Tag Archive: WWII Veteran

In Memoriam: Earl Prebezac

VFW Post 8870 lost another of our World War II veteran members when Earl Prebezac passed way on February 9 at the age of 94. Earl was buried at Mt. Tahoma National Cemetery on February 21, with full military honors provided by or local VFW Honor Guard.

Soldier, Teacher, and Actor 

Earl was raised in St. Louis and dropped out of high school at the age of 16. With his parents’ permission, Earl attempted to join the Navy, but was discouraged by the recruiter because of his small stature. His next stop was at the Army recruiting center where he was accepted for service.

In Memoriam Earl Prebezac

Earl in the Army

Because of his Slavic heritage and ability to speak Serbian and Croatian languages, Earl was selected for the Military Intelligence Service. Instead of utilizing Earl’s Slavic language skills however, he was assigned to Photo Interpretation.

The war began for Earl on D-Day plus 21 when his unit landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy. During the year and a half that he served in Europe, Earl received four battle stars for participating in combat operations in Normandy, Northern France, the Ardennes, and the Rhineland. Six months after Germany’s surrender, he returned to the United States on the hospital ship Larkspur, after contracting a heart infection.

Once he returned to the States, Earl took advantage of the G.I. Bill, completed a GED program, and started college at Oregon State University. He enrolled in an ROTC and while participating in a drama program at Oregon State, Earl met his future wife, Nann. They transferred to the University of Washington, where Nann became a Drama major and Earl majored in history.

In Memoriam Earl Prebezac

Actor Earl

Upon graduation, Earl was hired by the Seattle Public Schools to teach Civics and History at Roosevelt High School, a position he held for 33 years. Earl also served in the Army Reserves, retiring as a 1st Lieutenant, after 12 years of service. During his years at Roosevelt High School, Earl was also the manager of the historic Moore Theater in Seattle. Earl retired from teaching in 1986.

The Prebezac’s moved to Edmonds in 1953 where they raised four boys. Throughout their life together, they both maintained their love for drama. They were founding members of an Edmonds drama group that would become the Driftwood Players and over the years, participated in numerous dramatic productions. Earl leaves his wife, Nann, their four sons, seven grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.  

Mystery Visitor at July Post Meeting

Jim Traner reports that we had a visiting WWII veteran show up late. Jim caught him after the meeting and learned that he was here from New Jersey visiting his son and dropped in to our meeting. His name was Earl and he said he couldn’t have enjoyed an evening more than spending it with fellow veterans. He had a count of our attendance and said he really enjoyed our Post. Jim reports having a feeling he was probably someone who was more than just your average Post member.

In Memoriam: Dr. Robert W. Otto 1922 – 2015

WWII Veteran, POW, combat wounded


Dr. Robert W. Otto

Bob Otto in younger days

Post 8870 lost one of our more senior comrades late last year when Robert Otto, long time VFW member, passed away on December 7, 2015. Born October 1, 1922, at home in Jerome, Idaho, bob graduated from Jerome High School, attended Utah State Univ. and The College of Idaho; then worked in the California naval shipyards before entering the Army in 1943. Sgt Otto participated in 12 missions as a tailgunner before being shot down aboard the B-24 ‘Texarkana Hussy’ over Pollau, Austria in June 1944. Severely burned, he was taken POW to Stalag Luft IV in Poland. A German Death March survivor, he was liberated at Fallingbostel, Germany in May 1945 and awarded two Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Bob Otto with Austrian artist Josef Schutzenhofer, with his painting dedicated to Americans shot down over Austria during World War II

Bob Otto (left) with Austrian artist Josef Schutzenhofer, with his painting dedicated to Americans shot down over Austria during World War II.

Bob married Mary Ann Plastino on March 24, 1946, in Jerome. They farmed west of town for several years, during which he served as County Auditor and rode with the Jerome Posse. The family moved to Ft. Collins, Colo. in 1952 where Robert finished his undergrad work at Colorado A&M. In 1954, they moved to Pullman, Wash. where he graduated in 1957 from Washington State College with a doctorate in veterinary medicine. Two more children were born during the college years, Randy and Robyn. After teaching veterinary medicine at Kansas State University, the family settled in Edmonds, where he built a veterinary practice. Later he was the Area Director for the Northwest Animal Hospital Assn. and honored as Washington State Veterinarian of the Year. He retired from his practice in 1992.

Bob was a founding member of the Edmonds Senior Center and was very active in the Exchange Club. Following his retirement, he served with Christian Veterinary Missions as Short-Term Shuttle Coordinator and Chaplain, then in the mission field on the Navajo Indian Reservation, in Haiti, Bolivia, Malawi and Kenya. He obtained his minister’s license and served at Family Life Center and Sonrise Chapel as an assistant pastor before leading a small church called The Gathering at Garden Court until 2012.

In 2001, Bob was honored by the Polish government at a ceremony dedicating a statue commemorating those who were interred at Luft Stalag IV, accompanied by his son, Randy. He was also accompanied by John Nichols, who wrote The Last Escape, including Robert’s story of his interment and liberation. In 2008, he was a guest of the Austrian government and took his three children with him to attend the unveiling of a memorial by famed artist Josef Schutzenhofer (above left) commemorating those who helped liberate Austria. The following year, Bob wrote his autobiography, A Walk with God. This led to many speaking opportunities with the VFW, schools and libraries. In 2011, he traveled with Honor Flight to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington DC. Look for a more detailed description of Bob’s wartime experience in a future issue of this newsletter.

Memory of Past Commander Dennis Gaasland Honored

Memory of Past Commander Dennis Gaasland Honored

At the age of 17 and with the permission of his parents, Dennis Gaasland joined the Navy to serve his nation during WW II. Trained as a radar operator, Dennis also served in a combat amphibious unit. While serving in the Pacific, Dennis was sent to the Solomon Islands, New Hebrides Islands, Guadalcanal, and the Russel Islands before his convoy participated in the landing at the Gulf of Leyte in the Philippines. Following the war, Dennis married his childhood sweetheart, Helen, and graduated from UW with a degree in Business Administration. He was a successful businessman, working with several Seattle law firms. Dennis served at Post #8870 Commander from 1992-1994 and again from 1995-1996. He passed away in March 2015.

At the July meeting, Post member Mike Reagan honored the memory of Dennis by presenting a portrait of a young Dennis in his Navy uniform to his wife of more than 67 years, Helen. Also in attendance was her son, Greg. Mike, of course, is the founder of the Fallen Heroes Project, and to date, he has drawn portraits of over 4000 American veterans who have lost their lives while in service to our great nation. In his remarks, Mike assured Mrs. Gaasland that the Post would, “always remember one of our own”.