MONROE Otis Elmer
Date of birth : May 14, 1866, Mc Creed, Indiana.
Date of death : July 22, 1909, San Bernardino, California.
Profession house painter. He came from Indiana when Della Mae met him.
There are no portraits of Otis, but Della described him light-skinned, red-haired and nut brown eyed.A bad fall had let him a scar on his left cheek and this mark gave him a romantic and impetuous side.
In 1899 he married Della Mae Hogan.
In 1901 a better salary was offered to him, more than a house painter's one, and he left to work at the Mexican National Railway, not far from the border.
They settled on the other side of the border (in Mexico), close to Texas and Eagle Pass, in a town which would be named Piedras Negras (before later being named with the Mexican President name, Porfirio Diaz).
OnMay 27, 1902 birth of their daughter Gladys Pearl.
She was declared to a civil Mexican judge 5 days later (Sunday, June 1st or Monday, June 2nd).
Otis worked at the Pacific Electric Railway (streetcars, trolleys
and cars proliferated to connect the differents areas of the town
InSpring 1903, Otis found a better paid job in Los Angeles; they rented a one-room bungalow in 37th West Street (south area of downtown).
On October 6, 1904 birth of a boy Marion Otis Elmer ().
Between 1903 and 1909, they lived in not less than 11 houses or furnished apartments.
With such an instability and such a precariousness, the children Gladys ans Marion, whitout being deprived of essentials, lived their first years in insecurity; always on the move (as Della had been in her childhood), they had no means to strike up friendships.In 1907 Otis wedding with Della Mae was put to a severe test.
Otis often forgot to come home after his working day; when he came back, Della asked him where he had gone, and he invariably answered "I don't remember". Because he sometimes drank a lot, Della wasn't really surprised by his knowledge-gaps.
His health deteriorated while Gladys was still young, and Marion, youger; he drank a lot and his memory gradually betrayed him.In 1908 Otis behaviour and health deteriorated with an alarming suddenness. His memory became capricious, his answers often irrelevant, he suffered from violent headaches and his dress became more and more neglected.
Summer 1908 Otis became half-paralysed.
In November 1908 he entered the Southern California State Hospital, in Patton (San Bernardino County)
A general paresis was diagnosed, final level of nervous syphilis (the treatment of this illness was only discovered in 1908).
This would mean that, in opposition to many interpretations, his mental illness was due to an incidental pathology and not to a hereditary illness.
Della often visited him at the hospital but only during the first months.
Then, he sank into a complete dementia; he didn't recognize her anymore.Because she had to provide for her family, she had started to work.
On July 22, 1909, at 3.50 PM, whitout having left his hospital bed for 9 months, Otis died. He was aged 43.
Terrified, maybe, by her husband's dazzling mental decline, Della told her children that their father had became insane, maybe because of alcohol, maybe because of his wild life.
However, the medical records given to her after
Otis death, clearly explains that he died from an organic illness
and not from a mental one. One of the doctors was convinced that the
syphilis form that had killed him, was an endemic one, i.e, not
transmited by a sexual relation but because of the very poor hygiene
conditions in which he had worked in Mexico.(The main part of the syphilis cases in Mexico in the period of 1880 to 1910, was really an endemic one).