• Credit: Marguerite Ballantine

Entrepreneur and inventor Ed Otero died on Dec. 27. He was 58.

The former president/CEO of Palm Springs, Calif.-based Aqua Sun Ozone International was known for his honesty and integrity, and had an infectious spirit that was apparent in his professional and personal life.

“He amazed me,” said his wife, Desiree Otero, who is now leading the water and air purification company her husband purchased during its infancy in 1994. “He always stood by his word. That was very important to him.”

Born in San Diego in 1954, Otero grew up in Coronado, Calif. and served as a beach lifeguard throughout his teenage years. During that time he developed a fondness for the ocean that evolved into a life dedicated to fishing and sailing. An avid swimmer, Otero also spent countless hours in the pool, an activity that ultimately would lead him to create the micro-ozone cell unit for which he is known today.

After graduating from high school, Otero went on to become a broker and imported goods. He found his true calling, however, when he encountered the opportunity to own his own business.

“Aqua Sun was his most important achievement,” Desiree Otero said. “He discovered right away that he loved the industry. He always had something to do with water. It just seemed like a natural fit.”

Initially, Otero developed his ozone products for other uses, including air purification and to sanitize produce. This provided the financing needed to make Aqua Sun possible. Otero was determined to introduce a unit to be used in water, and after laboring over research and prototypes, he eventually received a design patent that a team of engineers helped bring to life. In the early 2000s, he introduced his first micro-ozone unit for spas.

“We would be out somewhere having dinner, and he would get an idea and say, ‘You know, I can do it like this,’ and he would just start drawing,” Desiree recalled. “He had a foresight and a drive, and he always got it done.”

It was this very drive that would push Otero to make one of the most important deals of his professional life. In 2006, Watkins Manufacturing began using a privately labeled Aqua Sun ozone cell for several of its hot tub models, she said.

Achieving this accomplishment was a point of pride for Otero, his wife added.

But it didn’t happen overnight.

“He was calling on Watkins for years,” recalled Janice Norton, strategic commodity manager for the Vista, Calif.-based firm. “But whether he got a small or large order, he was always happy and humble. In business, people usually want it all, but Ed was always grateful.”

Most of all, she said, Otero never gave up on his mission.

“Eventually he got a significant portion of our business that he was hoping to get for a very long time,” she added. “That made him very happy. He was awesome and will be greatly missed.”

That pride in his work made Otero stand out professionally as well as personally. Known for his love of fishing, he would always share his catch so that everyone could enjoy the fruits of his labor.

He would go on fishing trips that lasted upwards of 14 days and would return with many pounds of fish, said his wife. “Right away, he’d be on the phone with friends and clients saying, ‘We’ve got fish,’ and then he’d head out and deliver it. He was such a generous man.”

In addition to his wife, Otero is survived by his father; his son, Anthony Otero; two sisters; and a brother.