He'd yodel just about anywhere; finish a day's climb to the alpine meadows of Mount Rainier with an evening of ballroom dancing, and at 68, hiked a 250-mile trek in the Himalayas...
He’d yodel just about anywhere; finish a day’s climb to the alpine meadows of Mount Rainier with an evening of ballroom dancing, and at 68, hiked a 250-mile trek in the Himalayas with a 70-pound pack.
Othello Phillip Dickert, a perfectionist and passionate about everything he did, even died well, dropping his head peacefully and taking his last breath at home, Dec. 4, 2004 with his daughter Judi Lemp, who helped care for him, at his side. He was 95.
The cause was complications from loss of circulation in his legs.
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Born in Seattle March 21, 1909, Mr. Dickert was hired as the first model maker at Boeing. He was also known for his first ascents of Northwest peaks, including an 8,200-foot ascent of North Cascades’ Spire Point in 1938; a 9,300-foot ascent of Mount Goode in 1936; and an 8,400-foot ascent of Mount Challenger in 1936. He was a member of The Mountaineers Club for 73 years, attending club functions even this year.
“He was very independent to the end,” said Lemp of Seattle, one of Mr. Dickert’s three daughters with his wife, Agnes. The couple divorced, and Agnes Dickert died in 2003.
Endlessly energetic, Lemp remembered a hike the two took to Mount Rainier when her father was in his 60s. Yodeling along the path — Mr. Dickert loved attention, Lemp said — the two had a quick lunch before starting right back down in time to get to Edmonds for a night of ballroom dancing, with an off-trail hike along the way to show Lemp a mother deer and two fawns Mr. Dickert had discovered on one of his photographic expeditions.
“I had about one-tenth the energy he did,” Lemp said.
Even as difficulties with his legs made it an ordeal to get out of the house, Mr. Dickert remained extremely social, coming alive when he would meet with his friends from his long career at Boeing, or at Mountaineers functions.
When he could no longer drive, his friend Ira Zeasman, 83, of Burien, a former co-worker at Boeing, would cruise over in his Cadillac to take him to Boeing reunions, or to Alki Point, where Zeasman would park, crank open the sun roof, and the two would share a long chat.
“He will be missed; he was a great character,” Zeasman said.
When even leaving the house got too hard, friends would come by his home to read to him, or just to sit, in quiet companionship. “I sat with him many times,” said Bob Neupert of West Seattle, a longtime climbing buddy. “He was exuberant, indomitable, the summit was the only reason to be alive. He had a fine voice for yodeling, and when he’d get to the top he would yodel, you could hear it for miles. It was his signature.”
Mr. Dickert was a self-made man, quitting school before he finished the 10th grade to ship out as a cabin boy serving the officers’ mess on a ship to South America, and working his way up to ordinary seaman.
In 1927, he returned home at the request of his father, to go gold prospecting on the Peace River. His father died crossing a river on his horse. That same year Mr. Dickert’s lifelong interest in aviation was born with Charles Lindbergh’s successful flight across the Atlantic.
Seeing an ad in the newspaper for an international airplane model-building contest, Mr. Dickert got out his father’s tools, made two models with scraps of wood and won two first-place medals. A career was launched.
At 19, Mr. Dickert became Boeing’s first full-time model maker, creating both display models and models for wind-tunnel testing.
His work was known for its precision, to the thousandths of an inch. Some of his models were displayed at the Museum of Flight and the Museum and History & Industry.
Mr. Dickert retired from Boeing at 70, after being with the company 38 years, starting from shop foreman to become dean of the so-called “model boys.” He took a 12-year break along the way to be a traveling salesman and build models under his own company, Hobby Specialties Unlimited.
An avid environmentalist and outdoorsman, Mr. Dickert summited many mountains, including Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Mount Aconcagua in South America, and volcanoes in Mexico, British Columbia, Japan, Norway and Nepal.
Besides daughter Judi, he is survived by daughters Jean Marie Wiley of Seattle and Deanna Arlene Lane, of Richland; a brother, Rudy Dickert, 93, of California; six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
He also found a surrogate son in Bob Dutton of Seattle, and dear friends in Arlene Grant, a dance companion; and his devoted hospice team, nurse Debbie Roe and caseworker Jerri Stone, who helped care for him in his illness.
A celebration of his life will be at 2 p.m., Feb. 6 at The Mountaineers, 300 Third Ave. W., Seattle.
Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or email@example.com