NAPOLEON - Former Henry County Commissioner Richard C. Bertz, 76, who as a child was stranded in Germany when World War II broke out, died last Tuesday at his home in Napoleon.
He had been ill from an infection, said Ruth Bertz, his wife of 54 years.
Born in Detroit to Frederick and Emma Bertz, he spent much of his life in Deshler, Ohio, where he was raised by an aunt and an uncle. In 1939, on the eve of the outbreak of war, his mother and her four children went to visit a dying family member in Germany. Richard was just 5 at the time.
The Germans would not allow the family to return to the United States, Ruth Bertz said. The children, who were malnourished in the devastated country, were repatriated around 1946, Mrs. Bertz said.
Throughout his life, Mr. Bertz maintained his fluency in German.
"He loved the German food and German music," she said.
Chris Cole of Toledo said her uncle never spoke about the hardships that he and her late father, Fritz Bertz, endured in Germany.
"My uncle was fun, with a jolly laugh," Mrs. Cole said. "He loved his family."
Mr. Bertz received a master's degree in vocational agriculture from Ohio State University. He was a field manager for Campbell Soup Co. in Greenville, Ohio, and Napoleon, Ohio, visiting farmers as the company's liaison. "He really enjoyed going out to the farms to see their tomatoes," she said.
His interest in agriculture led to his decision to run for Henry County commissioner, a post he held for 10 years. His dedication to public service never faltered, even after undergoing heart bypass surgery. He returned to work within two weeks. Mrs. Bertz said she would drive her husband to his appointments and meetings.
"His doctor told him his surgery didn't affect his brain," she said.
He held the post until 2002, when he stepped down because of health issues.
He taught vocational agriculture nine years, in Sulphur Springs, Ohio, and at Pike-Delta-York in Delta, Ohio. Mr. Bertz was active with Buckeye Boys State, an annual exercise in mock government for high school seniors.
"He really looked forward to those summers," Mrs. Bertz said. "He enjoyed every minute of it."
Mr. Bertz was a lieutenant and a pilot in the Air Force. On overseas missions to Germany, he would use leave time to visit his family in Plattenburg.
After his discharge from active service, he joined the Air National Guard's 145th Air Wing Squadron. He served in the Guard 28 years as an air-to-air refueling pilot.
"He said it would be one weekend a month, and it turned out to be every weekend," Mrs. Bertz said.
After he left the service, he spent about four years as a member of the Ohio governor's advisory panel for veterans affairs.
He was active in various veterans organizations and was a past commander of the Bert G. Taylor American Legion Post 300 in Napoleon. He was a member of the Arthur Dan Peterson Amvets Post 1313 and Luther R. Kolbe VFW Post 8218, both in Napoleon.
Mr. Bertz belonged to St. Paul Lutheran Church, Napoleon, and served as chairman on various committees.
As county commissioner, he pushed for Henry County to become part of the Corrections Commission of Northwest Ohio, which built a regional jail in Stryker in Williams County.
He campaigned for restoration of the 1882 Henry County Courthouse. The renovation, funded by a tax levy, was completed in 1998.
"A lot of people said it would never pass," Mrs. Bertz said. "He said, 'I know Henry County and the people here want it restored.'"
Mr. Bertz is survived by his wife, Ruth Bertz, sons Rich, Steve, and Mark Bertz, daughters, Vicki Woods and Brenda Bertz, 10 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, a half-brother, Walter Bertz, and a half sister, Barbara Turner.
Rodenberger Funeral Home, Napoleon, handled the funeral Saturday.
Contributions are suggested to Hospice of Henry County or St. Paul Lutheran Church.
Contact: Jim Sielicki at: