Tuesday, March 31, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Fairfield man, 97, continues lifelong love of music

By
From page OSF3 | July 10, 2014 |

VACAVILLE — Music is in the blood of Otto Vasak, who at the ripe young age of 97 finally decided to put down his clarinet.

Unless his doctor overrules him.

The almost-centenarian is the son of Otto Vasak and Zdenka Cerny – his mother was the once famous Bohemian violincellist whose tour of Europe was cut short by World War I. Her sister Milada Cerny was a child prodigy and the girls’ father played the cello and started the Chicago Bohemian Conservatory.

“We have the lithograph done by Alphonse Mucha of my mother for her concert tour,” Vasak said. “The day she was to start, war was declared. So they gathered the posters up.”

The large square poster now hangs on his wall at his home in Paradise Valley Estates, where he lives with his wife Elly in the Laurel Creek Health Center.

“She never pushed me into music,” he said of his mother.

He came to it during his sophomore year of high school when his uncle gave him his first clarinet. After doing the math, he realized with surprise that his instrument is nearly 80 years old.

“My teacher thought I should be a musician, but I said, ‘No, I want a career that is more secure than that life,’ ” he said.

The Chicago native played in the high school band that went to state championships. Then he went to college and played in the band and studied to be a chemical engineer.

Some music he loves to play is Slovak, because of his family background – his mother was Czechoslovakian – but by far his favorite thing to play is Shahrazad, a Russian symphonic poem.

Vasak enlisted in the military and it was on the day of his graduation from Aviation Cadet School that he married Elly. They will celebrate 73 years of marriage this December. They have four children and many grandchildren.

During World War II, Vasak was stationed in England with actor Clark Gable.

“We showered together. I’m sure a few ladies would have liked to have changed places with me,” he said.

He worked on bombers and an experimental program for the government during the war. After the war ended, he took up the clarinet again with various bands, choruses and orchestras.

He worked at Chevron Chemical Co. for 33 years as a manager and engineer. During that time, the family moved to Paris, where they lived for a year, then moved to an area near the Mediterranean.

He retired in 1984.

He joined the Contra Costa Symphony after finding they needed someone who played the clarinet. His favorite band to play with was the Piedmont Woodwinds.

“It was small with two clarinets, two French horns and two bassoons, but it was a lot of fun. We had some really good times,” he said.

The Vasaks moved to the Fairfield area in 1997. It was Elly who found the Solano Winds community band that was playing in Paradise Valley Estates and showed him the newspaper article.

“So I went to them and I asked if they could use an 80-year-old clarinet player,” he said. “And they said, ‘Yes.’ ”

He has been a member of the Solano Winds Community Band since, compiling their newsletter and small biographical sketches on each of the members, along with playing his clarinet.

“They are a very talented, tightly knit group of players of various ages,” he said.

The Solano Winds Community Concert Band celebrated 20 years this year – 17 of them with Vasak.

But his time playing with them is drawing to a close. He had a heart attack in May and he says a concert that month was his last. Despite claiming concert playing is over for him, his doctor is urging him to continue playing with the band because it is good for his lungs.

“I just don’t want to have a heart attack while I’m playing with them,” Vasak said. “But I am going to still be on the board of Solano Winds and I’ll be doing the newsletter.”

Vasak has come a long way from playing with his grandfather in Chicago, but he isn’t finished. He recently completed an autobiography, with small vignettes he intends to publish.

“After I get that published, I have some more stories that I want to write,” Vasak said.

It is a respectable project that will keep him busy until he is at least 100.

Reach Susan Hiland at 427-6981 or [email protected]

Susan Hiland

Susan Hiland

Susan graduated from Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon with a B.A. in Communications. She has eight years experience working for newspapers in Nebraska.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 3 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • P.J.July 10, 2014 - 7:48 am

    What a fabulous story! I hope he and Elly make it to Dec. Wish he had consented to a photo!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Pam NadeauJuly 13, 2014 - 5:59 pm

    I hope I am doing as well as Otto when I'm 97 - and still playing the clarinet! Otto is as sharp as a tack and such an asset to our group!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Scott VasakAugust 02, 2014 - 2:52 pm

    Very well done, Susan. I am Otto and Elly's son Scott Vasak so I know that you got it right.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Records detail shooting victim’s court history

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3, 11 Comments | Gallery

 
 
Free Healthier Living workshops begin this week

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A5

Frazier to deliver keynote at Solano EDC event

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: B10

 
25th annual Rush Ranch Open House on April calendar

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A2

 
Helen Mirren film set for debut

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B9 | Gallery

 
Authorities release names of Sunday crash victims

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

 
Saturday Club schedules Shower of Flowers event

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

WIB to host regional career fair

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: B10 | Gallery

 
Group plans Haiti missions fundraisers

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

Travel presentation ready to roll in Vacaville

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

 
.

US / World

 
24 percent of voters registered without political preference

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Ex-FBI agent sentenced to 10 years in Afghan kickback scheme

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Police: Missing college athlete died on Los Angeles freeway

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
BNSF railroad adds new safety rules for crude oil trains

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
California leaders routinely use private email

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Endangered bighorn sheep moved to Yosemite, Sequoia parks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

An apple a day may not keep the doctor away, study says

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Church van crashes into canal, killing 8 and injuring 10

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Tennessee pastor, son who saved 3 boys among Carnegie Heroes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Pentagon chief considers easing of enlistment standards

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
NSA: Car smashes into police vehicle at Fort Meade; 1 dead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Former Israeli Premier Olmert convicted in corruption case

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Prosecutors: Co-pilot treated for suicidal tendencies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Guinea shuts border with Sierra Leone in effort to end Ebola

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Saudi-led forces strike Yemen rebels, blockade ports

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Iran nuclear talks near deadline; differences remain

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Prosecution rests its case against Boston Marathon bomber

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

.

Opinion

Rebuild Gaza to avert next war

By Former President Jimmy Carter | From Page: A13

 
Reid’s US Senate legacy: Obstruction

By Jennifer Rubin | From Page: A13

State moves up national school spending chart

By Dan Walters | From Page: A13

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: March 31, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
.

Entertainment

NBC, Cirque du Soleil bringing ‘The Wiz’ to TV, Broadway

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
Animal Planet lives wild with its new programming slate

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Attorney: Robin Williams’ wife wants to keep wedding tuxedo

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Eliane Elias enjoys musical homecoming on new CD

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
No ‘narsisstics': Music festivals ban fans’ selfie sticks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

5 things to know about new ‘Daily Show’ anchor Trevor Noah

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
TVGrid March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

.

Sports

Four No. 1 seeds in the women’s Final Four

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
UConn reaches 8th straight Final Four with win over Dayton

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Grizzlies beat Kings 97-83 to end three-game skid

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Cauley-Stein, Kaminsky, Okafor among Wooden Award finalists

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Hendricks’ shutout streak ends, Cubs top Giants

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Lawrie hits 2 homers as A’s rout Rockies 11-2

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Montoya has swagger back, but also shows softer side

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
A year later than expected, Michigan St back in Final Four

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Connecticut governor: move ’16 Final Four unless law changes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Raiders re-sign free agent defensive lineman C.J. Wilson

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

2 Alabama players arrested in separate weekend cases

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Falcons fined, lose draft pick for pumping in fake noise

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Racial quotas controversy re-emerges in South African sport

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
NFL suspends Browns GM for texting, team holds onto picks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Kaminsky, Okafor lead 2014-15 AP All-America team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Ex-NASCAR driver gets jail after 3-state high-speed chase

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Nebraska, winner in 14 of last 15, at front of Big Ten surge

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
McGraw appreciates Notre Dame women’s run more than ever

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Gonzaga’s great season ends in Elite Eight but more ahead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
StubHub files lawsuit against Ticketmaster

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Judge again rules Joe Paterno can’t sue for contract breach

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Free agent linebacker Lance Briggs visiting with 49ers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Fiancee says she discarded box at Aaron Hernandez’s request

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
.

Business

US consumer spending edges up 0.1 percent in February

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
UnitedHealth bulks up for prescription drug cost battle

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Business forecasters boost 2-year outlook for US economy

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Amazon.com offering to help get jobs done around the house

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

McDonald’s to test all-day breakfast beginning in April

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
SEC files fraud charges against Lynn Tilton, firms

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

US university, foundation invested in frozen Chinese stocks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Regulators plan to drop case at closed California nuke plant

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Michigan entrepreneur claiming idea for Heinz Dip & Squeeze

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4 | Gallery

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

For Better or Worse March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Garfield March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Crossword March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

 
Zits March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Get Fuzzy March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Word Sleuth March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

Bridge March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

 
Sudoku March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

Baby Blues March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Frank and Ernest March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

B.C. March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Blondie March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Peanuts March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Baldo March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Beetle Bailey March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Dilbert March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Cryptoquote March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

 
Sally Forth March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Pickles March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Rose is Rose March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Wizard of Id March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7