Robert T. Dietz

Robert T. Dietz

WESTERLO — Robert Dietz was bright in humor and wit. He worked his way from the shop to the general manager’s office at Hannay Reels Co.

Robert “Bob” Theodore Dietz died on Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Arizona — at Northwest Medical Center in Tucson — where he spent his winters. He was 86.

Born in Berne on June 11, 1927, Mr. Dietz was son of the late Herbert and Loie Furman Dietz. 

His father worked on the railroad, his daughter, Barbara Purcell, said, and the family moved between Voorheesville, East Berne, and South Berne before he graduated in 1945 from Berne-Knox High School.

A Yankees fan, Mr. Dietz played semi-pro baseball in the Albany Twilight League as “Bill Dietz.”

“He played baseball for high school and baseball for the Triple-A leagues at the same time and, basically, that wasn’t kosher, so he couldn’t be ‘Bob Dietz’ in both places,” said Mrs. Purcell.

As a teenager close to his family, Mr. Dietz visited his aunt and uncle, Nina and Orlo Stewart, in Westerlo, where he could go out with friends.

At 17, Mr. Dietz enlisted in United States Army in September 1945 and worked as a finance tech clerk at Fort Dix, his daughter said. He was discharged in November 1946 with a World War II Victory Medal and moved to Westerlo, where he started a career of more than 40 years at Clifford B. Hannay & Son, now Hannay Reels Co. He retired in June 1989.

“He would give out a crow call before he walked around the building, so everybody knew he was coming,” Mrs. Purcell said of her father’s caw at work, to make colleagues chuckle.

While at Hannay Reels, Mr. Dietz’s nickname was “The Candy Man.” He kept dishes of candy of any kind on his desk. At trade shows, the company set up a candy booth for part of its advertising campaign, Mrs. Purcell said, where visitors could pick from candies in a small glass case, like at a general store.

Mr. Dietz married his wife, Janice Alliene Ingalls Dietz, on Nov. 18, 1950, their daughter said; they were married in the Ingalls home, in South Westerlo. Mrs. Dietz died on Dec. 23, 2000.

Mr. Dietz was a past president of the Fire Apparatus Manufacturing Association, a life member of the Westerlo Volunteer Fire Company, and a member of the Old Men of the Mountain.

He once served as Westerlo’s town clerk, working out of his home office, and he operated Bob’s Sports Shop from his garage, where he sold guns, ammunition, archery targets, bows, arrows, and snowmobile parts, “just assorted things that Dad thought the people in Westerlo would need so they might not have to go to Albany to get them,” said Mrs. Purcell.

Mr. Dietz was a Little League coach of the Uhai champions, according to his daughter; he bowled at Lake Onderdonk, in the downstairs alley of a tavern, and he was a member of a snowmobile club.  He was a fan of the New York Yankees, the Kansas City Chiefs, and National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing driver Bill Elliott. Mr. Dietz was a winter resident of Tucson, Ariz. for many years, where he was an integral part of the South Forty RV Ranch, and the ROMEO (Retired Old Men Eating Out) group.

“He enjoyed life,” Mrs. Purcell said. “He was always smiling. He would make jokes and find other things amusing. He just was all around a very happy man.”

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Robert Dietz is survived by his children, Barbara Purcell and her husband, Joseph, and Bradley Dietz and his wife, Joanne; his grandchildren, Jason Purcell and his wife, Tabitha, Riannon Smi and her husband, Shane, and Ryan Dietz; his great-grandchildren, Lauren Zimmer, Trista Smi, and Tucker Smi; his siblings-in-law, Fran Dietz, Phyllis Crawford, and Alden Crawford; his niece, Alliene Applebee, and several other nieces and nephews. 

His brother, Herbert Dietz, died before him, as did his parents, Herbert and Loie Furman Dietz, and his wife, Janice Alliene Ingalls Dietz.

Calling hours will be Friday, April 25, from 4 to 8 p.m. at A.J. Cunningham Funeral Home, 4898 Route 81, Greenville.  The funeral will be held Saturday, April 26, at 11 a.m. at the funeral home, followed by burial with military honors in Westerlo Rural Cemetery. 

Mourners may go online to ajcunninghamfh.com.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Westerlo Volunteer Fire Company, Post Office Box 87, Westerlo, NY 12193.

— Marcello Iaia 

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