Inge Otten Roemer, 100, a resident of Sand Hill, Otego, Fly Creek and Oneonta in Otsego County for 75 years, passed away Saturday night, October 16, 2021, at her home in Otego.
A native of Germany, Inge was born February 1, 1921, in Hamburg, a daughter of Ernest and Elizabeth (Bartels) Bondiek. When she was 2 ½ she and her parents moved from Germany to Fairview, New Jersey, to live with an uncle who paid their way to the States. One of her earliest memories was witnessing the opening of the George Washington Bridge in 1931. As a teenager she worked in the summer as kitchen help for a wealthy family, and also on a farm that had summer boarders. After graduation from Cliffside High School in 1938, she traveled to Germany to live with relatives still in the old country, as well as to begin her training as a school teacher, studying the methods of kindergarten founder Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel at the Froebel School in Hamburg.
Her training was interrupted in August 1939, when the American Consulate sent a message to “leave immediately” because the German borders were closing at midnight. With the help of friends and strangers, Inge was able to take a ferry to Sweden, then drive through the night to Oslo, Norway. As her German Reichsmarks were suddenly worthless, it was only through the kindness of an American – who happened to live near where her parents were living in New Jersey – that she was able to book passage on the Norwegian SS Bergensfjord.
While on board she was able to spend time with the von Trapp family, who were also escaping the Nazi regime. Inge once recalled, “They would give concerts for us! We didn’t make that big a deal out of it. I didn’t know they were famous! They were just a nice, wealthy family, who was staying in a big cabin up front.”
A year after she returned to the US from Germany, Inge met and then married Martin Otten in 1941. The two of them worked successfully toward their dream of having a farm and a family, and in 1945 they bought a dairy farm on Sand Hill, Unadilla Township and moved there with their two children, Helga and Martin. Shortly thereafter daughters Bettie and Melanie were born, and over the next 20 years they raised their four children there. For the first several years they also had summer boarders. In 1955, with the support of her family, Inge was able to return to her studies. She was passionate about completing her education, and making sure her children would go to college as well. She received a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Oneonta in 1959, and taught third and fourth grade at Mount Upton Elementary School for 22 years. Her four children all completed bachelor’s degrees. In 1967 Inge and Martin moved from their farm to Otego.
Travelling was part of Inge and Martin’s lives. There were countless trips “across the pond” to visit Inge and Martin’s relatives and friends in Germany. In 1950 their children, Helga and Martin went along, and ten years later the younger two, Bettie and Melanie went. In the 1960s there were family trips to Florida during spring break, and after the children were grown, Inge and Martin drove down the eastern seaboard and out west to visit friends and relatives, particularly her sister, Maren in Utah. Inge and Martin flew numerous times to northern Germany to visit Helga and her family in Alfstedt, and other relatives who lived in the area as well as Inge’s relatives in Hamburg.
Inge’s adventurous spirit drew her many times to other travel experiences and destinations. She and a girlfriend made an Elder Hostel trip to the southwest in the 1990s, and later took a tour of Hawaii together. She traveled in southern Germany and Austria with Bettie and her family in 1998. She also went on a road trip with Bettie and Bob to explore the coast of Maine and to finally see the Bay of Fundy and the huge tides there. In 2002 at 81, she went sailing for ten days with Martin, Bettie, and their families on a 50-foot yacht in Tortolla, BVI. She made a land-sea tour of Alaska and Glacier Bay with Melanie in 2014. Over the years, Inge made numerous trips to Utah accompanied by her children to visit her sister, Maren and to see the natural beauty of the region. Once she was asked for her secret to growing older. Just like George Burns said, “you have to have younger friends!”
After Martin’s death in 1996, Inge met Carl Roemer, a widower in the German reading group in Cooperstown. They married in 1998 and lived in Otego as well as in his home in Fly Creek for the next 15 years. She and Carl were active in the German reading group and traveled abroad via bus and boat tours in Germany, Italy and Austria. After Carl’s death in 2013, Inge moved to The Plains at Parish Homestead in Oneonta.
Music was an important part of Inge’s life and she recognized the joy it brought to others. She played piano, recorder and autoharp, sang in the Women’s Glee Club at SUNY Oneonta during the 1950s, and taught her elementary school students to play tonette. Family road trips often included three-part rounds and folks tunes in German or English in the car. Inge went on to learn accordion in her 60s, and at 95 took up harmonica to play in a harmonica band after moving to The Plains at Parish Homestead in Oneonta. She played for her own enjoyment, for family and friends, and for members of retirement communities, often as a sing-along. At 99 she bought a Chromebook and used it to connect with relatives.
She celebrated her 100th birthday on February 1, 2021, with a dinner party in her honor at her apartment in Otego and an international Zoom party with friends and family from Europe and the U.S. with a few guests at her apartment.
Inge is survived by her children: Helga (Klaus) Kahrs, Martin (Carol) Otten, Bettie (Bob) Bennett and Melanie (Jack) Manis; as well as 7 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren, and numerous relatives in Germany.
A private graveside service will be held at the convenience of the family in Sand Hill Cemetery, Unadilla.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the First Christian Church of Otego, Otsdawa Road, Otego, NY 13825; The Otego Emergency Squad, PO Box 79, Otego, NY 13825; The Sand Hill Cemetery Association, c/o Gloria Hall, Secretary, 1497 Covered Bridge Road, Unadilla, NY 13849; Helios Care (Hospice), 297 River Street Service Road, Suite 1, Oneonta, NY 13820; or the Carl and Inge Otten Roemer ’59 Scholarship, c/o The College at Oneonta Foundation, SUNY Oneonta, 308 Netzer Administration Building, Oneonta, NY 13820 in memory of Inge Ottem Roemer.
Arrangements are under the care and guidance of the Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home in Cooperstown.