Book Fest co-founder dies
Cal Otto, one of three men who founded the Virginia Festival of the Book in 1994, died November 23 in Colorado Springs at age 79.
"He and I and Tom Dowd are typically credited with starting it," says Heartwood Books owner Paul Collinge, "but the actual ball got started when he walked into the shop and said, 'Let's do it.'"
Otto also developed the Virginia Arts of the Book Center dedicated to books, printing and printmaking before moving to Colorado Springs in 2001, where he was a Pikes Peak Library District Board of Trustees member.
Otto was born in Detroit, and met Patricia Reed, whom he married in 1954, in Colorado Springs. After graduating from the University of Michigan in 1958, he worked for publishers Prentice-Hall and Bolt, Beranek and Newman. His wrote a textbook called Management of Training in 1970, bought a company called Wood Flong Corporation in 1972, and a paper mill in England.
"He had this background as a business executive and was quite successful," says Collinge.
And he had "an almost obsessive interest in printing," adds Collinge. Otto was one of the founders of the American Ephemera Society and was elected to the American Antiquarian Society.
Collinge reveals a story he and Dowd could not tell while Otto was alive about Otto showing up for a meeting with a huge amount of blood on him. "He said there had been a car fire on 21 Curves and they pulled this guy out, and he may have been dead," remembers Collinge.
Later, Collinge read about two people getting an award for their heroics in that accident. "They said a guy in a suit was there but had left," says Collinge, and Otto instructed him and Dowd not to tell.
"Wherever he went," says Collinge, "things happened."