Maj. Leon R. Bertschy II, USMC, Ret’d, age 62 years of Niles, Michigan; husband, father, son, brother, bird hunter, gardener, always a proud Marine “Oorah!”, and friend died peacefully at 12:50 p.m. on Friday, October 6, 2023 with his family gathered around at his home following a 2 week battle against an aggressive cancer.
He was born on January 13, 1961 in Gravette, Arkansas to Leon Ray and Peggy Sue (Sandlin) Bertschy, Sr. He was graduated from Gravette High School in 1979, and continued his education at the University of Arkansas, earning a bachelor degree, and earned a Master of Business Administration from Colorado Technical University. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1983, beginning a military service career of twenty years active duty and reserve. He was honorably discharged in 2005, having achieved the rank of U.S. Marine Corps Major.
In his civilian life, Leon was employed for many years as a manager of an animal health distribution site. For the past several years he has been a Senior Operations Specialist for the South Bend, Indiana production plant of KBR/Honeywell (formerly Bendix Aerospace). He has lived in Niles since 1999.
Leon was born and raised in the Church of Christ, and was baptized in 1975 at the Bentonville, Arkansas Church of Christ. In Niles, he was a member of the Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Parish. He was a member and Past Commander of the Lt. William E. Lozier Post #10704 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Cassopolis, Michigan and has participated in the activities of the Saint Joseph Valley Marine Corps Detachment #895 in South Bend. He was a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Niles Elks #1322, and earlier in his professional career had volunteered as an advisor to Junior Achievement.
He enjoyed outdoor activities including annual trips for upland bird hunting in Michigan’s northwest lower peninsula, for which a detailed atlas of his most successful covers will remain with him. He raised and trained English Setters. At home, he worked to keep the yard looking nice, and maintained an amazing garden, using his engineering acumen to design an arched trellis for pumpkin vines so that he might successfully grow great pumpkins in his compact yard. He was a loyal fan of the University of Michigan football team and Detroit Tigers Baseball, which he watched on television, always with a gathering of family and friends.
Leon was first married on July 26, 1986 to Barbara Helen Blake. Later, on July 11, 2009 in Bentonville he married the former Gretchen Marie (Guentert) Butler. He was preceded in death by his father, Leon Ray Bertschy, Sr. on February 7, 2022.
Surviving family includes his wife, Gretchen Bertschy; his sons Alexander Louis Bertschy of Post Falls, Idaho and Austin Michael Bertschy of Niles; Leon’s mother, Peggy Bertschy of Gravette and Leon’s siblings, Craig (& Patti) Bertschy, Cheryl (& Greg) Woodruff, and Shannon (& Norman) Mitchell, all of Gravette; Gretchen’s children, Catherine Morris Butler of Denver, Colorado, Abigail Louise Butler, and Erin Marie Hurley Butler, both of Indianapolis, Indiana; her parents, Norman & Victoria Guentert, and brother, Stephen (& Kelly) Guentert. He is also survived by many aunts and uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins; and a remarkable circle of great friends.
The family of Leon Bertschy will receive relatives and friends on Wednesday, October 11, 2023 from 4:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. at the Halbritter-Wickens Funeral Home, 615 East Main Street in Niles. The visitation will conclude at 7:00 p.m. with a Catholic liturgy led by Deacon Roger Gregorski of Saint Mary’s.
On Thursday, October 12, 2023 family and friends will gather at the funeral home at 11:00 a.m. for a procession to the Graveside Service at Silverbrook Cemetery in Niles, which will include the Burial Rite by Deacon Gregorski, and Full Military Honors for Major Bertschy by the United State Marine Corps Honor Guard, assisted by American Legion Post #51 of Buchanan, Michigan.
Contributions in memory of Leon may be made to the Friends of Silverbrook Cemetery, Post Office Box 215, Niles, Michigan, 49120, https://friendsofsilverbrook.org/site5/. Online memories may be left at:
Leon’s life feels too short, and ended unexpectedly, but he used those sixty-two years in a remarkable manner; completing graduate education and completing a military career, serving as management in manufacturing with compassion and respect for the folks on the production line; collecting a circle of loyal friends, and loving and supporting his family, especially Gretchen. All evidence of serving others first, and following the command to love people and love God.