Albert N. Bretz, 94, of Perham, formerly of Wadena, died Monday, Sept. 29, 2009, at the Perham Memorial Nursing Home.
Albert was born at home on Dec. 17, 1914, in Compton Township, Wadena, the fourth of eight children from William and Magdalena (Auel) Bretz. He attended country school and graduated from Wadena High School, class of 1932.
After high school, he worked on the farm and did odd jobs, such as cutting wood or picking potatoes. He played softball on Sundays, fished and hunted. In 1936, Albert started working at Merickel Lumber Company in Wadena where he worked until he was drafted into the armed services during World War II in March 1941.
On Dec. 31, 1941, he married Hazel Brunko in the Parsonage of St. Ann's Catholic Church in Wadena. Immediately following his wedding he returned to the Army to serve four and half years. During the years he served in Melbourne, Australia; Port Moresby, New Guinea; Sweet Water, Texas and was also stationed at the Manhattan Engineer District; and the atomic bomb site in Los Alamos, N.M. He was released from the service in 1945 when the war ended. One of Albert's memories about his time in the service was when his squad was selected to be the honor guard as General MacArthur escaped from the Philippines into Melbourne, Australia.
Albert returned to Minnesota and he and Hazel purchased a home in Wadena, where Albert began his career in the hardware business, working for Wadena Hardware until 1961. They raised two daughters and one son. In 1961, Albert bought Starks Our Own Hardware in Perham, where he owned and operated Bretz Our Own Hardware for 25 years until he sold it to two of his children in 1986. Even though "retired," he never quit working in the hardware store. All in all he spent over 60 years in the hardware business and was sharp as a tack.
Over the years, Albert and Hazel took many trips together. He enjoyed watching football, baseball, working in the store, traveling and reading. Albert was a member of St. Paul's Lutheran Church, a member of the American Legion, serving as commander for 10 years, the Historical Society of Perham and was a lifetime member of the VFW. He was also the president of the Chamber of Commerce in 1987. In 1995, Albert was inducted into the Perham Hall of Fame for his contributions to the community. He was especially passionate about recycling and served on the recycling committee. In 1993, he received a commendation award from the state of Minnesota for his dedication and commitment to recycling. Albert was also known for spreading Christmas cheer by visiting all Main Street businesses with a "Ho, Ho, Ho" every Christmas Eve since 1961. He thought it was a good way to bring a little unity to the community.
In November 2007, Albert was selected to attend the WDAY "Honor Flight" where he traveled to Washington DC and saw the World War II Memorial and Arlington Cemetery. This was one of his fondest memories during his last years, and one that he thought he'd never get to see.
Albert will be deeply missed by his family and friends and the Perham community.
Funeral services were held Friday, Oct. 2, in St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Perham, with the Rev. Carl Noble officiating. Burial will follow in the church cemetery. Schoeneberger Funeral Home, Perham, was in charge of the arrangements (www.schoenebergerfuneralhome.com).
Survivors include his wife of 67 years, Hazel, Perham; two daughters, Colleen (Al) Gramentz, Bonita Springs, Fla., and Bette (Mike) Pitzel, Vergas; one son, James (Sherry) Bretz, Perham; seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren; and three brothers and one sister.
He was preceded in death his parents, one brother and two sisters.