HENDERSONVILLE-Bertil Herman van Boer, Sr. accomplished conductor, composer, concert flautist, and music educator, went to his eternal rest peacefully in Hendersonville, North Carolina on June 30, 2014 at the age of 90. He was a beloved mentor to young aspiring musicians, a great father, a loving husband, and a true friend.
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His unique sense of humor delighted all. Once, when asked why he made the move to immigrate to the United States from his native Sweden, he explained in typical fashion, that he was tired of the cradle to grave security of Scandinavia's socialism, adding that such a system was "stifling" to the human spirit. "In Sweden, they commit suicide by the thousands out of sheer boredom. But don't get me wrong, I like the Swedes." Then, with a slowly spreading grin, he added, "I even like the Norwegians!"
His work as founder or conductor of significant music organizations included notable groups such as the San Gabriel Valley Symphony, Napa Symphony, and the Asheville Chamber Orchestra. Bertil convinced his friend, winemaker Robert Mondavi, to create the first music amphitheater at his new winery, organizing and performing programs there. As a flautist, he also founded and toured with his professional group, the Des Arts Trio, in addition to his career as a recitalist and soloist.
He wrote over 200 compositions performed in North America, Europe, and the Far East. He was known for works such as the North Carolina Medley, the Napa Valley Suite, and the Nordic Suite, many uniquely reflecting the American musical landscape.
Born in Kumla, Sweden in 1924, Bertil entered the Swedish army at the age of only 13, rising rapidly to become that country's youngest lieutenant at 17. In recognition of his musical talent, he received training at the Royal Swedish Academy in flute, conducting, and music composition, and performed with the Royal Swedish Opera. In 1947, in search of opportunity, he immigrated to the United States, becoming an American citizen in 1952.
As a music educator he began his career as head of the music department at Madison College earning a Master's degree in composition under Roy Harris at Vanderbilt University while playing first flute in the Nashville Symphony. In 1950, he taught at Florida State University, later moving to California for doctoral work at the University of Southern California. In 1960, Bertil accepted a professorship at Pacific Union College in the Napa Valley, and then at Napa College in 1964, where he taught for over 20 years. After retirement, he continued his love of teaching at Sierra Nevada College and Sierra College before moving to North Carolina in 1994.
A life-long train enthusiast, Bertil delighted in riding the finest express trains in Europe, and thrilled visitors with his model trains. He also designed and built four family homes, and was a private pilot.
He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Helen Shirley Bush van Boer, of Hendersonville North Carolina, by their three sons, Bertil Jr., Eric, and Kenton van Boer from Washington, California and Maine, and by two grandchildren, Aaron and Alexander van Boer, all of whom deeply miss him.
To offer condolences online, please visit www.shulerfuneralhome.com. Shuler Funeral Home is assisting the family.
Shuler Funeral Home
125 Orr's Camp Rd
Hendersonville, NC 28792
Published in The Times-News on July 13, 2014