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Published: Friday, 11/23/2012

John J. Fritz, 1921-2012: Retired dentist accomplished as organist

BY VANESSA McCRAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

John J. Fritz, a retired dentist and organist who played at Toledo churches, died Nov. 14 in Hospice of Northwest Ohio in South Toledo. He was 91.

Dr. Fritz’s neighbors the Rev. Kenneth and Shirley Dantzler, who along with others cared for him in his final years, said his health had declined since he fell and broke his hip about four years ago.

He entered the hospice a week before his death.

Before that, the Dantzlers helped renovate Dr. Fritz’s house so he could return home after his hip injury and made sure he always had someone to look after him.

“I would come over after work and cook dinner for him and stay there with him until my mother came in the evening. And my husband and I would rotate because he’s a minister,” said Mrs. Dantzler.

“It was never a problem where I was tired or I got exhausted. I looked forward to coming home, going over to see him every evening. ... His mind was still sharp, and he kept up with ... what was going on.”

Dr. Fritz practiced dentistry in Toledo after his discharge from the Navy.

Throughout his life he played music and performed on the pipe organ for various occasions at churches on Collingwood Boulevard.

He spent more than a decade as organist for Trinity United Methodist Church in Swanton, leaving that position in 2008.

Music remained a key part of his life, his neighbors said. In his home, he had a theater organ and a vintage Steinway upright piano that he enjoyed playing and listening to.

“We would roll him in his wheelchair to the piano and have him play a little bit to keep his mind sharp,” said Mr. Dantzler, who is the pastor of two East Toledo churches, Salem United Methodist and Unity United Methodist.

He recently had his piano tuned and cleaned, and a friend would come over to play hymns.

“He would just love it and smile and say, ‘It still sounds good,’ and ‘It’s good to hear it being played,’ ” said Mrs. Dantzler, adding that his music collection included works by Bach and Tchaikovsky, among other great composers.

His mother taught him to play music, the Rev. Dantzler said, and it became a lifelong love.

The Blade referred to Dr. Fritz in 1960 as the dean of the Toledo Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

Dr. Fritz was born to Kenneth and Marie Fritz in 1921, in Louisville, Ohio. He graduated from Ohio University College in 1943, after graduating from Louisville High School.

He completed his dentistry studies in 1947 and joined the U.S. Navy where he served as an assistant dental officer and lieutenant.

Dr. Fritz interned at Bethesda Naval Hospital and in 1949 was assigned to the ship USS Boxer.

Upon his discharge from the Navy, Dr. Fritz moved to Toledo. Here, he opened his Parkwood Avenue dentistry practice, from which he retired in 1996.

He kept up to date on dentistry practices even after his retirement, said Mrs. Dantzler, and in 1997 was honored by the Toledo Dental Society for his long career.

He loved flowers and shared a common garden between his house and the Dantzlers’ home. Mrs. Dantzler described him as a “very intelligent” and modest man whose favorite magazine was the New Yorker.

“He would cut out articles and save them for me. When I got home from work ... we would discuss them,” she said.

Mr. Dantzler called his neighbor a quiet man who feared being alone after his hip injury.

Instead, his neighbors and others rallied to care for him.

Dr. Fritz never married and had no children.

There are no immediate survivors.

A graveside service at a Louisville, Ohio cemetery will be held at a yet to be determined date.

Contact Vanessa McCray at:| vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.



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