September 2, 1929 – December 14, 2020
Otto was born in Berlin in 1929 into the comfort and security of a traditional German home. His early childhood memories were of summer days rowing his tiny boat on the lake in front of the family’s summer cottage and Christmases with tinsel-draped trees and the wonderful smells of roasting goose and baking gingerbread throughout the house.
In 1939, when he was 10 years old, the safe and predictable world of his childhood vanished as Europe became engulfed by chaos of World War II. During his teenage years, Otto survived the daunting traumas of a boy-soldier, the horrors of time spent in a Russian prison camp and the tragic loss of family members inflicted by the war. In 1951, at the age of 22, unwilling to be defined by the past, painful episode in his life, Otto left his homeland and emigrated to begin a new life in Canada.
His first job in Canada was in the CNR dining car learning how to balance pots of boiling potatoes and grill Winnipeg Goldeye in a postage-stamp sized galley while the train jerked and lurched its way from Winnipeg to Churchill on the coast of Hudson Bay.
Otto progressed from the frigid ‘Churchill Run’ to the scenic ‘Jasper to Prince Rupert Run’ which introduced him, not only to the opportunities available in the bustling coastal town, but to the welcoming hospitality of the gregarious Hiltz family, and in particular, to pretty May Hiltz, who became his wife in 1955.
In 1954, Otto left the cramped galley of the CNR dining car to make his new home in Prince Rupert. He took with him culinary skills that would enrich his social life for years to come. He was a great cook and could carve a turkey or baron of beef with the precision of a surgeon.
There would be few Rupert gatherings, whether family Christmas dinners or club banquets that would not find Otto, immaculate white shirt sleeves rolled up, carving knife in hand, bent over the diminishing carcass of some unfortunate goose or turkey.
Otto was representative of a generation of young, energetic, forward-looking new Canadians who came to Northern B.C. from Europe in the 50s and 60s to be part of that eras’ explosive industrial and commercial development and who would diversify and enliven their adopted communities.
Otto worked initially in the pulp mill on Watson Island before joining the sales staff of Parker Ford, where he was to remain for the 18 year duration of his time in Prince Rupert. He married May in 1955, bought a house in Prince Rupert and immersed himself in the social and commercial life of his chosen community.
He opened a shoe store on 3rd Avenue and with the assistance of May bought and operated the first Hertz car rental franchise in Prince Rupert. He was an active member of the Prince Rupert Rod and Gun Club earning awards for his skeet-shooting ability in local and provincial tournaments. He became an avid outdoorsman, duck hunting in local estuaries and joining fellow enthusiasts on moose hunting trips in the northern interior.
In later years, he viewed wild creatures through a softer lens and exchanged his shotgun and rifles for a camera.
In 1972, he accepted a position as Lease Manager with Richport Ford in Richmond B.C. and left Prince Rupert with May and son Warren to establish a new home in Richmond.
Otto readily adapted to the lifestyle of Vancouver, the competitive suit and tie workplace, the late night dining in dim restaurants and learning how to navigate safely through the afternoon rush hour traffic. The mid-1980s were life changing years
for Otto. He and May were divorced, he left the employ of Richport Ford, acquired his real estate licence and joined the sales team of Park Georgia Realty at the onset of the real estate boom that began the escalation of the real estate market in the lower mainland.
Otto retired in 1996 from the demanding, and at times frenetic, real estate business, happily leaving Vancouver’s rush hour traffic to the next generation of commuters and with a new (Ford of course) pick-up, chain saw and partner Margie Ciccone by his side, headed north to take on the project of creating a home on a treed 5 acre lot located on the North Shore of Fraser Lake.
He was to live on the Fraser Lake property, he called his sanctuary, for 21 years. In the early years enjoying winters snowmobiling, ice fishing in mountain lakes and replenishing an ever diminishing wood pile. In summer he traded the snowmobile for an ATV and joined a local club to partake of Poker runs in the back country.
In his later years he lived a simpler life, walking his dog Missy on country roads, feeding chickadees in winter and humming birds in spring. With the advent of his 88th birthday in 2017, Otto reluctantly left his North Shore home, and coming full circle, returned to Prince Rupert to reside in an apartment with a view of the harbour.
Otto ended his life journey peacefully in the early hours of December 14th at the PRRH. He was 91 years old.
Ottos was predeceased by his father Dr. Friedrich Kniepkamp, mother Albertine Kniepkamp, two sisters, his son Robert and his beloved canine companion of his later years, Missy.
Otto is survived by his son Warren, grandsons Ryan (Carolyn) and Eric, great granddaughters Madison and Emma and ex-wife May, all of Vancouver B.C. He also leaves his step-brother Dr. Rainer Kniepkamp and sister-in-law Uta of Cologne, Germany and his cherished friend Margie Ciccone. Otto will be remembered by special friends George and Maryann Scott of Fraser Lake, B.C.and Wolfgang and Uli Thiele of Hersching, Germany.
Otto’s family wish to express their sincere appreciation to Dr. Chantal Piek, Dr. Lynch, Dr. Brown and the wonderful nursing staff on the 3rd floor of PRRH who took care of their father and grandfather during his last days. They extend a very special thanks to Northern Health Home Care Nurses (the angels) who devotedly cared for Otto for the many weeks before his hospitalization.
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