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Oscar Huettner, soldier, engineer, passes in N.J.

Oscar Alfred Huettner, 98, long-time resident of Towaco, N.J., passed away at The Chelsea at Montville on Oct. 6, 2017.
Oscar was born in Mobridge on March 4, 1919. He was the son of Oscar Alban Huettner, who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany following service as a merchant seaman and later operated a nationally recognized photography studio. Oscar’s mother, Emma Johanna Huettner, née Ford, was born on her family’s farm near Mobridge after her family emigrated from Norway.
Growing up in Mobridge, Oscar enjoyed hunting for pheasant and jackrabbits on the prairie and fishing in the Missouri River. From his father, he inherited an interest in music. He sang in the choir of the Congregational Church and played in the high school band and orchestra and the Mobridge municipal band. He also acted in amateur theater productions.
Oscar graduated from Mobridge High School in 1937 and enrolled in the University of Minnesota. He supported his studies through a series of part-time jobs, including hospital orderly, stadium vendor and telephone lineman. He completed a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering in 1942.
Immediately following graduation, Oscar enlisted in the United States Army. He completed basic training in Sea Girt, N.J., and was selected for Officer Candidate School. Upon receiving his commission, he was assigned to the Signal Corps. He worked on some of the Army’s early radar systems before being deployed overseas. Oscar completed two tours of duty in China, establishing and maintaining secure communication facilities using the SIGABA encryptor, often personally delivering decoder tapes between communication sites. He possessed TOP SECRET/CRYTO clearance, the highest classification. It was from his station in Nanking that General George Marshall sent his “Condemnation of China” broadcast in January 1947, before abandoning efforts to broker a truce between Chinese communists and Chinese nationalists.
Oscar’s time in the Army took him to Brazil, Ghana, Yemen, India, Guam, and Hawaii. He travelled through the Suez Canal on troop ships and flew “over the hump,” an experience he described as terrifying in that the Air Corps pilot was navigating solely by a series of bonfires set on mountaintops. At some point during the war, Oscar acquired an Army-issued Harley Davidson, which he kept as his personal mode of transportation until he returned to the States. Oscar was honorably discharged as a Captain in July 1947.
Following service, Oscar returned to the University of Minnesota where he completed a Master of Science in electrical engineering in 1949. He would return to college again in the early 1960s, studying semi-conductor technology at night at Stevens Institute of Technology.
He began his engineering career at Airborne Instruments in Minneola, Long Island, N.Y. It was there that he met his wife, fellow engineer Katharine “Kay” Latta Franck. The two were married on Sept. 30, 1950, and lived on Long Island until Oscar took a job at ITT in Nutley, N.J., in 1953.
Oscar worked at ITT for 36 years, in technical fields including defense communications, electronic warfare, and eventually ran the EMI/EMC/TEMPEST test lab. He retired with the title of Senior Scientist in 1989.
Shortly after joining ITT, Oscar initiated his biggest project, the construction of his own house on eight acres of woods in Towaco. Beginning in 1956, he spent his weekends as a carpenter, mason, and roofer before moving his family, which by now included five children, to the property in 1960. Oscar would continue to live in that house until he turned 98.
In his leisure time, Oscar enjoyed travelling, sailing, contract bridge, and the theater, particularly Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. He was a voracious reader and an authority on classic movies and the Civil War. In retirement, he assembled a collection of his father’s photographs for the Klein Museum of Mobridge and continued to travel extensively, visiting most of the major Civil War battlefields as well as Europe and the American West. Despite living on the East Coast for 67 years, Oscar considered himself a South Dakotan. He returned annually to visit his birthplace, often accompanied by members of his extended family. He made his last visit to Mobridge at the age of 97. He knew every town between Mobridge and Minneapolis, having made the 400-mile trip many times by train during his college years.
Oscar’s wife Kay passed away in 2006. He was also preceded in death by his sister, Helen Morrison, and his oldest daughter, Elizabeth “Betsy.”
He is survived by a sister, Mildred Hakomaki (Raymond), of Saint Paul, Minnesota; sons, Oscar (Michele) of Manhattan, N.Y., Steven (Brenda) of Tucson, Ariz., and Charles (Grace) of Leesburg, Va.; a daughter, Alison (partner Mark Berry) of Pittsburgh, Penn.; and six grandchildren, Oscar “Jack” (Mallory), Julia Pumar (Edrian), Heidi, Eric, Charles “Billy,” and Margaret,;as well as his beloved cat Sylvester.
The family is planning a private memorial service for a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Oscar’s name to the Klein Museum of Mobridge, South Dakota, the ARC of Morris County N.J., or the American Heart Association.