Gardner S. Otto, 32, farmer, rescued Victor F. Stemen, 50, truck driver, from burning, Seward, Ohio, September 21, 1948. During a drizzle Stemen driving a trailer-truck and William J. Rhoads in an automobile applied brakes on their vehicles to avoid a possible collision on a bridge over a shallow creek. The automobile skidded into a ditch, Rhoads being stunned briefly. The truck crashed into a side wall of the bridge and came to rest upright on the bridge. The cab roof at the driver’s seat was partly caved in, pinning Stemen’s right hand to the steering wheel; the left door was wrenched open; and both gasoline tanks beneath the seat were punctured, gasoline flowing onto the concrete roadway of the bridge. Stemen was uninjured but could not free his hand. Two women reached the cab and tried but could not pull him out. Otto and his wife arrived and made a similar attempt to aid. Rhoads got out of his automobile and joined Otto in further unsuccessful efforts to free Stemen. As Otto and Rhoads stood at the cab doorway, the women having left, gasoline on the roadway suddenly caught fire. The two men were enveloped in gusts of flame that rose five feet in an area 15 feet in diameter. They ran out of the flames; and Otto, whose trousers had caught fire, jumped into the creek, igniting some gasoline which had drained into it, and then rolled in weeds on the bank to extinguish the flames. Stemen, his hand still pinned, got his legs out of the doorway. His trousers ignited, and be climbed back onto the seat. Rhoads found an empty can, made five trips to the creek for water, and dashed water on Stemen’s trousers and on the flames at the cab doorway. Otto obtained two pails from a dwelling near by, filled them at the creek, and threw the water on Stemen, the roadway at the doorway by then having been washed free of flames, Otto grasped Stemen under the arms, jerked hard pulling Stemen’s hand free, and dragged him eight feet from the cab. Stemen was seriously burned but recovered. Otto sustained serious leg burns and was disabled for 10 weeks.
41549 – 361241549-3612
Gardnar S. Otto, 68, of Stockbridge, Mich., died on Oct. 22, 1984. He was born on Aug, 13, 1916, near Grand Ledge, Mich., to Keith and Ethel (Hendee) Otto.
Otto attended a neighborhood country school for eight years and later graduated from Grand Ledge High School. Following the death of his parents, he located in the Adrian, Mich., area and was employed as a milk tester in the Farmers Milk Testing Program. He and his wife, the former Jeanette Sayler, then farmed in Jasper, Mich.
Several years later, the couple moved to Stockbridge, where Otto worked in the television repair business and they both started their first Gar-Nett’s Flower and Gift Shop. In 1964 ,he became affiliated with Parke-Davis in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he worked for 16 years. He was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and Stockbridge United Methodist Church.
Burial was in Oaklawn Cemetery.
(Edited from obituaries provided by a family member)