported by his wife.  A man who took care of his family and created opportunities for his children that he never had.  These stories, while real, are legends, not the memories and images of the person that I knew.

These, then, are my memories of Otto that I will cherish.

His unique sense of relating to others.  With the most fleeting of strangers, Otto would start a conversation about any unique feature of their clothing, accent, hair style, or other attribute that the rest of us would politely choose to not observe.  You could not ride in an elevator in silence with Otto.  My children have told me that going to a restaurant with Grandpa, was like going out for dinner with Mr. Bean.  Yet strangely, with those closest to him and those he most loved and cared for, he could sometimes seem distant and detached.  Otto was not expressive in his love.  You had to look into his eyes, read his actions, understand his silences, and connect with him at another, unspoken level, to understand how he felt.  He cared, and cared deeply, about his family and friends.  I know this all the more now, in his absence, by the empty space I feel when I think of him.

Another memory of Otto – the purity of his relationship with the natural world.  If you have seen Otto in a garden, you have seen him at home and amongst friends.  He could read the veins in a plant’s leaf the same way a gypsy can read a palm – he would observe, touch, jostle and smell the leaf, determine what the plant was saying to him, and then return to the rest of us who were wondering and waiting to hear what he had learned.  Thanks to Otto, in our backyard in North Vancouver, we have huge and healthy plants that were first raised by him in Ontario, probably before he even raised his children.  He could watch birds as other people watch TV, and he could observe insects in a way that probably made them feel nervous and self-conscious.  One late and hot summer night, after dinner at the farmhouse, a croaking frog had attached himself to the outside of the window screen that protected us from the flies and moths drawn to our light. The frog was entertainment enough for awhile; the real entertainment began when Otto, who had slipped outside, mounted a dead moth on a stick and was “flying” the moth around the frog, in realistic dodges and darts, trying to get the frog to slurp up an easy dinner.  He was never so engaged as when he was engaged with the natural world around him.

Other memories – Otto and fishing. Otto loved fishing, and I have no idea why.  In the 30 plus years that I have known him, I often recall him fishing, but I don’t ever recall him catching a fish.  He has watched as his two sons, Steve and Richard, catch all kinds and sizes of trophy fish.  He has watched his friends catch fish, and even his grandchildren, at a very young age, catch fish.  But Otto didn’t catch fish.  I can only conclude that Otto loved fishing, because he loved being with his sons, his friends, and his grandchildren, and sharing in their joy.  It is notable that Steve and Richard went fishing three days ago, on Wednesday, in tribute to Otto, and caught no fish. It was a successful trip.

The last memory of Otto that I will share with you is Otto as a person, and what he meant to me.  I could tell that Otto chose to share only a part of his life with me.  That was the part that he, and Marianne, worked so hard together to create.  The foremost part of this life was, and still is, their children.  Steve, Kate and Richard, you mean everything to your father and mother.  Your dad, for whatever his quirks, lived for the moments he shared with you and your loved ones.  And Marianne, Otto loved you as strongly as you loved him.  Life without Otto will be life without your best friend. Nayshan, Griff, Owen, Joanne, Jody, and everyone else in this room, he has touched us all and is an integral part of the fabric of our own lives.  We will notice his absence, we will miss him and what he meant to us.

That’s why the way we choose to remember those who leave us, is as important as how we chose live with them each day.  I will choose my memories of Otto not from his illnesses, not from stories and legends, but from his love of nature, of family, friends and people, and his own particular uniqueness.  Otto was unique, and I am privileged to have known him as well as I did.  I look forward to recalling, and sharing, my many and fond memories of Otto.

I now invite Kate herself to come forward to say a few words

Video / Music

I now invite you to pause for further moment of silence.  A time to reflect.  If you wish – it is also a time to meditate or pray.  Above all it is a time to remember Otto and to hold him in your heart.

Minute of silence

Closing Reading

We can look to nature to see that death is not an end, but simply a continuing part in a cycle of life, of death and of rebirth.  And when we take time to still the rush of our lives, and the clamour in our heads, we can hear nature’s message.

In the words of Chief Dan George:

The beauty of the trees

The softness of the air

The fragrance of the grass

Speaks to me


The summit of the mountain

The thunder of the sky

The rhythm of the sea speaks to me

The faintness of the stars

The freshness of the morning

The dewdrop on the flower

Speaks to me


The strength of fire

The taste of salmon

The trail of the sun

And the life that never goes away

They speak to me

 Any my heart soars.



We are nearing the end of our service.  On behalf of Otto’s family, I invite you to stay on afterwards, to have some refreshments and to share your stories too.

Closing Words

Let peace be in our hearts as we say our farewell – and in the presence of death, rededicate ourselves to life. We recall at this time the deep and strong bonds of family, of love and of community that draw us together. We declare that no one of us is a branch torn from the tree of life, but rather a part of the ever-living tree, whether the buds are bursting or the leaves are falling. In a world where all that we prize most is fragile and perishable, we accept that Otto’s body is gone – only ashes remain – but his spirit lives on, secure in the treasure house of our collective memories. May Otto’s memory be honoured in our own lives through joy in nature, love of simple things and a renewed commitment to truly see, so that our lives, as his, will be enriched by the beauty of our world.


Closing Music



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Condolence Messages

  1. Phyllis Williamson(Moser)

    Dear Marianne and Family:

    I just read the funeral service from your dear Husband, Father and Grandfather. What a wonderful tribute Kate wrote about Otto. I remember visiting you in London as a child and going tobaggoning with Kathy and the boys on your hill when you lived on Wonderland. Later I visited you in Lobo with my Mother. My Mother was always happy to visit you either when coming up to Ipperwash or going home from our place.
    As I know the passing of a dear husband is a huge loss but time does help and sweet memories also are a comfort.
    Having children and grandchildren will also be a comfort.
    Maybe one day I will see you all again as my Husband’s sister moved to Gibsons, B.C. in April. We also have a cousin who lives in Maple Ridge. They use to have a Colour your World store there. Dave and Peggy Rogers is their name.
    My thoughts are with you all and I send my deepest sympathy to you all.
    Phyllis Williamson (Moser)

  2. Dear Blassnitz Family,

    I just learned last night of your loss. I am so sorry. Only time heals this wound. I have very fond memories of Kate’s father when I met him and her mother when Kate brought me to the farm in London, and I spent a lovely day there, many years ago.
    Lovely eulogy, Evan.
    I guess the fishing is the thing, regardless of the catch!

    Take care, Marianne.

    Tanis Wilkie

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