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Virginia Ladd Otis 1916-2022


Virginia Ladd Otis passed away peacefully on October 15, 2022, just shy of her 106th birthday. She was born at home during a Halloween snowstorm in 1916, the daughter of Katie and Henry Ladd, on a small farm in Belfast, Maine. When her parents and sister were bedridden with the Spanish flu in 1918, she never caught it; the neighbors found her toddling around the house when they came to help – an early indication of her strength and vitality. She also navigated a case of Covid at age 103 with little trouble.


Virginia (Ginny) shared an exuberant outdoor life with her sister Margaret and brother John. An avid fisherman and horsewoman from the age of 4, she would sometimes ride standing up by crossing the stirrups over the saddle. She was an adventurer, taking overnight horseback rides, weeklong camping trips to Islesboro Island, and climbs up Mt. Katahdin with her sister and their friends. Despite encountering a dangerous June blizzard on her first climb up Mt. Washington, she returned again, skiing down Tuckerman Ravine. In 1941, she rode on the back of a motorcycle to Key West, Florida with her girlfriend Pat. They paid their way as they went, stopping to work in exchange for a meal and a bed. Back home, she learned to fly and quickly got hooked on the thrill. Ginny became known as a skilled pilot and daredevil, side-slipping at a steep angle as she came in for a landing, then righting the plane to touch down at the last possible moment. She once flew to 10,000 feet and cut the engine so she could ‘float like a bird above the clouds.’ Unable to restart due to the carburetor icing, she was able to land the plane in a hayfield without damage.


Ginny met Bob Otis, a fellow flyer, while they were both working at Pratt & Whitney, CT in the war effort. They married in 1943, and Bob joined the Navy. In Chicago for his basic training, she passed her commercial pilots test. After the war, they built a house in Williamsburg, MA and raised five children. They resided in Goshen, MA for the last fifty years, surrounded by wonderful neighbors and friends.


A graduate of Lowell State Teachers College, Ginny had a deep spiritual connection to the natural world, teaching her children and anyone else who would listen to love the birds, animals, plants and stars. A prolific reader and writer who enjoyed art and music, she could still recite passages by Shakespeare from memory–or beat you at a game of Scrabble–when well over 100 years old. A published writer of essays and poems, she was the longtime writer of a weekly nature column for the Gazette. She once wrote, “Looking back at everything, I’d say that life has been a great adventure, if not a whole series of adventures!” Her enthusiasm, joy, and positive attitude were with her right to the very end.


Ginny leaves her daughter Carol Jules and husband Rick, son John Otis and wife Angela, son Donald Otis, and daughter Kay Marsh; her grandchildren Nicholas, Stephanie and Marisa Otis, Molly Shaughnessy and Rita Jules; and her great-grandsons Tyler and Dylan Shaughnessy and Arthur Jules Zhang. She also leaves many nieces and nephews in Williamsburg and Belfast. She was predeceased by her husband Bob Otis, son Rob Otis, sister Margaret Eckman, and brother John Ladd.


The family would like to express their deep appreciation to the staff at Highview of Northampton for their loving care of Ginny in her final years. A celebration of life will be held at a later date.


Boucher - O'Brien Funeral Home in Easthampton was entrusted with her arrangements.

Contributions in Ginny’s memory can be made to The Nature Conservatory. She leaves us with a beautifully written epitaph:


The Spirit by

Virginia Ladd Otis

I have escaped the chafing bonds of earth; No roofs nor walls divide me from the whole; Though mortal ashes drift among the flowers; A wind blows through my soul, the stars shine through; I am part of birdsong and of light; Quicksilver-swift am I, freer than air; Beauty distilled is of the cup I drink; And thought is of the universal mind.

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