Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

John Ottele Hay

NEENAH, Wis. - John Ottele Hay, 90, died Tuesday, July 21, 2020, knowing his family loved him.

John was born in Milwaukee on Dec. 10, 1929, to Samuel M. and Elizabeth (Ottele) Hay. Much of his childhood was spent in Manitowoc, where his parents owned Hotel Hay. Later, the family bought Northern Highland Lodge in Manitowish Waters. John graduated from Minocqua High School. He enlisted and served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War with the 198th Tank Battalion from 1951-1952.

John married his love of a lifetime, Esther Tassava, on June 21, 1951, in an outdoor ceremony on her grandparents' farm in North Ironwood, Michigan. Esther preceded John in death in November 2007. John worked for Sears Roebuck & Co. in Ironwood until he and Esther opened Hay's Café on McLeod Avenue in 1966. For many years, they served homemade meals, pies and Flavor Crisp chicken to their customers. They sold the restaurant in the early 1980s and shortly afterwards bought the Stardust Motel in Marshfield. They operated the motel until their retirement in 1997.

After Esther's death, John moved to the Fox Valley in 2010 to be closer to his daughter Janice and her family. He was a member of Trinity Lutheran Church in Menasha.

Besides his wife, Esther, John was preceded in death by his parents; brother, Sam Hay; and daughter-in-law, Cherre Hay.

John is survived by his children, Deborah (Dan) Halberg, Stephen Hay and Janice (Rock) Suutala; his grandchildren, Devon (Gina) Halberg and Carrissa (Corrado) Pannuzzo; his great-grandchildren, Benjamin, Bryce and Briella Halberg, and Agostino "Auggie" and Leonardo "Leo" Pannuzzo. He is also survived by several brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews. John's family meant the world to him. He loved family visits and especially spending time with his great-grandchildren.

The funeral service for John will be held at 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 26, at Neenah's Westgor Funeral Home at 205 W. Doty Ave. in Neenah. Visitation will be held from 2:30 p.m. until the time of service. Interment will be at Hillside Cemetery in Marshfield. Condolences may be offered at

John and Esther were loving, encouraging parents providing many fun years of boating, fishing, and waterskiing at the cottages they built for their young family in Manitowish Waters. Christmases were especially wonderful. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for providing a supportive, caring environment in which to grow, explore and learn. You were a blessing to so many and we take comfort in knowing that you are together in Heaven with your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Rendered 06/11/2024 03:48