Otto Konrad Wieland, 86, died tragically on Nov. 21, 2017 after apparently jumping from the Des Moines fishing pier.
Rescuers from the Coast Guard, South King Fire & Rescue and other agencies searched overnight for Otto, to no avail. Sadly, his body was recovered on Nov. 23, 2017 from a beach near Lincoln Park in West Seattle.
Here’s an obituary:
Otto was born December 14, 1930, in Crailsheim, Germany, the son of Conrad and Barbara (Rueck) Wieland. His father had emigrated with two brothers to the United States in 1904, but Conrad returned to Germany for a visit in 1924. Staying at the inn owned by his sister and her husband, he met his future wife, and married in 1927 after a two-year courtship by mail. They decided to remain in Germany and purchased a small inn where the family also lived, located outside the city center. The family experienced terrifying events during WWII, especially in April 1945, when Crailsheim was heavily fire bombed. Otto himself narrowly escaped death in a bunker due to his decision to instead run home to safety. Otto completed his education for chef in Ludwigsburg, and held positions in Stuttgart, Lake Constance, Nuremberg, Bad Honef, Baden-Baden and Aachen. About 1955, he began work as a ship cook for the Holland-America Line. After he emigrated to the United States in 1958, he worked in Madison, Wisconsin and in Chicago, where he became a U.S. citizen in 1965. In 1966, he became a chef for the United Airlines flight kitchen, based in San Francisco and Seattle. He remained with United Airlines until retirement in 1992. The following year he took a 9-week trip across the United States with his nephew Otto. His work with United Airlines also enabled him to return regularly to Germany. He stayed in his old home at the inn, where he enjoyed a big welcome from his family and his friends from his youth, who came from near and far to see “the American”. Although his father had returned to Germany, the Wieland family had maintained contact with the U.S. family. There were joyous reunions in the 1950s when first his sister Margarete (as an exchange student) and later Otto visited their uncle and cousins in New Jersey. Throughout his career, Otto traveled the world and had endless stories to tell. In his 60s he set his mind to climb Mount Rainier, training for it by walking the stairs of Seattle high-rise office buildings.
Living simply for himself, he devoted his retirement years to volunteering. He was proud to be an AA sponsor; he worked three days a week for the Des Moines Food Bank, gathering dated foods from Sea-Tac Airport vendors. Since 1993, he was a faithful member of the Grace Lutheran Church in Des Moines. He frequently cooked for the church senior citizen breakfasts, the last time on the day he died.
Otto has two sisters, Eva Kern and Margarete Penzold, who survive him. His brother Conrad died in 2004. He leaves many nieces, nephews, and great-nieces and nephews. Many cousins also remain, both in Germany and in the U.S.
Grace Lutheran Church held a celebratory breakfast in Otto’s honor on Dec. 9. There will be a memorial service at his church in Germany on Dec. 17 at 2 p.m.
Donations in Otto’s honor may be made to the Des Moines Area Food Bank, 22225 9th Ave. South, Des Moines, Washington 98198 or to the Grace Lutheran Church, 22975 24th Ave. South, Des Moines, Washington 98198.
And some memories courtesy Pastor John O’Neal of Grace Lutheran Church:
Otto was a tremendous volunteer here at Grace Lutheran Church and at the Des Moines Food Bank.
Otto was heavily involved with 12 step, and was a sponsor for many in recovery. He also was a gifted chef. He cooked meals for the Graceland Shelter at Grace Lutheran Church, the men’s breakfast and Bible study, and the local Lutheran pastor’s monthly meeting at Grace. He was always available for making post office runs for the church or running any other errands we asked him to. He always helped fold bulletins for Sunday services and the monthly newsletter.
Otto even helped to deliver an ambulance that was donated to the church for Haiti. He drove it all the way to Florida for us so it could be shipped to a hospital in Haiti.
Otto also loved children and they loved him.
Otto was a fine story teller and had lots of wonderful stories to tell. He grew up in Nazi Germany during WWII and had some very interesting experiences that he talked about on occasion.
Area resident Fred Feiertag recently shared his thoughts on Otto as well:
I see many friends have added their own reaction to Otto Weiland’s suicide. It carries all the standard baggage of hurt for the surviving.We all share the feelings of why didn’t he tell us, whey didn’t he reach out, why did he want to hurt us. These are typical but not universal reactions when an acquaintance or friend ends their life.
I don’t have specific answers about Otto. I can guess with some empathy. Otto was living as a single man of advancing age with more than a few medical issues. His life was no longer comfortable. I’m sure he was depressed but as many mentioned he did not show it.
He was a child of the German homeland from WW II. He endured considerable hardship as a child and not an easy adolescence. I’m trying to suggest he had his share of demons inside to battle. What triggered his decision to end his pain and struggle? I don’t know and don’t expect to find out. It is enough for me to imagine the dark feeling of the end approaching without the feeling of having accomplished anything of value in this life . The traitorous mind telling him that there are no friends who will care and that the world will be better without him.
Now we can’t know what parts of this nonsense applied to Otto, but the mind is powerful at selecting what to believe. I feel such pain over losing Otto. He was a friend. That prompts me to admit my feelings of guilt at not being a friend and looking him up and seeing to his feelings and needs.
Here are my final two cents. Otto isn’t alone. There are many single men who have no family ties nearby if at all, who bear scars some you can see. They have lots of meds to take to keep them alive. But if you were to ask them they might admit they don’t know why they are still alive. Many of these fellows are all but invisible. Reach out to them if you are able. Understand that for many reasons they can’t reach out for help by themselves. They probably know it is available.
Otto was a fine guy who even though he was pretty old we lost his light too soon.