WENDELL HARRELL OTT
Wendell Harrell Ott passed away at UNC Memorial Hospital on September 24, 2019, after a battle with bone marrow cancer fought with courage and grace. Wendell was born on his family’s farm near Osyka, Mississippi, to Clifford Davis Ott and Hortense Harrell Ott. He graduated from Osyka High School and went on to obtain a B.S. degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, an MSW degree from Tulane University and his J.D. degree with honors from the University of North Carolina School of Law. In law school he served as the Managing Editor of the North Carolina Law Review. While still in high school, Wendell joined the Army National Guard and served eight years (in Mississippi and Idaho) after which he was honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant. In his undergraduate years, he worked for three summers for the U.S. Forest Service in the St. Joe National Forest in northern Idaho and developed a lifelong love of the Northwest and fly fishing in remote wilderness areas. After college, he worked for three years for the Idaho Welfare Department, including two years as County Welfare Director in two counties. This experience produced an understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty that influenced the remainder of his life. During this time as County Welfare Director, he made friendships which enriched his life over the subsequent decades.
Wendell met his wife Phyllis at Tulane University where they both earned MSW degrees and worked for two more years. Drawn back out West, he accepted an Assistant Professor position with the Social Work Program at Colorado State University in 1969. Their son Michael was born in Fort Collins the following year. After three years in Colorado, Wendell decided to pursue a law degree. While a student at the University of North Carolina School of Law, he formed another group of lasting friendships, including camping and fly fishing buddies with whom he had many memorable experiences both in North Carolina and out West. After law school, Wendell secured employment with a Greensboro law firm in 1976 and, based in part on his pre-law experiences, developed a practice concentrating on the representation of non-profit hospitals in their dealings with payors. His practice experience eventually led to Wendell and his colleagues forming the firm of Ott, Cone & Redpath, PA, devoted exclusively to the practice of health care law. Wendell was widely recognized as a leading health care attorney in North Carolina. He was especially proud of assisting his hospital clients in developing financial strategies to enable them to provide safety-net services to uninsured and low-income patients. He retired from the practice of law in 2014.
Wendell and Phyllis were affiliated with other religious organizations before they discovered a community of worshipers at New Garden Friends Meeting, with whom they became deeply and meaningfully involved. This warm, welcoming and inclusive group contributed to their spiritual journey and provided many opportunities for service within the Meeting and in the broader community. When asked how long he had been a Quaker, Wendell’s stock response was “All my life, but didn’t discover that until ten years ago.” Particularly significant for Wendell was his involvement in the formation and maintenance of the Friendship Community Partnership, an informal association of New Garden Friends Meeting with four other nearby churches, three of which are predominantly African American congregations. This group has engaged over several years in a broad array of joint activities including service, worship and fellowship, producing lasting friendships and enhanced understanding.
Wendell was predeceased by his parents and his oldest sister, Carol Ott Zarich (Joe). He is survived by his beloved wife of 53 years, Phyllis, his son Michael C. Ott, daughter-in law Erika Fritz Ott, and three grandsons: David, Jonathan, and Zachary. Also surviving are his siblings William T. Ott, Clifford D. Ott Jr. (Marti), Steve E. Ott (Maureen), C. Phillip Ott, Linda Ott Wall (Charles), Cherie Ott Johansen (Paul), and Fleet James Ott (Maria).