Closing Chord: Robert F. Mertz

Despite his quiet and genteel nature coupled with the fact that he was a relative “late-comer” to the world of the theatre organ, Lafayette, IN native Robert F. (Bob) Mertz, who passed away November 24, 2013, had a major impact in the theatre organ world in a short period of time. He was 89 years old.

Bob Mertz was born in Lafayette, IN on February 15, 1924, one of five children. He graduated from Lafayette Jefferson High School and studied business at Indiana University. He made his career as a bookkeeper and accountant, which served him well throughout his life as Bob took good care of his dollars, and was most generous with them as well.

Those of us in Lafayette involved with the Long Center and the Wurlitzer there became aware of the kindly gentleman attending concerts, usually in the company of his older sister (and later, his brother) who was wheelchair bound. But Bob made sure they got to the concerts.

The rebuilding and reinstallation of the instrument from 1989-1991 caught Bob’s attention. While attending an annual meeting of the Long Center Theatre Organ Society, he became aware of a $14,000 debt still owed a local bank after the LCTOS completed the reinstallation. Imagine the surprise when this mild-mannered gentlemen dropped off a check for the full amount of the debt. And it was not the last check the LCTOS received from Mr. Mertz. Over the years, Bob Mertz donated more than $50,000 to the Long Center Theatre Organ Society. In June of 2012, the organ concert series at Long Center was officially named in his honor.

He continued to support the organization, almost single-handedly keeping it afloat during some lean attendance years. And he began attending concerts in Indianapolis staged by the Central Indiana Chapter. With ATOS moving into full fund-raising mode, Bob expanded his supportive reach with a gift of $100,000 to ATOS back in 2011, the third largest donation the organization has ever received.

During his life, he supported many causes in the Lafayette area; was a member of the local Elks Lodge; the Masonic Lodge; was a 60-year member of the American Legion having served his country during WW II; and he was a member of the Trinity United Methodist Church.

His quiet demeanor masked a delightful wit. He took great joy in the fact that the Christmas tree in the window of what was his home nearly his entire life was always up and lit 365 days a year. He will be missed by the many people he touched through his friendship, his service and his generosity.

Ken Double

photo: ATOS President and CE Ken Double with the late Bob Mertz at Long Center, Lafayette, IN, June 2012.