Ott Funeral Home - Sitting
“Paul Bear”, sponsored by Ott Funeral Home and fashioned by artist Joe Hoover, waits longingly to comfort others in times of need; the pink carnation which decorates his grey flannel suit symbolizes Joe’s love and favorite theme of his paintings—the beauty of flowers.
“Paul-(bearer), sponsored by Ott
Funeral Home and fashioned by artist Joe
Hoover, invites young and old for a soft
pat on his head. He “feels your
Children love “Pall-(bearer),” sponsored
by Ott Funeral Home and fashioned by artist
Joe Hoover. Joe tried hard to capture a
compassionate, supportive expression on
the bear’s face.
- Linwood W. Ott
Funeral Home Inc.
111 North Reading Avenue
Boyertown, PA 19512
About the Sponsor:
The Ott Funeral Home bear is one of my favorite bears for
assorted reasons. One reason is the surprise I felt when
funeral director Bill Strock invited me and my students
to present the Bear Fever project to him.
I remember the moment well. I was in my pool when I called
Bill. He was listed as a member of BMBA, and my students
and I were calling all members of BMBA and inviting them
to learn about Bear Fever and consider being part of the
project. Our mission towards community cohesiveness included
making sure everyone in the community had some kind of invitation
to participate in our community art project.
Working toward that mission that summer, we made hundreds
of phone calls. On sunny days we made phone calls from my
swimming pool. (Imagine us floating on bright pink and yellow
boats—phone in one hand, pen and paper in the other.)
On rainy days—and there were more of those in July
2004 than there have been since 1902—we took turns
inside calling potential sponsors.
And so, I vividly remember calling Bill; I was not expecting
a welcome to visit him. But he said, “Sure, come on
over.” On the appointed day Josie (Moore) and Amanda
(Cappelletti) and I met with Bill. I didn’t realize
until we started talking that Bill had been one of my students
in one of my first years of teaching at Boyertown Junior
He asked if I remembered him; I did. And we reminisced about
that year in school, some of the projects we’d worked
on together, and some of his famous (or infamous) friends.
Josie and Amanda were charmed that he and I had such memories
to share, and then he invited them to share their experiences
with him. “Is she still as crazy?” he asked them.
They laughed and immediately provided examples. I was embarrassed,
of course, but what a fun time they had sharing teacher stories.
When it came time to discuss Bear Fever bears, we were happy
that Bill had already decided to become part of the project
and wanted to discuss with us what his bear might look like.
We considered “heavenly” images—angels,
clouds, beautiful skies, flowers. But Bill suggested that
he and his staff were in agreement that the bear should look
like the traditional funeral director—in suit and tie.
Bill was eager to point out that, like many businesses today, their everyday attire was more casual than in the “old days” when a funeral director dressed formally 24/7, but he explained that the professional image was as important today as in “the old days” and thought it appropriate that his bear communicate the formality of their work. Formality meant seriousness, professionalism, competence—important qualities in the field.
The girls queried him on his choice of occupation—expressing
their curiosity about why anyone would want to become a mortician.
Bill and I explained that helping families during times of
crisis was their mission. I recalled my own experiences with
Ott Funeral Home when my father died, how very important
and helpful the staff was to me and my family when our grief
disallowed us from thinking clearly and handling critical
I’m also especially fond of this bear because his
name is “Paul.” I have my own beloved Paul! And
how clever they were, with his name, to “play” on
a most helpful feature of their business, pallbearers!
In addition, I love “Paul’s” face (my
Paul’s and the bear’s)! The face that Joe Hoover
created for “Paul” is remarkably sweet and compassionate.
Children love “Paul” and are eager to pet him
and talk with him. He looks like he “feels your pain.”
About the Artist
Another reason that “Paul” is one of my favorite
bears is because of his artist Joe Hoover. Joe is a retired
teacher—just like me! And Joe loves flowers. Me too!
His home is a flower garden inside and out.
His home is off the beaten path and exists in a secluded
spot in the Bucktown countryside accessible only along a
dirt road. His home sits high on a hill—almost hidden
by the trees. Outside he’s managed to create a garden
which grows larger each year. The selection of annuals, perennials,
and rose bushes provide a glorious display of color throughout
the growing season.
He took student Sarah Elphick and I on a tour through his
garden, stopping to name some of his favorite specimens and
commenting on their history with him and how they’ve
His home features walls of his paintings everywhere—sometimes
three levels of beautifully framed paintings—flowers
everywhere! Plus, there are remnants of art shows that he
and his family mount each Fourth of July in which his young
grandchildren perform assorted dance numbers and /or musical
selections—depending on their passions of the moment.
These art shows for the family include workshops, games,
and demonstrations--opportunities for the children to try
new artistic media. We noticed a unique wall divider between
Joe’s kitchen and music room made of paper doll-like
streamers featuring children and violins which was obviously
a leftover from the most recent holiday.
Music, art, a love of nature and family enfold this family
and enrich their lives. No wonder our bear “Paul” is
so inviting. He’s full of the beauty, harmony, creativity,
and peace that envelope the home and world of artist Joe
Joe credits James McFarland of the Wyomissing Institute
for teaching him how to create a transparent effect in his
watercolor technique. Joe enjoyed his well-planned, focused
lessons and his honest critiques.