Sept. 18, 1921 – Dec. 18, 2016
Walter E. Reitz, of Amherst, who for 60 years directed many choral groups and musicals at Amherst High School and elsewhere, died Dec. 18. He was 95.
Born in Weston Mills, near Olean, he came to Buffalo with his family as a boy and attended School 19 and Lafayette High School.
He enlisted in the Civilian Conservation Corps after high school and directed auditions for variety shows. This inspired him to enroll at Fredonia State Teachers College.
He interrupted his studies for a degree in music education to serve in the Army Air Forces during World War II as a flight radio operator in the South Pacific, Australia, South America, Africa and Italy.
After the war, he returned to Fredonia, where he was elected class president and completed his degree. He later earned a master’s degree in school administration from the University at Buffalo.
He taught for a year in Chautauqua County and in 1948 he accepted a position at Amherst High School. He later became coordinator of music for all six Amherst schools. As director of choral programs, he earned renown for the school’s high-quality productions of Broadway musicals.
He retired in 1977.
When he received the Amherst Central School Educator Emeritus Award in 2005, his biographical sketch noted that during his first production of “The Music Man,” he kept a horse in his garage during the week of the show so that the Wells Fargo wagon could be pulled on stage by a live animal.
Mr. Reitz also founded the Amherst Male Glee Club, now the Red Blazer Men’s Chorus, as an adult school activity in 1948 and directed it for 60 years.
The group is known for its annual Red Blazers Varieties show, featuring singing, dancing, vaudeville routines and special guests, which he produced and directed. The group hosted the national convention of the Associated Male Choruses of America in 1998.
He also conducted church choirs and was the director of the Ismailia Shrine Chanters for more than 40 years.
His wife of 64 years, the former Evelyn M. Goyne, died in 2010.
Survivors include three sons, Robert, David and Raymond; seven grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
Family and friends are invited to attend an informal reception on from 2 to 5 p.m. on Jan. 14 at Beechwood Continuing Care, 2235 Millersport Highway, Amherst.