Bert Detwiler 1919 - 2014 Albert C. "Bert" Detwiler was the fourth of six children born to J. Homer and Blanche (Shaffer) Detwiler. All were born in the same house in Jeannette, PA. Bert was born on March 28, 1919 in Jeannette, PA., and died of complications following surgery on December 30, 2014, in Tucson, AZ. He was 95. After a short stint as circulation manager of the local newspaper, Bert at age 23 became the manager of three theaters in Latrobe, PA, in 1942. Bert married his high-school sweetheart, Joan Valentine Skidmore, on April 23, 1940, in Indiana, PA. In 1944 Bert volunteered for service in WWII.
He was awarded the Combat Industry Badge and the European Theater Medal with three Battle Stars, among others. In 1945, a Pittsburgh music publisher, Fenton Snyder, published a song called "Sentimental Music," whose lyrics were written by Bert. Bert was discharged from the Army in January 1946. He returned to theater management in three Pennsylvania towns before taking a position as manager of the Plaza, an art theater in downtown Washington, DC. His movie career ended in Frederick, MD, where in the 1950s he began a career in civil service with the U.S.
Department of the Army.
In Frederick, he teamed up with a co-worker to establish Linganore Gardens, an iris nursery surrounding his country home. Hundreds of visitors came each bloom season to view and purchase plants. In the early 1960s, Bert sold everything and, for a promotion, moved his family to New Jersey where he was a program analyst for the U.S. Army's Munitions Command Headquarters. In 1973, the command was moving to the Midwest and Bert accepted early retirement. He moved his family back to his hometown in Pennsylvania and, after a short time, he and Joan took a lengthy trip "out West" to find a retirement location.
Tucson filled the bill and they bought a house! In Tucson he again gravitated to the theatre. He was a lead actor in several plays at the former Playbox Theatre in Trail Dust Town, then moved on to the Southern Arizona Light Opera Company (SALOC) for additional acting experience. He was selected for roles in several movies filmed at Old Tucson, Mescal and Arivaca. He was directed by Michael Landon in one of them. Bert also appeared in several episodes of the TV series "Little House on the Prairie." He was also active in print modeling and TV commercials. His first spot earned him recognition by the public as "The Man with the Green Valley Grin." Bert was a member of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and the Actors' Equity Association. Bert connected with the Tucson Gilbert & Sullivan Theater group after appearing at the Temple of Music and Art in "The Student Prince." He acted and sang in several G&S shows, became the company's director and, in 1986 founded the Plaza Dinner Theater in the conference center of the former mid-town hotel. The dinner theater was a big success and brought the company out of the red. Bert retired from the company in 1989. Bert and Joan traveled to 10 foreign lands, including China, Japan, the British Isles, Scandinavia, and other European locations, including Spain, Yugoslavia and Greece. After Joan's death in 1997, Bert continued to see the world, going solo to Portugal, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Poland and central Europe.
Since his arrival in Tucson, Bert was an active member of the Tucson Area Iris Society; at the time of his death serving as its Historian. As a grower, he specialized in Louisiana irises and was responsible for bringing the Society of Louisiana Irises to Tucson in 2005 for "A Sonoran Desert Trek" as part of the society's annual convention. Bert's east side garden has been on a number of tours and was filmed for the "Secret Gardens of . . ." series by Home & Garden TV. In the last year of his life, Bert fulfilled a lifelong dream of designing and creating a Japanese garden behind his home, where he had lived independently since the death of his wife. Bert was the patriarch of an extended Detwiler family. His son Barry preceded him in death in 2009. He is survived by his two daughters, four grandchildren, eight grandchildren, two sisters and numerous nieces and nephews. In his last year, Bert left a legacy for young musicians by establishing the Albert C. and Joan V. Detwiler Scholarship Endowment, benefiting the School of Music at The University of Arizona. Anyone who wishes to remember Bert in this way is invited to contribute a gift payable to The University of Arizona Foundation. Please indicate the "Albert C. and Joan V. Detwiler Scholarship" on your check. The UA Foundation's address is 1111 N. Cherry Ave. / P.O. Box 210109, Tucson, AZ 85721-0109. You may reach the foundation at 520-621-1483.
Bert was extremely proud of his entire family and its colorful Swiss heritage, serving as family genealogist. He was a Renaissance man who taught himself several languages, loved opera, played classical piano, traveled the world, grew beautiful flowers and generously helped others. Those whose lives were touched by Bert often described him as "amazing" and a "true gentleman." Bert was fond of this quote: "One day your life will flash before your eyes, make sure it's worth watching." - Arizona Daily Star Obituary Archives