Obituary : William H. Rentschler
William Henry Rentschler, a widely published columnist, writer, author, entrepreneur, politician, and civic leader, died on December 6 in his hometown of Hamilton, Ohio. He was 84.
Mr. Rentschler lived most of life in Lake Forest, Illinois, but he summered in Edgartown for years with his first wife, the former Sylvia Gale Angevin (later Sylvia Angevin Thompson), and their four children, in Ms. Thompson's summer houses. He, a slicing, crafty lefty, and his wife were familiar and successful competitors on the Edgartown Yacht Club tennis courts.
William Rentschler was born in Hamilton on May 11, 1925, to Peter Earl Rentschler and Barbara Schlosser Rentschler. A lifelong Midwesterner, Mr. Rentschler returned a decade ago to his hometown, the site of what he said was an "ideal boyhood." He graduated from Princeton University, where he was editor of The Daily Princetonian. A U.S. Navy Veteran, he was a director or trustee of many organizations, including the John Howard Association, the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, The Economics Club of Chicago, Rockford College, The Better Boys Foundation, among countless others.
Mr. Rentschler was twice a Republican U.S. Senate candidate, in 1960 and 1970, unsuccessful both times. In 1968, he headed the winning re-election campaign for Richard Nixon in Illinois. After the election, Mr. Rentschler served as a special advisor to President Nixon's National Program for Voluntary Action in Washington, DC. Ultimately disillusioned with the GOP's changing ideals, he abandoned his moderate Republican roots to champion causes of the Left.
Mr. Rentschler's work as a journalist and columnist included early experiences as a reporter for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune and the Cincinnati Times-Star, as a special political writer for UPI, and as a columnist for the Hamilton Journal-News, the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Life, the San Francisco Progress, and The News/Voice Newspapers. He was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize several times but did not win. Still, he accumulated a several awards and honors for his journalism. He was proudest of an ethics in journalism award from the Chicago Headline Club and the award for "Top U.S Columnist" in 1996, from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Edgar Branch, Miami University Professor Emeritus of English and American Literature, described Bill as a "cultural critic finely tempered by the undying, democratically progressive tradition promoting human betterment and freedom, a tradition voiced and practiced by Jefferson, Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, FDR, JFK, Martin Luther King and beyond."
Bill Rentschler wrote books ranging from inspirational musings to anthologies of his countless columns, on topics that included politics, history, human interest, and unbridled opinion. He was known and either revered or strongly disliked for his candid, pull-no-punches editorializing. He also published Goldwater: A Tribute to an American Icon, in 2000.
During his lifetime, after an early venture as president of the Martha Washington Candy Kitchens in Chicago, Mr. Rentschler, aided by his son Peter, ran several low-tech manufacturing companies in the South, echoing in some ways his family's longtime roots in the iron-casting industry in Ohio.
A devoted family man, Mr. Rentschler instilled in his five children openness, tolerance, and a sense of humor in the face of adversity. Beyond his family, he had an easy smile and winning ways with people. He met and cultivated a staggering array of characters, including United States presidents, toll booth operators, shoe shine "aficionados," bank presidents, television anchors, hot dog vendors, and truck drivers - and he always knew their names. A gifted speaker, Mr. Rentschler often criss-crossed the country by car, a yellow legal pad on the seat beside him as he composed his remarks in longhand, one eye on the road.
Bill Rentschler was predeceased by his younger brothers Peter Robert Rentschler of Hamilton and James Peter Rentschler of Cincinnati and, most recently, by his cherished eldest daughter Sarah Yorke Rentschler of Hudson, New York. He is survived by his first wife, of Edgartown, Massachusetts; his second wife, the former Martha Guthrie Snowdon (now North) of Belvedere, California; his son, Peter Ferris Rentschler of Pensacola, Florida; daughters Mary Angevin Rentschler of Vineyard Haven; Phoebe Rentschler Cole of Weston, Connecticut; and Hope Rentschler Garbo of Ross, California. He is also survived by nine grandchildren: Christine Angevin Rentschler of Hallendale Beach, Florida; Peter Gadsden Rentschler of Miami, Florida; William Christopher Rentschler of Pensacola, Florida; Sophie Angevin Cole of Venice, California; Albion Angevin Alley of Vineyard Haven; Henry Walker Cole of Weston, Connecticut; and Lucie Snowdon Garbo, Mason Henry Garbo and Bella Hanson Garbo of Ross, California.
A private burial took place at Greenwood Cemetery in Hamilton on December 12. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in William Rentschler's name to St. Raphael, 610 High Street, Hamilton, Ohio, 45011; attn: Carrie Morris (email@example.com).