Growing up in the Depression years, Otto Vasak’s fascinating stories span nearly a century. He was born in Chicago in 1917 of illustrious Bohemian parents with a rich musical heritage. As a boy, Otto played chamber music on his clarinet with his famous grandfather, A.V. Cerny, and continued playing all his life (right up until 97, playing with the Solano Winds). His mother, Zdenka Cerny Vasak, trained as a cellist in her father’s Conservatory and achieved fame in her own right. In 1913 Alfons Mucha, renowned Art Nouveau artist and family friend, painted a concert poster of Zdenka with her cello for an upcoming world tour. Today the poster is viewed by thousands in a Prague museum. This family set a standard of excellence and Otto continued the legacy, becoming a Renaissance man.
He recalls his early life growing up in the 1920s and 1930s, and his role as an Air Force officer in World War II. His research and contributions as a leading chemical engineer took Otto and his family to Europe to save failing vineyards during the 1950s. As a backpacking enthusiast, avid fisherman and involved environmentalist, he delighted family and friends with many memorable trips to trout streams and lakes in the mountains. As a gardener and gourmet cook, he and his wife Elly hosted many wine-tasting and dinner parties.
His memory, at age 97, is crystal clear and his attitude is ever optimistic. As a world traveler he can tell you exactly what he had for dinner in a little village in Luxembourg in 1956 or at a feast in the South of France in 1957. He has been married to Elly Vasak, the love of his life, for 72 years, and has four children, ten grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
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