1932 ~ 2013|
Bernie Ray Schmertz, 81, passed away quietly following complications from surgery on December 31, 2013 at Emeritus Senior Living Center in Salt Lake City.
Bernie was born in Salt Lake City on October 8, 1932 to Rowena and Harry Schmertz. As a boy, he worked in his parents' restaurants before training himself as an auto mechanic which fostered a lifelong love of cars. He graduated from East High School and then attended the University of Utah where he graduated in 1954 with a Business degree.
During his university years, he joined the US Air Force as an officer and married Thalia Griffin, known as Griff to most of their friends. He loved the travel that came with military life, living with his family in California, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Alabama and Maryland. He enjoyed a tremendously successful 20-year career rising to the rank of Lt. Colonel. He was an early pioneer of the Air Force's entry into the world of computer automation. He served as an Information Officer in Saigon during the Vietnam War where he received the Bronze Star medal for distinguished service.
Following his retirement from the military, Bernie directed a fledgling team of information systems professionals at the University of Utah. He loved his 20 years working at the university, especially his time with the University Hospital introducing information technology systems into the hospital patient environment.
Upon retiring from University Hospital, he and Griff moved full time to Kayenta in Southern Utah where they discovered a new love of desert living. They quickly became active in various community projects, most notably envisioning, designing and helping to build the Desert Rose Labyrinth.
Throughout his life, Bernie remained a faithful and vocal fan of the University of Utah athletic teams, especially the men's basketball and football teams. He loved watching the games live and on TV and even traveled with his family to watch the Utes' Final Four run in 1998.
Bernie was preceded in death by his twin brothers, Richard and Robert, and his wife of 58 years, Thalia, who passed away just weeks prior to his own passing. He is survived by his children, Terri Schmertz Holbrooke and David Schmertz, his daughter-in-law Rosemary Schmertz and his grandchildren, Whitney Backman and husband Mike Backman, Carleigh Schmertz and Matthew Schmertz as well as great grandchildren Halle, Sydney and Griffin Backman.
Bernie had a special place in his heart for the St. George chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the chapter that Griff co-founded. AAUW's mission is to break through barriers so all women and girls have an equal chance at all life's opportunities. Bernie was particularly proud of Griff's involvement in establishing Smart Camp, a 3-day AAUW summer program hosted at Dixie State University to encourage teenage girls to explore the exciting world of math and science.
Donations in Bernie and Griff's memory are sincerely appreciated and may be made directly to: AAUW/ St. George, Griff Schmertz Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 790, St. George, UT 84771.
Published in Salt Lake Tribune on Jan. 12, 2014