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Schertler left legacy of service

Photo provided Wadena native Leon Schertler, a decorated World War II veteran who went on to a variety of leadership roles in the U.S. government, passed away Sept. 22.

A Wadena native with a long and colorful career in the U.S. government passed away at home in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 22, 2011.

Leon Schertler was born April 10, 1923, and grew up in Wadena on Howard Street. World War II took Schertler from Wadena, as he left to fight in the South Pacific front. He served as a lieutenant in the Navy from 1942 to 1946 and was awarded the World War II Victory Ribbon, American Theater Campaign Ribbon, and Philippine Liberation Asiatic Pacific Campaign with one star.

His brother was killed around the time of the Battle of the Bulge.

Schertler did not return to live in Wadena when the war was over. He earned his bachelor of science degree in social studies, education and political science from the University of Minnesota in 1947, and also went to the Foreign Service Institute in Washington, D.C.

"His career path took him into the government," son Tony Schertler said. "Traveled around the world first, and then lived in Washington, D.C."

According to an obituary written by daughter Helen Bridge of Rhode Island, from 1947 to 1951, he worked in Greece, Morocco and Germany for the U.S. Department of State, then spent most of the 1950s in the U.S. Department of the Navy.

Leon Schertler was assistant to the president of the People to People Foundation sponsor of Project Hope from 1959 to 1961.

He was the deputy director of training for the fledgeling Peace Corps in 1961 to 1963, then went on to be the assistant director of Food for Peace in 1963 to 1966, then the director of Central American Regional Office of the Ford Foundation in 1966 to 1968 in Costa Rica.

From 1968 to 1975 and again in 1976 to 1979, he was chief of plans and evaluation division in the Job Corps.

In 1976, the United States Bicentennial, he took leave to serve as the Tall Ships National Coordinator for Operation Sail. In the event, nearly 300 large ships from more than 50 countries paraded 19 miles up the Hudson River in New York City.

Leon Schertler retired from the federal government in 1979, but continued his love of watercraft through being in the leadership of Potomac Riverfest in 1985 and Operation Sail 1986.

Leon had a 62-year marriage with his surviving wife Jean (Broker) Schertler, and they had six daughters and sons who are spread all over the country. Tony lives and works in St. Paul as the senior vice president of Springstead Incorporated. He said Wadena is one of their clients for economic development work.

Leon Schertler's mother, Mabel (Thill) Schertler, continued to live in Wadena and passed away in 1989.

"We used to go out and visit her all the time," Tony Schertler recalled.

He said that he and his father would also visit Wadena to see Leon's lifelong friend Bob Zosel, who also recently passed away. A visit to Bob and Jean Zosel two years ago was the last time Leon set foot in Wadena.

Leon's father, Ted Schertler, was the Wadena fire chief during the 1940s.