Myrtis Marilyn Brett Otteman, 83, of Harlingen, Texas, loving daughter, wife, mother and teacher, went to be with the Lord on Monday, Jan. 17. Marilyn was born Jan. 23, 1938, in Temple, Texas, to James Laurence Brett and Myrtis Corley Brett. She spent her childhood and young adult life growing up in Highland Park in Dallas, Texas. She graduated from Ursuline Academy in May of 1955. Upon graduating from high school, Marilyn attended St. Thomas University in Houston, Texas, for a semester until she traveled to Colorado for a ski trip. Marilyn fell in love with the mountains and the majesty of the views of Colorado and made the bold decision to leave Texas and enroll in the University of Colorado in Boulder. Marilyn graduated from University of Colorado Boulder with a bachelor of arts degree in political science.
She met the love of her life, DeWayne Gerald Otteman, on a blind date while attending college and eloped with him after only eight days. They were married in March and later celebrated the solemnity of their marriage on April 13, 1958. In 1959, Marilyn and DeWayne moved from Boulder, Colo., to begin a new life in the Rio Grande Valley, living at the homestead of what is now known as Rancho Viejo, where they worked with Marilyn’s father, J.L. Brett, in his Cotton company and the House of MoRose Gift Citrus Company.
While raising five children, she became an English teacher. Marilyn was a loving mother who knew her children were her most prized students. She spent every summer taking her five children to the public library to check out the maximum number of books each week to foster the joy of reading and to help them imagine a world bigger than their life experience. Aside from setting boundaries, creating cultural excursions involving ballet, music, sports and art, Marilyn was a devoted wife and homemaker.
Her career teaching English literature spanned over 30 years, and it was truly her passion in life. Marilyn began teaching at Vernon Junior High School until transferring to Harlingen High School. She believed that helping her students master the English language while helping them nurture a love of literature was her personal calling. She spent many evenings working on her lesson plans, reaching out to students and parents, and making sure they had the resources and information they needed to garner academic success, even if it meant encroaching on her personal time at home. She always surpassed expectations to help students grow and volunteered for coaching speech teams and chaperoning students on educational trips to Europe. Marilyn made sure her students learned not only about the art and history of the country they were visiting, but understood the foreign policies in relationship to the United States as well. She was well versed in history and foreign policy, and could argue any political view. Marilyn had a high regard for the world view of Henry Kissinger. She sided with his take on foreign policy for the remaining years of her life.
Marilyn had a passion not only for teaching but for learning as well. During her career as an English teacher, she went back to college and received her master’s degree in English, writing her thesis on The Gifted Child. She was also always willing to enter into conversations about her Catholic faith and how the Bible was the first piece of literature to study.
Marilyn moved from teacher to scholar. She collaborated on an English literature textbook for college students that was published and used at a number of colleges. Marilyn also taught courses at the collegiate level. While pursuing her career in academics, Marilyn decided to help the family real estate business and received her real estate license as an agent and broker in 1986. Aside from wife, mother, teacher, scholar and real estate broker, she was a dynamic and glamorous woman who never stopped learning and trying new things. When the high school asked some of the teachers to trade places with the cheerleaders at a football game, Marilyn took it upon herself to be the best cheerleader and began many years of doing cartwheels into splits as part of the best teacher cheer squad. Marilyn was a loyal fan of the Harlingen Cardinals, and a lifelong fan of the Dallas Cowboys. She hosted fabulous parties, played mah-jongg, bridge and bingo, designed and sewed clothes for her children, and cooked the most delicious food for everyday dinners, all while managing to present an impeccable presence of beauty and decorum. Marilyn never met a stranger (a skill she taught each of her five children) and once she set her sight on something, she never backed down. She succeeded at everything she tried and usually became a master at each new endeavor.
Marilyn took on a project to update her children’s rooms and could not find the paintings she wanted, so in perfect Marilyn fashion, she learned to paint and created the paintings on her own. Her paintings were beautiful, especially her Colorado mountain vistas. Marilyn made a decision to own a property in Colorado, and watched a particular property as it listed for sale and sold multiple times. When it went up for sale a third time, Marilyn was able to purchase the property and build a wonderful second home in Colorado where she could enjoy the mountains she fell in love with years before.
Marilyn was very active in numerous organizations. She was a member and past president of the American Association of University Women. She was a member of the Texas Association of Realtors, and the National Association of Realtors. She was a member of many guilds, church and school organizations and active in Cotillion. Her family history in Natchitoches, La., runs deep and she was a member of the Lady Washington Chapter of the Daughters of The American Revolution.
She was also a member of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Harlingen, Texas, where all of her children attended school, and Immaculate Heart of Mary and Pope John Paull II Catholic Church in Pagosa Springs, Colo. Marilyn’s faith was foremost in her life and she helped guide her children in their faith as well. She was a lector in all three churches and always attributed her class room gifts to gifts from the Holy Spirit.
Marilyn was preceded in death by her parents, J.L. Brett and Myrtis Corley Brett; her husband DeWayne G. Otteman; and her daughter, Valerie Lynn Clark. She is survived by her sister, Janice Laurie Brett Ritchie, and her husband A.E. “Butch” Ritchie Jr.; her children, Elizabeth Ann Otteman, of Mabank, Texas, Stephen Brett Otteman and his fiancée Kathy Nash, of Galveston, Texas, Marilyn Aylene Griffin and her husband Michael John Griffin III, of Houston, Texas, and Myrtis Margaret Loudermilk and her husband Ruben D. Acuavera II, of San Angelo, Texas; her grandchildren, Kellie Michele Otteman, Kenyon Brett Otteman and his wife Sandy, Erik Gordon Otteman, John Bradley Clark and his wife Chelsea, Juliet Nichole Clark, Georgiana Brett Clark, Francine Elizabeth Clark, Michael John Griffin IV, Matthew Laurence Griffin, Mackenzie Grace Griffin, Marilyn Brett Griffin, DeWayne Ramsey Loudermilk and his wife Emily and Myrtis Haley Loudermilk; her great-grandchildren, Ella Faye Otteman, Abigail Grace Otteman, Weston Lane Otteman, Landyn Scott, Lincoln Brett and Luna Rose Clark; and numerous other cousins, family members and close friends she considered family.
The viewing and rosary service was at noon Friday, Jan. 28, at Blanchard St. Denis Funeral Home in Natchitoches, La. The funeral Mass was at 1 p.m., Friday, Jan. 28, at The Minor Basilica of The Immaculate Conception in Natchitoches, La., with burial following at the Catholic Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Ursuline Academy in Dallas, Texas, St. Anthony’s Catholic School in Harlingen, Texas, Immaculate Heart of Mary in Pagosa Springs, Colo., or The Minor Basilica of The Immaculate Conception in Natchitoches, La.