Laura May Knapp Otto, 87, passed away peacefully at home in Gig Harbor, Washington, on October 29, 2019. She was born in Tacoma, Washington, on May 19, 1932, to Earl and Lily Knapp. She is deeply loved and will be missed every day.
She was a Depression-era child and grew up playing with her siblings on the beach, swimming in the Puget Sound, and picking wild blackberries in the woods. She learned how to play the piano at a young age, loved to read (her favorite book was “The Secret Garden”), and her nickname on her high school basketball team was Flash.
Laura graduated from Peninsula High School in 1950, and Washington State University in 1955. She spent a gap-year between high school and college in New York City with her brother, Calvin, where she enjoyed the shows, culture and fashion of the big city. Laura had a 41-year career as a school teacher. She taught in the South Kitsap School District for many years, but started her career teaching overseas in Okinawa, then in the Philippines, England, France, and Thailand. She also taught piano lessons and was church organist for more than one congregation.
Her gentle and quiet nature belied her sense of adventure. A world traveler, she traveled extensively throughout Europe and Asia, and lived life to the fullest. She learned to scuba dive in Hong Kong, took flying lessons in Okinawa, skied the Alps, rode an elephant in Cambodia, and crossed Checkpoint Charlie to visit the east side of the Berlin Wall. She met and married Donald Otto, in Thailand. They shared a love of travel and adventure; their only vehicle was a motorcycle. Laura started a new adventure when she moved back to the states and became a mother. She was completely devoted to her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Laura was best known for her love of family. She enjoyed big family gatherings, and regularly hosted Christmas Eve and 4th of July parties. When she came home from her lengthy stays abroad, she would invite the entire family over and make a meal from the country she had visited. She was never wealthy, so she regularly made baked goods as gifts. She celebrated birthdays with cupcakes, pies (especially apple and wild blackberry), and shipments of cookies if you lived far away. If you spent the night at our house, she made blueberry pancakes for you in the morning. She was a family historian, and spent months each year researching the family tree, and then assembling notebooks for each of her siblings, nieces and nephews as Christmas presents. She had a deep respect for history and did not want our family history to be lost to time. One Christmas Eve, she noticed that some cousins had more gifts to open than others, so the next year, she bought 3 small gifts for each child who came to her house. Her generosity often overrode her bank account in this way.
A strong faith in the Lord was a hallmark of Laura’s life. She believed in the power of prayer, the importance of kindness, and the necessity of forgiving others. She believed in Jesus Christ as her Savior and knew that heaven was her eternal home.
Laura was preceded in death by her parents, Earl and Lily Knapp, and her nine siblings, Earl, Seth, Carol, Carmen, Charl, Calvin, Byron, Norma, and Forest.
She is survived by her daughters, Wendy (John) Ferrell of Gig Harbor, and Lori (Timothy) Punke of Mercer Island; her four grandchildren, Samantha, Jack, Tucker, and Kiki; two sisters-in-law, and many cousins, nieces and nephews.
Please contact the family or Haven of Rest for information about the service.
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