Robert "Bob" Graetzel '59 June 16, 2023 3:35 PM updated: July 10, 2023 4:14 PM
Lt. Col. Robert Louis Graetzel
February 20, 1937 - June 12, 2023
On June 12, 2023, Lt Colonel Robert Louis Graetzel, a remarkable man of character, passed away peacefully at the age of 86 in Fredericksburg, Texas.
Robert (aka Bob) was born on February 20, 1937 to Martin and Ella Artz Graetzel in San Antonio, Texas. He grew up in New Braunfels and went to school in a one-room schoolhouse speaking German until the 3rd Grade.
He graduated from New Braunfels High School in 1955 and maintained the friendships of many of his classmates throughout his entire life. Perhaps a precursor to his military career, Bob proudly earned the rank of Eagle Scout at the young age of 13, the highest award available to the Boy Scouts of America youth members.
Bob graduated from Texas A&M in 1959, where he proudly served in the Corps of Cadets with several of his closest childhood friends. He earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Administration and had a passion for learning architecture. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the US Air Force via AFROTC at Texas A&M. He was truly proud and honored to be an Aggie!
On a blind date, at a Texas A&M football game, Bob met the love of his life Johnnye Jan Ryan. They were married on July 1, 1961 in Seguin, TX. Not knowing what or where the future in the military would take them, Jan remained by his side till his last day. They had two children, Curt & Laura, who were fortunate enough to go along for the ride as official Military “Brats.”
While awaiting his active duty in the US Air Force, he worked as a surveyor for the Texas Highway Department and became involved with the New Braunfels Smoke House.
In June of 1961, he officially entered the USAF on active duty while undergoing air flight training command school. Starting out flying transports, he received a variety of assignments to elevate his training and rank status, eventually becoming an F-4D Phantom Fighter-Bomber Navigator. In June of 1970, he was sent to Phu Cat AB, in the Republic of Vietnam. While there, he completed 246 Combat Missions, earned thirteen Air Medals, 13 Oak Leaf Clusters and two Distinguished Flying Crosses (DFCs). When returning from Vietnam, he exclaimed he was bringing his family home a “racing car” – a 1969 Porsche 911, painted Maroon for his college alma mater! In July of 1970, Bob was appointed Chief, Victor Alert Management in the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing, at Royal AFB Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge, England. This is where the fun began in the eyes of his family. Ski trips to Europe, tours of beautiful gardens, castles and cathedrals throughout the British countryside formed and shaped the family. In 1975, his dream was to get his family to ski country, which earned him an appointment to Hill AFB, Utah. Starting with the F-4 Flight Test Branch, he became Commander of the Utah Test & Training Range, and eventually Chief of Base Operations at Hill AFB where he was honored with The Meritorious Service Medal. He retired from Active Duty on May 1, 1982.
After military retirement, Bob continued his other life’s passions, including skiing, fishing, photography, making “Grätzl Sausage”, carving and checkering gun stocks, cooking and guiding hunting camps throughout Utah, Wyoming and Montana with the dearest of friends. He won numerous awards for his “Big Game Trophys” of deer, antelope and elk. He adored his dogs, eating dark chocolate, “Blee-zerds” from DQ and telling stories about his time in the military, hunting trips, and flying F-4’s at the Speed of Heat!
Bob returned to the State of Texas in 1988 to begin construction on the family’s home in Luckenbach, TX. To this day, the home is still under construction, but has become part of his legacy as it truly reflects the uniqueness of this man. It is no doubt one of his true masterpieces.
Bob was a courageous patriot! He fought for what he believed in and defended his country admirably. When recently asked if he was “any good”, he responded, “Well, I made it home, didn’t I?” He was a loving and caring husband and father. As “Bobby”, he adored his grandchildren, Zach and Tori, witnessed by the twinkle in his eyes when he spoke about them. He cherished his elders and extended family, was a dedicated friend, a storyteller and a true HERO!
God Speed Grätz and Press On!
Robert “Bob” Graetzel is survived by his wife: Jan Graetzel of Fredericksburg, TX
Son: Robert Curt Graetzel of Fredericksburg, TX
Daughter and Spouse: Laura Graetzel Derwin and David W. Derwin of Newcastle, Washington
Two Grandchildren: Zachary Aidan Derwin and Tori Elysse Derwin
Sister: Angilee, Mrs. Gordon Rose of New Braunfels, TX
Brother: Dennis and Marie Glenewinkel of Kerrville, TX
Sister-in-Law: Jody, Mrs. Rodney Stevenson of College Station, TX
Graveside services and interment with military honors will be held on Friday, July 7th, at 1:45 P.M. in the Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery, Shelter #5 in San Antonio, Texas. All are welcome to attend.
In lieu of flowers the family asks that memorials be given in his memory to the Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets Association, Wounded Warriors or to the charity of your choice.
Expressions of sympathy may be sent at www.schaetter.com
Funeral arrangements under the direction of the Schaetter Funeral Home