Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 7, 1961

Obituary Of W. W. Otey

Judson Woodbridge, Mulvane, Kansas

(Editor's note: In a quiet service at a funeral chapel in Winfield, Kansas, on Saturday morning, November 4, friends and relatives gave their parting salute to the earthly tabernacle of the venerable and beloved W. W. Otey. This obituary was compiled by Judson Woodbridge, faithful preacher for the Mulvane congregation, and close and intimate associate of brother Otey during his last years; and was read by him at the funeral service.)

W. W. Otey, son of Joshua and Sarah Otey, was born March 14, 1867, in Virginia, and departed this life in Winfield, Kansas, November 1, 1961, at the age of 94 years, 7 months, and 17 days. He was married to Minnie Showalter December 24, 1885, in Floyd County, Va He left Virginia and moved to Indiana, and from Indiana he came to Kansas in 1911. In fact, his work as a gospel preacher took him into many states, including ten years in Oklahoma and Texas.

Eight children blessed the Otey family, seven of whom survive: Mrs. Verna Hammer, Winfield, Kansas, who gave tender and loving care to her father and mother in their last years; Mrs. Ola Criner, Richmond, Ind.; Joe, Hot Springs, S. D.; Mrs. Willie Phipps, Ft. Collins, Cob.; Bentley, Independence, Mo.; Mrs. Lucille Dias, Alice, Texas; and Ray, Yale, Okla. He was also survived by two brothers: L. C. Otey of Salem, Va., and Leonard Otey of Bluefield, W. Va. There were fourteen grandchildren and nineteen great grandchildren living. He was preceded in death by one son, and by his wife; sister Otey passing in 1956.

Brother Otey was devoted to his family and his work of proclaiming the gospel. He, as many pioneer preachers had to do, made a living for himself and family much of the time while he preached the Word. But this was not too much of a sacrifice for him; for it was in God, His word, and the church he put his trust. He loved the Bible, he hungered and thirsted after it, he preached it, he defended it, and as far as humanly possible, lived it.

This incident he told me only a short time ago illustrates how he was anxious to learn the Scriptures. When he was fourteen years old he read the Bible through the first time, and this is how he did it. He, with a number of others were hoeing corn in a field which was some distance from the well where all came to drink. He had his Bible at the well. When he came to drink he would read as long as possible. The others would start back to the field after the refreshing at the well, but he would linger reading, giving himself enough time, by running, to overtake the others when they reached the field. This hungering and thirsting for the word of God explains why he gained the knowledge he did of it. He was anxious for others to learn it and obey it; for he knew the gospel was the power of God to save. He became an effective teacher, and an able defender of these inspired words; as is proved by hundreds he baptized into Christ, the churches he established and strengthened, his public debates, and his many publications. All of these stand as a memorial he has erected for himself. His works will follow him.

After he became ill, and he knew he would never be able to recover, he wrote to me these words, which portray brother Otey's objective and faith. "There are only two reasons why I might desire, if I could make choice, to linger. I have seven children scattered over, six states, and a number of grandchildren, all very dear to me. The only other reason is, I still exchange many letters with many preachers, most of them young men. They say I am an inspiration to them, but I can't understand why. If my days are extended, and I can be of a little service, I will of course do what I can. But my work is done unless there is a little of that which is mentioned above. Ever since Mother (this is the way he spoke of his wife — J. W.) was called home, I have earnestly prayed that if it be His will, I will gladly answer the call of death. Sincerely, I regard myself as a very unworthy servant, but I do not dread the approach to the 'valley of the shadow of death.' I do hope I will have the comfort of 'his rod and staff' through the gateway to immortality. The Lord went before us through that valley; and he has promised, if we are faithful, that he will be with us in the shadows to make light our pathway."

In that same letter, which was of December 24, 1958, he enclosed a statement he asked to be read at his last rites. Here is the statement: "I desire there be no special praise of me. I am no more than an humble servant of the Lord. I do desire, however, that I be remembered for one thing. Here it is:

I believe that the church is God's greatest work to save man, and that it is sufficient, and that we do all he wants us to do in and through the church. I believe it is displeasing and against his will to do anything he wants us to do (in the church) through any human organization or arrangement that is not authorized by command or approved example in the New Testament. If I have ever preached a sermon or written a sentence advocating or in defense of any human religious organization or arrangement, I have forgotten it.

Perhaps I have not always fought a 'good fight,' but 'I sincerely believe, in His presence, that I 'have kept the faith,' and I confidently, though unworthy, hope He will give to me a 'crown of life'."

Brother Otey was not perfect, he would not want anyone to think that he was; but we believe he was a man of God. He came to the close of a long, useful life with his eyes upon the home of the soul. Speaking of the coming of the Lord, in his book, "Tree of Life Lost and Regained," he said: "It will be the day when the soul will exclaim, '0 death where is thy sting? 0 grave where is thy victory?' All real joy on earth springs from this, the greatest of the desires and hopes of the soul."

Heaven was real to him, and we are confident that he will enter that eternal city of God.