SHARPSBURG, MD. -- Park Ranger Betty Otto is a "storyteller from the heart," but after 25 years of describing the Battle of Antietam to hundreds, including President Carter, the battlefield's first permanent female interpreter is retiring.
"I'm ready for a change," said Otto, 58. "There comes a time when you feel that you have contributed to your fullest and have reached accomplishments and objectives in life as far as your employment career is concerned."
Otto has worn many hats at Antietam National Battlefield near Sharpsburg. She was hired as a clerk-typist in 1962 and moved swiftly to the post of park guide and then to park technician-interpreter.
A park ranger since 1985, Otto has handled public relations, conducted research, managed the battlefield library and museum and coordinated the Volunteers in the Park program, which has grown from a dozen to more than 375 under her direction. She also has pored over hundreds of letters left by Civil War soldiers who fought at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862.
"I started a file here and obtained copies of letters and diaries from descendants of those who fought here," she said.
After she retires at the end of the month, she plans to rehabilitate a late 18th century home she shares with her husband Ted and work at getting her private collection of memorabilia and artifacts in order.
She will be left with fond memories of her tenure at the federal park, where she gave tours to Gov. William Donald Schaefer, a delegation from the Soviet Union, and Carter and his wife Rosalynn.
Otto also was the park's first employe to give public talks on the role of women in the Civil War and during the Battle of Antietam, which left more than 23,000 Union and Confederate soldiers killed, wounded or missing.