John Otto Rogers


Died May 9, 1979

College: Trumbull

Widow: Mrs. John O. Rogers
3795 Richards Road
Cazenovia, NY 13035-9442

Otto was undoubtedly best known for his great natural gifts as an athlete, so good at anything he turned to he quickly mastered it and made it look easy. Soon after taking up lacrosse, he became known to opponents as a top player on the Yale freshman team. Recounts an experienced lacrosse player (and mutual friend) assigned to keep him from scoring in a game, since he “ran like a deer, shot like a cannon, and was naturally ambidextrous, I was on a fool’s errand”. Otto developed a wide circle of friends with the same easy grace, a boon companion whose company was always a pleasure. In four years of rooming with him (and Gaede and Forstmann), I rarely saw him angry, and I never saw him petty or mean. He was instead a wonderful friend, steadfast, observant, thoughtful, and always a lot of fun.

It was certainly also well known that – how to put this? – he did not devote himself fully to his studies. His natural intellectual gifts, luckily or unluckily, enabled him to get away with it, and get decent grades to boot. Less widely appreciated, perhaps, were his powers of tuning in to his surroundings and finding expression for them with considerable sensitivity. Seeing a reclining chair pushed against a wall to save space, he said it looked “cramped up and p—ed off”. Chafing under a rule requiring ski racers to wear helmets, he complained “it’s like watching it on television”, a simile to make any poet proud. And he did love skiing: after a winter trip to Smith, he exclaimed approvingly that “they all had casts!”, happy to learn the girls’ college had so many skiers.

After Yale, Otto went to Cornell Law School and then joined his father’s law firm. He died in an auto accident in 1979, only 40 years old. Following the funeral, a group of Yale friends and others got together with his parents. It was of course a somber occasion, but as the reminiscences continued, people began to tell what someone dubbed “Otto stories”. Before long, everyone in the group was laughing in enjoyment of recalling a terrific guy.

—by Lewis Girdler