Remembering Dr. William I. Kott
27 Jan 2020
Dr. William I. “Bill” Kott passed peacefully into the loving arms of his Heavenly Father on Wednesday, January 8, 2020. His family supported him throughout his prolonged illnesses. He enjoyed a long and extraordinary life. He was preceded in death by his wife of 61 years, Eleanor Kott, who passed in 2007 and is survived by sons, Paul Kott (Lisa) and Richard Kott (Alison); grandchildren, Phillip & Krystin (Kott) Rocha, Joel & Allyson Kott, Kevin Kott, Andrew Kott and Monica Kott; great grandchildren, Noah, Harper, Isla & Liam. Bill was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 17, 1922 and was the only child of immigrant parents who, a few years earlier, came to the United States from Prussia. It was there that he was raised and as a young boy, assisted his father in a neighborhood store which was beneath their apartment in inner-city Philadelphia. Work and resources were scarce as the Great Depression loomed, but they struggled to survive. After graduating from Central High School (172nd Class) in 1939, he worked at Gimbel Brothers Department Store as a stock boy working 6 days per week for a total pay of $16.00. Soon after the United States was attacked on December 7, 1941, Bill decided to enlist in the US Army. After a brief stay at the Citadel, he was stationed at the University of Maine (Bangor) for basic training as an ASTP military student, which is where he was first introduced to his future wife, Eleanor. He was deployed to Europe to be part of General George Patton’s 3rd Army. As a combat soldier, he literally walked across France, Germany and Belgium to be part of the Battle of the Bulge (Bastogne, Belgium). Every day and night was a challenge as he endured enemy fire as well as the coldest winter on record in Europe in 1944. He was one of the first responders that liberated the survivors at Buchenwald, a Nazi concentration camp. Once the war was over in Europe, he was deployed to the Pacific Theater as the U.S. was still at war with Japan. Fortunately, the Japanese forces surrendered to President Truman saving many American lives and resulting in Bill eventually being honorably discharged at Camp San Luis Obispo, California. Although he was proud to serve his country, humility and the horrific memories prevented him from sharing his military experience and accomplishments until recent years. He was awarded 2 Bronze Battle Stars, the EAM Campaign Medal, The Combat Infantry Medal, The WW ll Victory Medal, The French Legion of Honor Medal and other accolades for his courageous military service. After marrying Eleanor in 1946, they decided to stay in California and take advantage of the G.I. Bill, where Bill attended Compton College and the University of Southern California to earn his AS and BS degrees respectively. He was accepted to the University of Southern California Dental School and, where upon graduating and earning his DDS degree, he stayed on as an associate faculty member. In 1957, he and Eleanor moved to a beautiful, developing agricultural community called Anaheim to open his own dental practice in an area that was “out in the country.” After 17 years, of building a very successful dental practice, Bill became a maxilla-facial surgeon by earning his Master of Science degree at the University of the Pacific, College of Physicians and Surgeons in San Francisco. Over the next 10 years, he built a very successful oral surgery practice in Anaheim, but he still yearned for more education. Bill, even though he was over 60 years old, decided to go back to school to earn his MD degree. Persistence prevailed, as he found a program through the University of Juarez (Mexico) in conjunction with the University of California, Irvine that allowed him to attend and graduate from UCI Medical School, then serving 2 years of medical residency at UCI Medical Center. Bill was very politically active with the Republican Party having served as the Chairman of the California Republican Assembly of Orange County. In 1965, he was asked to host the inaugural fundraising dinner for a movie star who had made the decision to enter the political world by running for Governor in California, that being Ronald Reagan. Bill and Eleanor hosted the event at their family home in Anaheim, where Ronald Reagan came to have dinner and gave a speech to a group of Anaheim business and political leaders. Reagan won in the primaries and the general election in 1966 to become the 33rd Governor of California. The Kotts were ecstatic to think that this journey started in their Anaheim home and, in 1980, Reagan would be elected to become 40th President of the United States which made this event even more special. Bill had numerous accomplishments and professional affiliations during his long dental/medical career, in which he practiced until age 89. He served on several Boards and Commissions during his decades of community service, but most notably as a member of Anaheim City Council as well as Mayor Pro-tem during his term. Bill expected excellence of himself and others with whom he worked in all of his endeavors. His “gruff” exterior was merely an attempt to teach people to do things “the right way,” with no shortcuts and with complete competency. He taught his sons to be responsible for their actions and to be helpful to those who had trouble helping themselves. Bill always wanted to leave things better than he had found them noting that “there was always room for improvement.” He took extreme pride in everything he did. Determination, perseverance, integrity, honesty and “old-fashioned” values were cornerstones of his life. He had a quick wit and a dry, marvelous sense of humor that always had family, friends and strangers guessing as to what he was about to do. He enjoyed going to antique car shows, Angel games or USC events including prominent speakers and sporting events of all types, especially when he went with his family. Bill was dearly loved and will be greatly missed by his family and many friends.