September 9th would have been Lorrie Otto’s 101st birthday. Lorrie Otto – Queen of the Prairie. Lorrie Otto – the inspiration for Wild Ones. Lorrie Otto – an American Hero.
Lorraine “Lorrie” Stoeber was born in 1919 near Madison, Wisconsin. She lived on a farm where she learned to love the soil and the biodiversity of the landscape. As a young woman who was tall and smart, she got involved in many things – from modeling evening gowns for wholesale houses to preparing to be a pilot in the World War II Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program.
She graduated from the University of Wisconsin and married her six foot, four inch tall boyfriend, Owen Otto, son of Max Otto who was a pioneer of contemporary humanism. They moved to a north Milwaukee suburb near Lake Michigan and a twenty-acre ravine called Prairie Chasm. In the 1950s when the chasm was to be sold for development, Lorrie worked with The Nature Conservancy to save the ravine.
In the 1960s, she took on DDT, and by now you know the rest of the story. See also Banning DDT.
After that, “Otto began encouraging suburban homeowners to maintain biological diversity and wildlife habitat. She taught natural landscaping classes at nature centers, colleges and technical schools, businesses and museums in the Milwaukee area. After hearing an Otto lecture in 1977, a group of nine women began meeting monthly to share information about natural landscaping. They called themselves the Wild Ones. Otto became their philosophical compass.” (WCHF)
The Wisconsin Historical Society has a collection of all her writings.
THE LORRIE OTTO SEEDS FOR EDUCATION PROGRAM
In 1996, Wild Ones Natural Landscapers, Ltd. honored Lorrie with a celebration and a program in her name – The Lorrie Otto Seeds for Education Program. Such an honor was so fitting. In all her efforts to save the natural landscape, her desire to save it for the children was the greatest and most important to her.
As part of that education program, grants are offered each year to non-profit organizations planning to develop an outdoor learning area. Applications for the Lorrie Otto Seeds for Education Program will be on hiatus for the remainder of 2020, due to uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Please revisit this Wild Ones site in 2021 for a grant application and for information on the new deadline.
Lorrie became the heart and soul of the natural-landscaping movement, and many of us remember her each year by donating to the Lorrie Otto Seeds for Education Program administered by Wild Ones.
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