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Kathy Heinsohn (PhD ’98) Remembers “Oz”

How very fitting that Dr. John Osmun, “Oz” to most of us, chose to pass this past weekend, the start of the 100th (Centennial) Celebration weekend for the Department of Entomology at Purdue that he so loved, and led and helped to develop!  Oz, though long retired as a professor emeritus by the time I was a doctoral grad student at Purdue in the 1990′s, became for me a great mentor, friend, fellow entomologist, Urban pest management colleague and environmentalist, as well as a colleague in the Save Entomology (now Pfendler) Hall campaign on Purdue’s campus.  He got to know students because he still came into the office every day into his late 80s!  I loved Oz and Dottie’s hospitality; they allowed me to housesit and dogsit for Cordy (Cordon Bleu, his and Dottie’s English cocker) when they traveled, because Cordy was a great dog, but also because  it allowed me to peruse his huge basement library collection and to sit at his desk!

Oz and I helped lead the Save Entomology Hall campaign on campus (along with the likes of Tom Turpin, Gary Bennett, Mike Hunt and others).  I was the student leader representative.  He claimed that it added a year or two to my degree, but I learned so much about politics and civil disobedience that it was worth it.  He strongly supported the cause and we had petitions, forums, T-shirts, sit-ins, etc. and fund raisers.  (My mom worried I’d never graduate with the President of the University knowing my first name, but I knew I was safe with John at my back!)  We also wrote constant editorials to the newspapers on campus, in West Lafayette, in Indiana, and in the alumni newsletters.  And, after an almost ten year fight, the building where the B&G was created in his lab was saved from the wrecking ball.  It’s a beautiful building by the architect Robert Frost Daggett who also designed a sister building, the Chicago Art Institute, and the two buildings share similar features, of Greek style columns, denticles, marble floors, oak staircases, and tin roof.

Every Christmas, the Department would have a Christmas party in Entomology Hall, complete with banquet and an appearance by Santa!  One of my great memories is of John joining the other students to slide down the old timey windy fire escapes from the second floor to the ground for fun!  He was in his 80’s, but was like a kid!

Of course, I owe my career to Oz because he hired my major advisor Gary Bennett with whom I did my PhD.  He also started Pi Chi Omega, that funded several of my scholarships.  He also put in a good word for me with the Sameths when I went to work at Western, and again with the folks at NPMA when I went to work there.  He was very happy to hear I was coming to work with Jay Nixon when I made that move to American Pest two years ago. 

While at NPMA, Greg Baumann and I put John’s name forth for consideration of the Pinnacle Award, as we thought it was high time he was recognized for this.  I’m so glad he lived to see and receive this three years ago!

Oz was fortunate to have loved twice in his life, first with Dottie for so many years (close to 60!), and then later, with the appearance of Dortha in his 80′s!  She, too, is such a hospitable, graceful, and lovely person.  John chose and loved wisely.  But, almost not!  When he was widowed and had moved from his home to Westminster, he suddenly became a very sought after bachelor.  All of the women were interested, and it was obvious that some had less than honorable intentions.  He knew this and wondered about one woman in particular.  He asked me to accompany him on a date with her to a Purdue basketball game.  After the game/date, I sat Oz down and I said to him, John, you cannot date this woman; she only wants your money!!!  He thanked me, and soon after met Dortha, and she was perfect for him and he for her!

Whenever I saw John, we greeted one another with a hug!  It invariably would cause his hearing aid to ring, and he got the biggest kick out of this!  Me, too.

Much sympathy to you, Dortha, and Jody and the family!
Here’s to you, John (Oz)!!!!!!!!!
Much Love, and Rest in Peace, you deserve it!
And here’s a hug to ring your hearing aid in heaven! :) Bzzzzzzzz, Dr. Kathy Heinsohn