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Otto Kuxhaus World War II collection

Identifier: RHC-57

Collection Description

Collection includes documents, articles, postcards, photographs, brochures and other printed materials, badges and memorabilia collected by Kuxhaus. Materials document his tour of duty with the 81st Squadron and his leisure time activities. Some photos of family and friends are also included.


  • Creation: 1941-1971


Access to Materials

Collection is open for research use.

Materials may be accessed by request at Special Collections and University Archives in Seidman House. Materials do not circulate.

Publication Rights

For information on copyright or permissions for this collection, contact Grand Valley State University Special Collections.


Otto was born and raised in Okeene, Oklahoma, a farming community comprised primarily of German/Russian/Prussian immigrants. He was the fifth of six children born to Frederick and Anna Kuxhaus, who immigrated from Oberdorf, Russia in 1907. Following graduation from Okeene High School in 1935, he sought farm work in Colorado but soon followed other family members north to Saginaw, Michigan where he found work in a foundry. He moved to the Detroit area in the early 1940s, and worked at the Forging and Casting Corporation in Ferndale, Michigan. In 1941 he enlisted in the Army Air Forces and was assigned to the 81st Squadron, 12th Bomb Group. He served in North Africa, Italy, and India before being honorably discharged in 1945.

In September 1945 he married Ruth Esther Kotowski. They had three children: Byron (1947), David (1949), and Valeria (1951). Otto enrolled in the Nursery and Landscape Management Short Course Program at what was then Michigan State College (now Michigan State University) in East Lansing, Michigan on the G.I. Bill. During the week he lived in a WW II Quonset hut repurposed into student housing along with other returning veterans. When he wasn't in class, he worked at General Motors’ Lansing Oldsmobile assembly plant and traveled back to Ferndale on weekends. He started his own landscaping business following completion of the program. In the early 1950s he became employed by the General Motors Corporation to help direct the landscaping for its Eero Saarinen-designed technical center being built in Warren, Michigan.

The day after Thanksgiving 1952 Otto was hospitalized with what at first was thought to be malaria, as he had contracted the disease when he was in the service. He was later diagnosed with poliomyelitis and was not expected to live as he was paralyzed from the neck down. He was hospitalized for over a year, seven months of which were spent in an iron lung. He was gradually weaned from the iron lung and ventilator. Although he was not expected to walk again, through years of intense physical therapy and persistence he regained partial use of his legs and arms and was able to walk. Despite his handicap he returned to his work at the GM Tech Center and served as supervisor of its service section until his death. He died on May 9, 1973, two days after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage.


1.5 Linear feet (1 box and 2 flat boxes)

Language of Materials


Source of Acquisition

Acquired from Valeria Long, daughter and Grand Valley State University Libraries librarian.

Alternative Format Available

A selection of photographs from this collection have been digitized and are available electronically in our Digital Collection.

Otto Kuxhaus World War II collection, RHC-57
Special Collections & University Archives
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Grand Valley State University Special Collections and University Archives Repository

Seidman House
1 Campus Drive
Allendale MI 49401 United States