Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Norman K. Ott Jr.

Norman Ott had long life of adventure, travel

ST. PETERSBURG — He was the picture of health. He swam. He worked out. He snacked on raw cabbage. On March 24, the Times ran a photo of Norman Ott, his wife, Ruth Ann, and a tennis coach demonstrating shoulder stretches.

Mr. Ott died the next day, March 25, of an apparent heart attack. He was 78.

"He was always the adventurous one," said his brother, Tom Ott, 77, who along with two sisters remained in their hometown of Allentown, Pa., their entire lives. Their brother, Norman, lived in Turkey, Vietnam and Cuba as well as in Africa and the Middle East.

As a member of the Underwater Demolition Team that pre-dated the Navy Seals, Mr. Ott taught the Mercury Seven astronauts to scuba dive.

He joined the CIA in 1962, the same year he married Ruth Ann. His family knew little about his work.

"He didn't tell us, and we didn't ask," his sister, Leanne Smith, 78, said after Mr. Ott's funeral service on Monday.

"And if we did ask, we would get kind of a sideways answer," said Jeanette Bender, 83, another sister.

In the late 1970s, Mr. Ott took his family to Istanbul. He pushed them off the couch and onto the basketball court, the ski slopes, or into the water. He led Boy Scouts in swims across the Bosporus Strait, from Europe to Asia. The current made the trip longer than a mile. Once, Mr. Ott and his daughter, Kathy, nearly got plowed under by a commercial fishing trawler.

He moved to St. Petersburg in 1989, and finished his career as CIA intelligence adviser to Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf during Desert Storm.

In retirement, Mr. Ott took his granddaughter snorkeling in St. Thomas, organized trips with friends and started a tennis tournament for players over age 70.

His family remembers a quizzical smile, his lips in a diagonal line when he was about to weigh in with an opinion. They remember his rare indulgences: an addiction to Hershey's chocolate; a Key lime pie recipe they found only after his death, in his Rolodex.

A genial host, Mr. Ott struck up conversations easily. When guests had to leave, he walked them to their cars and waved at them from his driveway.

His own exit came quickly. After playing tennis, Mr. Ott phoned his wife from the Vinoy Renaissance Resort to say he would come home soon. His body was discovered in the resort's steam room.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at or (727) 892-2248.


Norman K. Ott Jr.

Born: March 20, 1931.

Died: March 25, 2009.

Survivors: wife, Ruth Ann Ott; sons, Kurt (and wife Holly) and Kevin (and wife Beth) Ott; daughter, Kathy Ott; sisters, Leanne Smith and Jeanette Bender; brother, Tom Ott; and four granddaughters.

Norman Ott had long life of adventure, travel 04/01/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 1, 2009 10:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Jason Aldean fires up a country-dude party at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre


    Country music has a dude problem.

    I’m not talking about the proliferation of mindless bro country over the past half-decade, nor am I referring to the fact that most of Nashville’s best music these days comes not from said bros, from female singers and songwriters.

    Jason Aldean performed at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa on Aug. 18, 2018.
  2. President Trump offers prayers for Kissimmee police


    President Donald Trump reacted to the police shooting in Kissimmee:

  3. Kissimmee police officer dies, one gravely wounded; Jacksonville officers shot


    KISSIMMEE — A Kissimmee police officer died and a second was gravely wounded Friday night, police Chief Jeff O'Dell said.

    Two police officers have been shot and killed in Kissimmee, authorities say. The shooting happened in the area of Palmway and Cypress around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. Photo courtesy of
  4. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  5. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming


    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]