WAYNE – As Americans observe Memorial Day on Monday, May 25 honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military a northeast Nebraska legion group is saying goodbye to Mr. Poppy Man.
According to a release from Bud and Beverly Neel with Roy Reed Unit 252 American Legion Auxiliary, the duo put together a special tribute to Wayne resident Dennis Otte who recently passed on Friday, May 15.
Dennis, a 1963 graduate from Wayne High School, served as a Combat Veteran in the United States Army in Vietnam from 1966-1967.
National Poppy Day was this past Friday, May 22 and Dennis volunteered his time to the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary Memorial Poppy a few years ago. He would make 5,000 – 7,000 memorial poppies in record time. Dennis was also recognized by the state of Nebraska with Legislative Resolution 150 on May 30, 2019 for making thousands of handmade poppies for National Poppy Day.
Memorial Poppies are handmade by Veterans and distributed throughout District 3 of the American Legion family. Bud and Beverly Neel had to report the sad news on March 7 to the 26 Auxiliary Units that they have received the final “handmade by Veteran” Dennis Otte Memorial Poppy as he would not be able to continue his dedicated services to Veterans. Dennis could have received five cents for each of the thousands of Memorial Poppies he made, but he did not. During his days of better health, he would ask if the poppy supplies were in to make the Memorial Poppy.
Bud and Beverly Neel also stated in their special tribute, that Dennis was a great promoter of the Poppy Program and would volunteer to come out to then Pamida before changing to Shopko (now Wayne Ace location), each Saturday before Memorial Day to help the legion family distribute the Memorial Poppy. The group never asked for any donations but it was a choice for anyone to drop coins or bills into the collection container. Even before starting his volunteer “shift” Dennis would have already been out to other Wayne locations distributing the Memorial Poppy and bringing in the donations.
Another leadership trait that the Neel’s pointed out was with the Wayne County Veterans Memorial on the grounds of the Wayne County courthouse. Along with other committee members, the group created the tribute for all Veterans and the Memorial has a perpetual care fund that would welcome any donations. Any new military Veterans in Wayne County wishing to have their name engraved upon the panels may do so.
Dennis Otte, age 74 of Wayne, passed away on May 15 at Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk. Arrangements are being made with Hasemann Funeral Home of Wayne as memorials may be directed to the family of Dennis for later designation being Wayne County Veterans Memorial in care of Tom Hansen (305 Main Street Wayne, NE 68787).