Jerold Don Ottley was born April 7, 1934 in the Cottonwood Maternity Home in Murray, Utah to Sidney James and Alice Warren Ottley. When that facility later became a senior retirement center he considered the possibility of making it a round trip, but he died on February 19, 2021 while living at The Wellington due to complications relating to Covid-19. With his five older siblings, he enjoyed a loving home in East Millcreek where his parents nurtured the family with spiritual training, social understanding, and an appreciation for the value of work. It was there that Jerry's love of the gospel, his devotion to the church, and his desire to serve the Kingdom was incubated. Jerry's early education was first, in a loving home, and second, in the Granite School District in Salt Lake County Utah, where he discovered that one of the few things he excelled in was music. His teen years were interrupted in 1951 when his parents were called to preside over the New Zealand Mission of the LDS Church. His secondary education was completed in short trousers, knee socks and a beanie cap at Auckland Boys Grammar School. After leaving school, he filled a service mission on the building site of the Church College of New Zealand. In 1953 he received a mission call to serve in the New Zealand Mission. Upon returning home in 1955, Jerry met JoAnn South on a blind date. His immediate departure for the marriage Factory at BYU did not dampen his infatuation with JoAnn. He hitchhiked from Provo to Salt Lake as often as possible to court her. They married the following spring. Surviving him are his wife JoAnn, son Brent, daughter Allison, son-in-law Michael , and grandson Jack. Jerry wrote that his children “taught them, served them, and filled their lives with rich experiences.” While Jerry and JoAnn desired more family, it was not the Lord’s will, so they pursued other avenues of life. Jerry had entered Brigham Young University as a prospective music major. He prospered there, and after graduation taught music in the Murray, Granite and Davis school districts. Teaching general music, choral and instrumental music at all grade levels, developed in him a deep appreciation for the power of music to change society by changing individuals. A graduate teaching fellowship at the University of Utah led to a master’s degree in conducting (1967) followed by a Fulbright Study Grant (1968-69) at the Conservatory of Music in Cologne, Germany. After doctoral study in music pedagogy at the University of Oregon (DMA), Jerry accepted a position on the faculty at the University of Utah in 1971. His teaching assignments in choral music education eventually led to administration. He became assistant department chair until in June 1974 the LDS Church called him to the associate directorship of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. His appointment as Music Director of the Choir in April 1975 lessened his involvement with the university. Eventual full-time employment by the Church occupied the rest of his professional career until retirement in January 2000. During most of those years, JoAnn served with him as the volunteer vocal coach of the Tabernacle Choir. Jerry often stated that his appointment as director of the Choir was simply to acquire JoAnn’s services. Under the direction of his successor, Craig Jessop, Jerry and JoAnn together created, administered, and taught in the first four editions of the Tabernacle Choir Training School. Jerry’s “retirement” life has included stints on two stake high councils, a term as a bishop, and with JoAnn, a three-year teaching and administrative assignment at BYU-Hawaii, an experience they both loved. At the request of the Church History Department, Jerry completed a detailed history of his twenty-five years as director of the Choir. He maintained that he never learned what retirement was about, declaring that, “In spite of what some believe, there is life after Tabernacle Choir!”
The family wishes to thank The Wellington Senior Living and Brio Hospice for their care of Jerry during this unimaginably challenging time.
The funeral service will be private, a public celebration will be held at a later date. We invite friends to attend the service via livestream on Saturday, February 27th at 12:00.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the LDS Humanitarian Aid Fund.
Life Story Info
Dear JoAnn and family,
I am sad to hear of Jerry's passing. I know how difficult this must be for all of you. I have always loved Jerry and admired his commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ and his great talent and ability to bring out the best in the world's greatest choir. I consider it a great honor to have worked with him. My husband Richard and I are grateful to have had the opportunity to witness the example of such a special couple. May God bless you through this challenging time. Love, Linda
Dearest JoAnn, Brent, and Allison;
My love and prayers are with all of you and the rest of your family. My tears don't seem to stop. I last spoke with Jerry at a funeral several members sang at. I pointed out that my hair is now white and that I was too old to even think about auditioning for the choir. It served me right for joining the choir when I was only 19. We had a good laugh.
I have so many good memories of both of you. I will treasure our friendship always. May God be with you till we meet again.
While I never had the pleasure of meeting Jerry, I heard a lot about him from my dad, who knew him when he was serving as the mission secretary in New Zealand. That connection made my dad extra proud when I became a member of the Tabernacle Choir in 2011. My condolences to JoAnn and the rest of the Ottley family.
I first met Jerry when he was a graduate assistant to Dr. Bernell W. Hales at the U of U in 1966. Sang for him next beginning in 1980 as a member of the Tabernacle Choir. Spent all but 5 of those 20 years under his directorship, tutelage, friendship, and love. Jerold taught me that to sing meant to put your heart where it belongs - in other's pockets in their times of needs. I hope to sing for him again in times to come. And to Joann, you are the angel that always sat on Jerry's shoulder. What a loving magnificent team.