Harry J. Otterson, 77, of Northeast Philadelphia, a former Philadelphia police officer who had a long career in the pest-control business and quite literally invented a better mouse trap, died Dec. 10 at his son's home in Trooper, Montgomery County, from complications of heart disease.
For more than 20 years Mr. Otterson owned and operated the White Rose termite- and pest-control company, which served a six-county area in Central Pennsylvania.
Mr. Otterson's slogan was, "If the bugs don't go, call Harry O," recalled his former wife, Agnes DeLacy, with whom he ran the business, and with whom he raised three children and six foster children.
Mr. Otterson invented the "Mouse House," a variant of a glue trap for which he came up with the slogan: "I'll put a Mouse House in the White House."
A U.S. patent was issued for the device in January 1981. "He was always promoting," said DeLacy. The White Rose firm prospered, she said, and it had accounts with all the buildings in the state Capitol complex and with such large food companies as Snyder's of Hanover and Musselman's.
Mr. Otterson's route to pest control was a circuitous one.
He was born and raised in the Northeast and attended North Catholic High School and later transferred to the St. Joseph's House for Homeless Industrious Boys. Before graduating, he decided to enlist in the Army, later reenlisted, and ended up serving two tours of duty in Korea.
Once back home, Mr. Otterson joined the police force in 1956, serving first as a patrolman, then as one of the first officers in the juvenile-aid division. He retired in 1967 on disability after suffering an injury on the job, DeLacy said.
But he never got police work out of his blood, DeLacy said, and he became the head of security at St. Joseph's College, in Emmitsburg, Md., working for the Daughters of Charity. The college closed in 1973, but by then Mr. Otterson had taken up a new interest: entomology.
He had attended classes at Pennsylvania State University and had developed a side business in pest control, which grew into a full-time pursuit.
He sold the business in the early '90s and moved back to Philadelphia.
Along with entomology, Mr. Otterson had a passion for Irish music, DeLacy said. She added that he had an excellent voice, and had a whole repertoire of Irish songs, his favorite being "Danny Boy."
Mr. Otterson is survived by sons Patrick and John; one grandchild; five foster children; 11 foster grandchildren; a brother; and two sisters. He was preceded in death by a son, Harry J. Jr..
A viewing will be held from 9 to 9:45 a.m. today at Resurrection of Our Lord Roman Catholic Church, Castor Avenue and Vista Street, Philadelphia, with a Mass to follow at 10. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery, West Conshohocken.
Memorial contributions can be made to the Molly Otterson Educational Fund, c/o Agnes DeLacy, 4900 Township Line Rd., Drexel Hill, Pa. 19026.