Eric J. OttEric J. Ott, 57, of 4724 E. Bates Road, Trumansburg, died peacefully at his home Tuesday, August 18th shortly after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer. During his illness, Eric never complained and continued to selflessly think of the well-being of others, just as he had done throughout his entire life. 

Eric was born June 22, 1958 in Jersey City, NJ. He was raised in Syracuse and graduated from West Genesee High School in 1976, then graduated in three and a half years from Cornell University with a B.S. in Agricultural Economics. 

Following Cornell, Eric worked in the electronics industry for Ithaca Intersystems, Elston Electronics in Geneva, and Hamilton Avnet in Rochester. While in Rochester, he met Mary Burrall, a metal sculpture artist, on a blind date. They were married in 1986 in Geneva, and in 1987 purchased the Rongovian Embassy in Trumansburg. Eric and Mary – more commonly known as the “King and Queen of Rongovia” – owned the Rongo for 15 years. Eric’s passion for music was the center pin around which the Rongo’s renaissance was anchored, and the couple took the once shuttered business to new heights with a vibrant family friendly restaurant to complement the high quality band lineups and legendary bar service. The Rongo remains a Trumansburg institution largely due to Eric and Mary’s lasting influence.

In addition to restoring the Rongo to prominence, Eric was a well-known bass player and integral part of the Ithaca music scene for over 30 years. He played countless gigs as a member of several bands of varying styles, a testament to his versatility as a musician. Eric was a founding member of Lost Sailors, the well-loved Grateful Dead cover band that continually played to packed houses throughout the Finger Lakes region. Following each Sailors gig, Eric would hug front man Larry Honigbaum and say with twinkling eyes, “We got a fun band.”

The “Ottman” used the skills he had acquired while owning and running the Rongo to become a beloved build-it and fix-it man. Again his versatility was far-reaching, and as a creative problem solver with a knack for figuring things out, Eric could tackle just about any project. For 15 years he worked alongside close friend Jess Youngquest. The “FinsterCo” duo took on larger contracting jobs such as kitchen and bath remodels, deck building, and roofing. Eric firmly believed in always having “the right tool for the job.”

In 2003, Eric was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. In typical Ottman fashion, he never complained of the impact it had on his life and the adjustments he was forced to make to accommodate this disruption. Nor did he let it stand in the way of the things that mattered most to him: playing music, spending quality time with his family, friends, and animals, or simply taking his boat for a spin on Seneca Lake.

In the days and evenings leading up to his death, the Ott home – as it had done countless times in the past – provided the setting for impromptu jam sessions featuring a steady rotation of  local musicians. On August 9th a music benefit at the Rongo in Eric’s honor raised a significant amount of money for the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes. The day before, Eric played with the Yardvarks at Women Swimmin’, the biggest fundraising event of the year for Hospicare, where Mary works as an RN.

“Hunkyman” “Spendyman” “Gigman” “E” will be remembered as a gentle friend to all. Eric could always be counted on to provide sound, level-headed, and thoughtful advice to anyone who sought it.

Eric is survived by his wife, Mary A. Ott, daughter Katrena J. Ott of Rochester, sons David E. of Ithaca and Marcus W. of Trumansburg, mother Joann H. Ott of Grand Rapids, MI, sisters Lisa J. Ott of Hart, MI and Jacqueline A. (Bill) Sleeman also of Grand Rapids, grandson Kayden, and lots of nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his father and close friend, John A. Ott.

A “Funzy Ottfest” will be held Sunday September 20th from1:00pm until 6:00pm at 4724 E. Bates Road, Trumansburg, with a special event at 420.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research (michaeljfox.org) and/or the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes (crcfl.net).