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Otto Knauth

Posted August 26, 2013 in Des Moines West, Obituaries

May 3, 1916 – August 22, 2013

Otto Knauth

Otto Knauth

Otto W. Knauth, 97, died as he lived, with great dignity, on August 22, 2013, at Scottish Rite Park in Des Moines, IA.

Otto was born May 3, 1916, in Leipzig, Germany, the son of Theodore and Gabriele Knauth. He spent his childhood living in New York City and Pleasantville, New York, before returning to Europe for his secondary education. Following high school graduation in Berlin, Otto worked as a tour guide at the 1936 Olympics and then, motivated by his love of flying, attended flight school in northern Germany.

Returning to the United States in 1938, Otto enrolled in the University of Illinois, and then initiated his career as a journalist working at his Uncle Victor’s magazine “Sea Power” in New York City. It was there that he met his beloved wife Dorothea (Dot). However, their wedding plans were delayed when Otto joined the Army Air Corps Reserve. After receiving his “wings,” Otto and Dot married in 1943 and moved to Danville, VA, where Otto worked as a flight instructor.

Otto served his country in both World War II and the Korean War. Being fluent in German, in WWII Otto was assigned to the Army Counter Intelligence Corps where he worked as a special investigator at the Supreme Allied Headquarters in Germany.

In 1946 he returned for a joyful reunion with his wife and new daughter Kathy, and then moved to St. Joseph, MO, where he worked for that city’s local paper. Two years later, Otto and family moved to Des Moines, and Otto began his career with the Des Moines Register, first as a copy editor and then as assistant city editor.

With the outbreak of the Korean War, Otto returned to military service in the Counter Intelligence Corps, this time stationed at the MacArthur headquarters in Tokyo, Japan.

When at last his enlistment ended in 1951, Otto returned to Dot, Kathy and the Des Moines Register. Six years later, son Tod was born.

Otto was employed with the Des Moines Register for 33 years, serving as Science Editor until he retired in 1981. His columns were popular with Iowans in every part of the state, reflecting not only his outstanding skills as a writer but also his complete commitment to the people and topics he reported on.

Beyond his work, Otto enjoyed biking, canoeing, traveling, and generously sharing his vast knowledge of Iowa and the outdoors with others. He especially enjoyed his later years spent with his wife and children at the family’s summer cabin on Madeline Island, WI.

Otto is preceded in death by his wife Dorothea, his parents, a sister and a brother. His survivors include his daughter Kathleen Knauth of Minneapolis, MN; his son Theodore Knauth, daughter-in-law Jennifer Larson Knauth, and grandsons Oliver and Theodore, all of Madison, WI; his sisters, Christine Arndt of North Bethesda, MD, Sybilla Pfeiffer of Fishbourne, England; and many extended family members both in the United States and Europe.

Otto belonged to our country’s “greatest generation” and his death brings a special sadness. His memory is cherished by his many friends who knew him to be a consummate gentleman who was consistently the finest conversationalist at the table – temperate in his opinions, modest about expressing his knowledge, and ever deferential to others. He will be remembered as a great friend and missed by the many Iowans who knew him.

If desired, memorials may be made to the Madeline Island Historical Preservation Association (MIHPA), Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, or Planned Parenthood of Iowa.

A memorial gathering is being planned for a Fall date.


Information provided by:
Iles Funeral Homes
Dunn’s Chapel
2121 Grand Ave
Des Moines, IA 50312

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