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There's Nothing Like Old Friends

My wife and I lost a dear friend last week. Her name is Pam Otterstatter. We were on a trip having dinner with some friends when her husband, Jon, sent us a brief text: Dan and Lisa, Pam is now in heaven with our Father and Savior. We shared the sad news with our friends; they shared in our grief.


Pam, Jon, Lisa and I have been friends for 50 years. Jon and Lisa had gone to grade school together at St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, where Jon’s dad was a teacher. Pam and I had attended other area Lutheran grade schools. We all met the first week of our freshman year at Lakeside Lutheran High School back in the fall of 1974.

We ran in the same circles throughout high school. Jon and I played football and basketball together for four years. Jon was (and remains) the smartest human I’ve ever known. I learned quickly to get him as a lab partner in my science classes. I never would have passed chemistry our senior year if it hadn’t been for his help. I understood about 21% of the syllabus. He could have written it. 

Eínai óla elliniká gia ména!* 

Pam was popular in high school for all the right reasons. She was smart and studious. She was smiling, good-natured and kind. She was cute and funny. She was friendly to everybody in our class, no matter the clique. Pam and Lisa became the best of friends and Lisa’s parents always welcomed her into their home.


Even though we ran around together with a mutual group of friends, Jon and Pam didn’t start dating until senior year. Ditto for me and Lisa. The four of us double dated a few times in the spring before graduation. (Is double dating even a thing anymore?) After high school, we went our separate ways. Lisa and I headed off to college together with plans of becoming teachers. Jon headed off to college with plans of becoming a Lutheran minister. Pam headed off to technical school with plans of becoming a medical transcriptionist. Only yours truly stuck to his original plan. Lisa quit college and moved back to Madison where she lived with Pam for a year while they both attended tech school. The two of them worked part time at the V.A. Hospital. Jon decided to leave the pastor track and study computer science.

Jon and Pam got married in January of 1981at the ripe old age of 21; Lisa and I followed suit in September of that same year at the same age. Young love survived in both cases. After I graduated from college, Lisa and I moved to Madison where I began my teaching/coaching career. Jon and Pam moved to Rochester, Minnesota, where Jon began his career in technology with IBM. Pam worked in the medical field for a while before taking the reins at home. Lisa worked a couple of part-time jobs before starting her career with Mary Kay. Over the next few years, Jon and Pam had three children: Matthew, Brittany and Chad. We followed suit with an identical boy-girl ratio: Rachel, Jonathan and Kyle.


We would see each other occasionally but once we entered the work force and started raising families, our get togethers happened less frequently. The roots of any solid friendship are planted in mutual interests, shared memories, common world views, family values, and in our case, faith-based principles. With the four of us, the length of time between visits never mattered. When we got together, we just picked up where we left off. There were always new things to share, and there were always old stories to rehash and laugh about. Like the time we went skiing in Michigan. Pam was nearly decapitated trying to get on the ski lift. When we got to the top of the mountain, Pam realized she had been sold a bill of goods. This was not the bunny hill. This was not going to be as easy as we had all promised. She took off her skis, hoisted them over her shoulder and walked down the mountain in her ski boots. We found her a couple of hours later sitting by the fire with a glass of wine. Thus ended her skiing career.


Less than a year ago, Jon emailed us with some bad news. He told us that Pam had been diagnosed with a rare and fast-growing type of cancer that had affected multiple organs. They embarked on a search for the best medical care they could find and she started a grueling regimen of treatment. Six months later Lisa and I happened to be near the Twin Cities, so we called and set up a time to visit them. When we got to their house, it was clear Pam was not well in body. However, she remained more than healthy in spirit and good humor and, above all, faith and hope. We caught up on kids and grandkids, business and travel, and left feeling encouraged.


Over the past few months, we would text them often to see how things were going. They were always up front and honest about her chances of beating the cancer. Pam’s immediate goal was to make it through the holidays with her family. More importantly, she wanted to make it to March 22nd, the day their daughter was scheduled to give birth to their first granddaughter out in Connecticut. Sadly, that little girl will not be able to meet her grandmother.

There’s a song by Ben Rector called Old Friends. It illustrates beautifully the value of old, trusted friendships like ours:


Can you take me back when we were just kids

Who weren’t scared of getting older;

‘Cause no one knows you like they know you

And no one probably ever will;

You can grow up and make new ones

But the truth is, there’s nothing like old friends.


When our kids got married, Jon and Pam were there for all three weddings. When their kids got married, we celebrated with them. We met them out in San Francisco a few years ago when Pam’s beloved Green Bay Packers played the 49ers. Pam was heartbroken when they lost that game. We met them for dinner in Minneapolis on several occasions when Jon and I were working together on a business venture. We had talked for years about them coming to visit us in Florida. Sadly, with our busy and conflicting schedules, we never made that happen.

Two weeks ago we set up a date to do a FaceTime call with them. We linked up and talked for an hour. Like always, we laughed and reminisced about old times. Pam looked weaker than when we had seen her before, but she was spunky and optimistic as ever. They told us they had a flight scheduled to fly out east to visit the new grandbaby later in March. When Jon texted us with the bad news last week, that part of the story hurt the most.


Pamela Jean (Wittchow) Otterstatter was born on January 7th, 1960. She died in faith on March 6th, 2024 at the age of 64. She is standing in the presence of her Savior now. May God rest her soul.        

*It was all Greek to me.

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6 commenti

This is so beautifully written! What a testament to your friendships and the faith that you all have. What a blessing that friendship is!

Mi piace

This was beautiful💔🙏🏻 So sorry about your friend! She seemed wonderful🩷

Mi piace

So beautifully written, Dan. I remember meeting them at your kids’ weddings. Knowing you and Lisa like I do…..just reading that these have been your friends for decades……tells me what remarkable humans they are. Thank you for this. And ….please, Daniel….don’t EVER stop writing.

Mi piace

"Pam is in heaven with her Lord and Father."

Those are beautiful words. Thank you, Lord, for the faith in Pam's heart and in all of my loved ones so that someday the same can be said of us.

Thanks, Dan, for sharing this beautiful story of 'old friends.' You can't make old friends.

Mi piace

With your article, I feel like I have met your sweet, forever friends! The memories you made and shared are priceless! How blessed you and Lisa are to have such genuine, fun, true friends! I am so sorry for the hole that has been left in your heart by the loss of Pam. May she rest in peace!

Mi piace
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