Chester “Chet” Oatman, of White Lake, passed away peacefully on Thursday, July 5, 2018, at Aspirus Wausau Hospital surrounded by his family. He was 96 years old. He was born on May 15, 1922, in White Lake, the youngest child of the late George and Frances (Springer) Oatman, one of White Lake’s pioneer families.
Chet was a senior forward for White Lake High School’s basketball team when Antigo High School’s team was invited to play against them at the dedication of White Lake’s new gymnasium. The village team made local history that year by beating the Antigo Boys, not only in that game but in the rematch as well. Chet was the last surviving member of the White Lake High School class of 1940.
Unable to afford college, Chet worked until he joined the Army Air Corps in 1943. He trained to be a pilot for B-17 bombers and received his wings as a Second Lieutenant. Soon afterward, he was diagnosed with osteomyelitis and was hospitalized for nearly a year, leaving him unable to continue military service. He was medically discharged in 1945.
Under the G.I. Bill, Chet earned his teaching degree with an emphasis in natural science from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 1949. On July 9th of the same year, he married his sweetheart, Arlyne “Penny” Wilcott at St. James Catholic Church in White Lake. They were married for 67 years.
Chet’s teaching career began in White Lake Grade School, where he also became the grade-school principal. In 1962, he went to Racine and taught at Mitchell Elementary. In 1969 he went to Riverview Elementary in Wausau, retiring from teaching in 1982. Chet’s love of and enthusiasm for his profession never waned, and he remained constant in his concern for excellence in education. He highly esteemed his students and his colleagues and found great joy in giving them his unwavering support.
Chet was a talented baseball player for White Lake in the County League. He was a continuous member of the American Legion Anderson-Sather Post 524 in White Lake for 72 years. He was a founder of the Lake Association, serving on the board and participating in lake education. He and Penny were members of Four Corners Assembly of God, their beloved church home.
An avid fisherman, Chet enjoyed throwing a line in White Lake and the Wolf River. His fishing buddies over the years were his brother Myron, his father-in-law Howie Wilcott and his son Chris. Chet also thoroughly enjoyed hunting, gardening, woodworking, art projects, making pickles and raspberry jelly and “shooting the breeze”. He was a very loyal Packers, Badgers, and Brewers fan.
Chet never forgot where he came from, and he thanked the Lord for his wonderful long life. He felt that he had received as much love in his life as any man on earth. And he, in return, cared so deeply as a family man, a teacher, a friend, and a patriot.
Survivors include two sons, Christopher Oatman of White Lake and Keith (Mary) Oatman of St. Augustine, FL; a daughter, Kim (Brian) Joseph of Antigo; six grandchildren, Scott Oatman of Eagle River, Sarah (Lenny) Orlowski of Greenfield, Stacy Oatman of Milwaukee, Anna Frommberger-Oatman of Germany, Adam (Jessie) Joseph of Tucson, Arizona and Stephanie (Christopher) Gravitter of Antigo; two sisters-in-law, Beulah Oatman of White Lake and Delores Stanke of Antigo; and many special nieces and nephews.
In addition to his wife and parents he was preceded in death by a brother Adam in infancy, sisters, Adeline (Rudy) Miller, LaVaughn “Sal” (Pat) Anderson; brothers, Myron (Florence), LeRoy and Delore “Tony” (Dell).
A funeral service will be held on Saturday, July 14, 2018, at 2 p.m. at Four Corners Assembly of God, White Lake with Rev. Marvin Kindle officiating. Burial will take place in St. James Catholic Cemetery, White Lake. Visitation will be Saturday from 12:30 to 2 p.m. at the church.
The Anderson-Sather American Legion Post 524 will conduct military honors at the church immediately following the services.
Special thanks to the Pine Crest Nursing Home staff for their care and understanding so graciously extended to us all. We will never forget you.