Archived Story

Death won’t stop barbershop benefit

Published 6:35pm Tuesday, September 4, 2012


“An Evening of Harmony” at 6:59 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, at Brandywine Elementary School, 2428 S. 13th St., Niles, benefits the family of Lighthouse Chorus President Donald E. Bartz, who died Sept. 1 at Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph. The Baroda resident was 64.

“His death, sad as it is, is not a bad thing for what he was going through,” Wanda, his wife of almost 27 years, said Tuesday.

Bartz, a 1965 Benton Harbor High School graduate, worked for Whirlpool for 22 years. When it cut jobs in St. Joseph, the burly foreman, who stood 6-foot-4 and weighed 265 pounds, drove a truck for Great Lakes Metal Stamping.

Singing barbershop harmonies has “always been his passion,” along with golf, Wanda Bartz said, though when he worked nights his job interfered with rehearsing.

The couple met through a mutual friend he knew through his singing activities.

Bartz’s life will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Saturday at Starks and Menchinger Chapel, 2650 Niles Rd., St. Joseph, where friends call from 5 until 7 p.m. Friday.

Memorials may be made to the Michiana Metro Lighthouse Chorus.

Bartzes have two children, Cory, 24, and Rebecca, 21. They buried another son, Phillip, 26 years ago on Aug. 29.

Cory and Kate married at the hospital witnessed by family on Valentine’s Day rather than waiting until June 16 and their wedding at Orchard Hills Country Club.

“It was his goal to make it to their wedding, and he was there,” Wanda Bartz said. “I can honestly say that was his last good day.”

“The whole chorus is behind it, and we’ve been doing a lot of work on this,” Treasurer Bruce Nurton of Edwardsburg, a seven-year member, said. “We’re all trying to sell ads and raise money for the Bartz family.”

The Lighthouse Chorus of Niles will be joined by the Valleyaires Chorus of South Bend-Mishawaka, Ind., and quartets to be determined.

“We’re also collecting stuff for a silent auction,” said Nurton, who sings bass with the 25-member barbershop group.

Lighthouse Chorus sang the Canadian and U.S. national anthems and the Armed Forces medley to open the tractor pull at the Berrien County Youth Fair last month.

“In February, we do singing Valentines,” Nurton said. “We sang twice at the Cove (South Bend Silver Hawks baseball games at Coveleski Stadium). The Valleyaires are about the same size. Saturday they sang at Art Beat in South Bend. I’m also a member of that group. Fifties and sixties songs are being rearranged for the barbershopper style of a cappella four-part harmony.”

While there are no actual barbers in Lighthouse Chorus, “We’ve got doctors, teachers, manufacturing production people, a nuclear engineer. We’re from all walks of life. We rehearse every Thursday night from 7 to 9:30 at Grace United Methodist Church in Niles.”

Tickets ordered now cost $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors. They will be $17 at the door. To order tickets, call (269) 699-5964, e-mail or purchase tickets at Main Street Antiques in Niles.

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