Dr. John Larston Reitzel died peacefully in his sleep at home Friday morning after a valiant battle with ALS. John was philosopher king of his own patch of paradise, beloved paterfamilias, devout atheist, ring-leader and hell-raiser. The frog was his totem.
John was born January 8, 1941 to John Larston Reitzel, Sr. and Nancy Finch Reitzel in Asheville, North Carolina. His childhood and adolescence were spent in Raleigh, where he graduated from Broughton High School. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1964 and a PhD in Physiology from North Carolina State University in 1980. He was married to Patricia Quinn Williams from 1966 to 1968. From 1972 to 1978 he was married to Nadine Annette Perry. He married Beverly Royall Rosser on December 29, 1979. John and Bev were one of the great couples of all time. They had passion, romance, companionship and a lot of fun.
John had a keen mind and a questing spirit. His top Scrabble score was 537, in spite of never having mastered spelling. He was an ACC basketball aficionado and a Cubs fan. He played clarinet and saxophone. His singing voice was reedy and heartbreakingly sweet.
John’s career was a smorgasbord. During the Vietnam War he worked with Behavioral Systems Inc. training dogs to sniff out landmines. He taught at his high school alma mater—very briefly, because the administration did not take kindly to him encouraging students to skip class if they weren’t going to put some effort into learning algebra. At NC State he worked in a laboratory doing something terribly complicated with chickens and brains. In the 1980s he owned HealthWays, a Nautilus club in downtown Raleigh.
His highest achievements, however, came after he gave up working traditional jobs and moved his family to the mountains outside of Weaverville. John did pretty much whatever he wanted, and what he wanted was glorious: a chunk of land, an old log cabin, his true love, a troupe of kids and deep abiding friendships. He lived well.
John is survived by his widow, Beverly Rosser Reitzel; sister, Ann Reitzel Hart; children, Rose Ellen Reitzel-Perry Dunnington, Philo Rosser Reitzel, Lillian Finch Reitzel Romero Gallegos, Eva Royall Reitzel Thompson and John Adam Reitzel; grandsons, Wynn Reitzel Dunnington and Vincent Reitzel Thompson; and step-granddaughter Caroleina Romero Gallegos.
John will be buried at home on his land Sunday, December 21 at 2:00. There will be a tree-planting memorial service in the spring.