Arvid Kretz Sr.

Arvid La Mar "Arv" Kretz Sr.

1923 - 2020

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Obituary of Arvid La Mar Kretz Sr.

Arv Kretz Sr (full name = Arvid La Mar Kretz) passed away Wednesday, October 14th from complications following his 2nd hip surgery in 3 years; both sustained during wildfire evacuations from Oakmont, the retirement community near Santa Rosa, California that he called home for 30 years. He was 97. Always the Marine, he began phone calls in retirement by saying “I have nothing to report.” For some families, that might be a conversation stopper, but it was his mirthful way of saying “as my son, you are entitled to an update.” His love of teasing humor remained to the end even as dementia set in at 89. The athletic but scrawny 18-year-old enlisted right after Pearl Harbor and served until the war ended, flying about 150 combat missions as the machine gunner in the rear seat of a Dauntless Dive Bomber. More than half of Dauntless combatants were killed, in part due to their frequency of use. Aside from the atomic bomb itself there was no more important weapon in the Pacific Theatre. He was a war hero. On June 30th, 1943, for example, he and his pilot met Japanese Zeros in a gigantic dogfight around the Solomon Islands involving 350 planes. Following combat, a storm pushed them into open water. With fuel nearly spent, they finally spotted land (which turned out to be Rennell Island), crash landed in the lagoon; and were rescued by natives. The submerged aircraft is still visible from surface of the water. Although never lacking for lady friends (before marriage or after) due to his charismatic charm, the love of his life was wife Eleanore who passed away in 1995 at age 78. She was seven years older. Courtship famously began in 1948 at the Reading Eagles Club on Penn St. In his own words, “She sat there like a prim lady with a hat on, with pursued lips. My Dad asked me to dance with her. ‘I don’t want to dance with that old prune’”. He started commuting weekends from Reading, PA (where they were both born and raised) to Washington DC to see her. His daily question in dementia was this “where is my bride”? Eleanore worked in the State Department in a secretarial role that took her to Berlin where she was during the Berlin Airlift in 1948-49. This comes full circle in the sense that Arv reported into George Shultz while working at Bechtel in the 80’s. Shultz later became Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan. Arv’s most noteworthy professional accomplishment was 2 years leading the Jubail project for Bechtel, responsible for all non-engineering services including accounting, finance, operations, and technology. Jubail began in 1976 as a Saudi government initiative to build a city from scratch on the edge of the Persian Gulf, including utilities, an airport, and water desalination plant. 350K people live there today. They made hooch on the sly since alcohol was forbidden, and formed deep friendships lasting decades. Eleanore set her career aside to support his; and to raise children which she did with glee, rewarded with two sons who could do no wrong in her eyes. Together, she and my Dad attended every cross-country meet (that was me), chess tournament (that was my brother), and music concert (both of us). Emblematic of their character, Arv and Eleanore treated their younger son’s bride Mary like a beloved daughter, even after divorce. Unfortunately, Allan was lost to heart failure in 2017 at the age of 64. Arv Sr is survived by his eldest son Arv Jr, his daughter-in-law Barbara, and their two beautiful adult girls, Teri and Tracy. It was the smile of those granddaughters that lifted him the most; never losing his ability to recognize their faces; a blessing that will be cherished along with all our fond memories of him. He patiently tried to teach them how to fish and play tennis to no avail. They loved him dearly. He was good at golf; committed to the uniquely hilly course at Green Hills Country Club in Millbrae where he remained a member for 27 years, even after moving to Orinda for work. After 15 years at Bechtel, Arv retired with Eleanore to Oakmont, still playing golf, but also tennis (on the Oakmont traveling team) twice weekly until 85. His trademark drop shot was the cruelest stroke in tennis. Before her death from cancer in 2015, his close companion in later years was girlfriend Barbara McLaughlin (affectionately known in the Kretz family as Barbara Sr). She knew and loved his wife Eleanore, waiting 12 years after her death before approaching Arv for a date. She renewed the international travel with him that Eleanore deeply enjoyed doing with him in the 70’s and 80’s. Arv didn’t really like travel that much (had too much of it on business); and did it to please them. His two sons, his beloved daughter-in-law, the only person that could truly put him in his place (Kretz men are notoriously full of themselves:-), and two granddaughters took him on a trip to France in 2002, where his resistance met accordion music in the Metro, the Eiffel Tower, the River Seine, the Mona Lisa, and Notre-Dame. He was the one family member able to coax his youngest granddaughter to end her tearful resistance to a chalk portrait in Montmartre; a precious family possession. As the saying goes, we will always have Paris. Barbara Sr remained utterly loyal even as dementia robbed Arv of the blinding intelligence that marked his business leadership and family discussions, creating some challenging mood swings. The kindness of his three-person team; Matt, Eroni, and Fereti in skillfully managing care since 2013 created many moments of enjoyment for him, for his family, and for them. He will be most remembered for his relentless teasing of those he loved; the surest sign of his affection and contentment. He especially enjoyed when someone dished it back. He would say “good shot”!
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