Harriette P. Otteson


Harriette P. (Poole) Otteson, 83, of Chilmark died on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, at Cape Cod Hospital.

Born on June 21, 1935, in Oak Bluffs, the second child of Julia and Stanley Poole, Harriette was the first girl in the family in three generations. Her father, very superstitious about starting a project on Friday, was asked by his daughter, who was born on a Friday, how he felt about that, to which he replied, “That project probably didn’t start on a Friday.”

The family spent several summers in Maine, Gloucester, and Bermuda in connection with her father’s work at WHOI and yachting. Harriette caught her first fish (a seagull ate it), learned to swim in frigid Maine waters, and developed great independence in those early years.

She attended Menemsha School, graduated from Tisbury High School in 1953, and from Bridgewater Teacher’s College in 1957 with a degree in elementary education. A week later, she and four friends drove from Woods Hole to Anchorage, Alaska, where she taught Army dependent children for two years, followed by a year in Taylor, Mich. With a college friend she then drove to California in a VW Bug to deliver a rocking chair, taking along a woodtick for luck. In Sacramento she secured a teaching position, where she taught five years, during which time she met and married Captain Gerald Otteson, USAF, in 1964.

The military moved them to Puerto Rico, where Harriette taught military dependent children for three years. They then relocated to Fuchu, Japan. There she studied flower arranging, and taught conversational English in the People to People program.

Retiring to Fairhope, Ala., the couple lived there 10 years. Motorcycling became an interest. Harriette rode passenger. Cycling through Scandinavia, Harriette located Finnish cousins found through her genealogical research, and visited the cousins several times hence.

In 1984 Harriette returned to her ancestral home in Chilmark, where she continued to travel extensively on all seven continents, garden, and birdwatch. She also served the town on cemetery, historical, and conservation commissions, worked at the polls, and researched family and town history.

Harriette, always trying new things, rolled bandages in WWII, took in a Fresh Air child, walked around the Island via the beach, parasailed, took dance lessons, and rode out stunts in open-cockpit stunt planes. On her 80th birthday, she ziplined down the Olympic ski jump at Oslo, Norway. She studied photography, and held a certificate in interior design. She could predict outcomes, and was exceedingly adamant about the maintenance of rustic-style stone walls and about flag etiquette. She was punctual, resilient, laughed easily, and positive no matter what.

Harriette was predeceased by her husband of 20 years, and by her brother, Matthew A. Poole, of Chilmark. She is survived by nephew Matthew E. Poole and family of Chilmark, niece Jennifer Sausville and family of Falls Church, Va., cousins Everett, Katharine, and Donald Poole of Chilmark, Joan Nash and family of Newton, Paul Gallant of Vermont, Julia Flashner of Boston, and Hanna Kanninen and family of Espoo, Finland. She continued to keep close contact with her husband’s sister, Doris Hawkins, and her family, many of whom survive Harriette and most whom live in Blacksburg, Va.

She once said she’d die happy if she could see the green flash at sunset. She died happy.

A graveside service will take place on Monday, Oct. 29, at 12:30 at Abel’s Hill Cemetery in Chilmark.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to a charity of one’s choice.