Moor or Less: Everyone has a story to tell — even when they’re gone

As a longtime writer, I have always held the belief that everyone has a story to tell. And when I read the obituaries these days, I see so many interesting people whom I wish I had met — and written about.

From the South Bend Tribune obit section over the last week, here are just a few of those individuals who would have been a pleasure to interview:

With a recognizable last name of Matthys, I knew that Ron Matthys had to be a farmer. He raised corn, soybeans, onions, potatoes, peppermint and spearmint west of South Bend. 

Bill Moor

According to his obituary, much of his mint made its way into toothpaste, Leman’s Mint candy and Wrigley’s chewing gum. His mint distillery and original mint wagon design attracted visitors from around the world.

And I love this line: “He enjoyed sharing his knowledge of farming with others, and spent hours talking with fellow farmers about the weather and its effect on the planting, growing and harvesting seasons.”

Yep, farmers keep our world going.

Along with his family, Ron loved his hobbies, too, including farm toys, photography, snowmobiling and automobiles — including a 2011 Grand Sport Corvette, two 1967 Cougars and a 1937 Dodge that he would drive in local parades.

But driving a tractor may have been his first love.


Bonnie Werntz became the first female to reach the rank of lieutenant as a South Bend police officer and was a champion for the younger women who joined the force after her. 

She loved photography in her retirement and chronicled her travels around the United States in her RV.

Bonnie also loved to be in her kitchen and feeding her family with oxtail soup one of her trademark meals. A cop who could cook.

She loved saying, “Presentation is everything,” and according to her obit, she insisted that the only way to eat melon was to first ball it.

It sounds like it was a ball to be around her, too.


Don’t we remember Bob Miller saying, “2700 Sssssouth Main, Sssssouth Bend,” in his TV commercials for his own appliance store that he started in his garage in 1962?

Ten years later, he had his own Whirlpool dealership and lived by the code, “the customer is always right, service what you sell, and treat your customers (and everyone else) with respect.”

He loved being in the outdoors — fishing, camping, playing tennis and golf, the latter in which he scored two double eagles. I remember going into Bob Miller Appliances long after he retired in 1997, and he was there dressed like he was ready to go on an African safari.

When Bob was 92, he scoffed at the sport of pickleball, saying it was for old people.

And as his obituary read, “First and foremost a family man, Bob loved birthdays and holidays — they were always occasions to gather for conversation, laughs, and (wife) Betty Jo’s good cooking.”

A Sssssouth Bend original


In Mary Lee Owen’s obit, a few lines from one of her favorite poets, Robert Frost, was included: “Hope is not found in a way out but a way through.”

She lived those words and apparently spread them with joy during her 33 years as a school teacher in Mishawaka.

Her teaching skills were neatly summed up in this one paragraph: “Mary quickly became known as a luminary in the teaching world. Faculty, her students, their parents, her principals, and her superintendents all regarded Mary as an exceptionally rare educator who brought joy and compassion to her classrooms, as well as the highest integrity and an inherent gift for teaching.”

She was a collector of books, an accomplished singer and violinist and often blended folk music with her acoustic guitar to her classroom’s lesson plans.

Don’t we all remember a very special teacher like Mary from our past?


Like Mary Lee, Betty Germano also was a Mishawaka educator and musician, playing the cello in the South Bend Symphony. She eventually became a school principal and also taught the cello.

According to her obit, she was the first female (other than the nuns) who received a master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame.

Besides music, she surrounded herself with art, nature and gardening — especially gardening. “Spring, summer and fall, one would find Betty working in her lush gardens. She spread her love for gardening by sharing her plants and seeds with so many.”

And how can you not like this paragraph from her obit: “No one had a more positive attitude and love for life than Betty. She was a positive influence on those that knew her and she encouraged others to be their best. She will be greatly missed by all.

“She was sunshine.”


I loved that Gary Kurtz never lost his sense of humor, even during his dying days. When his oncology nurse would ask, “How do you feel?” his answer would be “with my hands.”

He was one of those guys who could apparently fix just about anything for other people. He sold tillers and loved tilling up gardens — including his own.

Gary later had his own photography business and loved capturing the perfect moment at weddings, birthday parties, graduation ceremonies.

He felt with his hands — and with his heart.


And I’ll take this opportunity to mark the recent passings of three of my favorite famous people — Toby Keith, who sang some great country songs; former pro footballer Carl Weathers who made Apollo Creed the perfect foe and then friend of “Rocky;” and Charles Osgood, who elevated the worth of the common man.

May they all rest well.