James J. Otis '35

Jim Otis '35Dr. James J. (Jimmy) Otis, last surviving member of the remarkable Mu-Sig Class of 1935 and one-time oldest practicing family physician in Ohio, entered the Chapter Eternal on January 3, 2012 in his hometown of Celina, Ohio. He was 99.

Known affectionately throughout the area as “Dr. Jim,” he had kept up an active medical practice into his 90s. His health had declined in recent weeks following a fall, which also ended his daily routine of driving to the local cemetery to spend time at the gravesite of his wife, Betty, and walking his dog, Molly.

At the age of 93, Jimmy reluctantly closed his Celina medical office climaxing a career that had spanned more that 66 years. "Jim always said 'Once a doctor, always a doctor,'" younger sister Nancy Otis, also of Celina, recalled. "Patients from all over continued to call him and seek his opinion." He delivered more than 2,000 babies during his years of practice, including the first set of triplets in Mercer County to survive without the benefit of incubators.

A March 2003 traffic accident nearly took its toll, but attending physicians quickly learned what Otis' patients knew all along - you can't keep Dr. Jim down for long. He demanded a chart and wrote detailed instructions for an area woman's admission before allowing emergency room personnel to treat his broken ribs and punctured lung. Doctor and patient ended up side by side in the intensive care unit.

That 2003 traffic accident also cancelled a long-anticipated dinner at the Cherry Valley Inn in Granville—a reunion of three Mu Sigs from the Class of 1935: Jimmy, Bob Amos and Dick Harman. It would have been a rare occasion for sure!

At Denison, Jimmy roomed in the Sig House with Woody Hayes ’35 and, for the rest of his life, remained in close contact with Woody and many of his other 1935 Mu-Sig Brothers. He, like those others, made the Jordan Standard part of their DNA.  

"Jim never wanted to do anything but be a doctor and help people," his sister said. "He was like a cheerleader to his patients. His confidence was infectious; patients knew everything would be fine because he said so." 

Following graduation from the University Of Cincinnati College Of Medicine in 1939, he completed a short internship and residency at hospitals in Toledo and Cincinnati. He joined his father's (Dr. L.M. Otis) medical practice in Celina on Oct. 1, 1940. People often asked Otis about his age, Nancy Otis recalled. He would respond, "How old do you think I am?" He especially liked guesses that pegged him as younger, she said.

Relatives, patients and neighbors can attest to his gardening prowess. He diligently hoed, weeded and watered a plot near his lakeside home and often gave away the vegetables of his labor. "Jim loved to grow tomatoes," his sister said. "He always had at least two plants that he called Jim and Betty." His wife, the former Betty Hamel, died in 2010.

Jimmy was a diehard Ohio State Buckeye fan and father of Buckeyes’ outstanding fullback and NFL star, Jim Otis. He also loved golf; as retired Dr. Donald Fox of Celina recalls, "He would head to Shawnee Country Club in Lima every Thursday and tell nurses at the hospital to call me if his patients came in to deliver. It became a standing joke." Fox lauded not only the doctor's medical skills but his genuine concern and compassion for patients. "Jim was quite a guy," he added. "His patients loved him."

Jimmy Otis was preceded in death by his dear wife, Betty, who died in 2010. He was survived by son, Jim and Jan Otis, Chesterfield, MO; daughters, Vicki Otis, Celina, OH; Jeanie Otis Hamm, Dublin, OH; Sharon and Jim Grimaud, St. Louis, MO.

All honor to his name.

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