February 18, 1927 – September 7, 2020
Nearly every day for the past several years, Bob Dietz would make his pilgrimage to Bert’s Café in South Lake Tahoe. If you knew Bob, you would know that the first thing that the staff would do, even before he entered the building, was to warm a coffee cup with hot water so that the cup didn’t cool the coffee. His daily trips to Bert’s were not out of habit or routine, perhaps more of a ritual. But really, Bert’s was like a remote extension of his living room, which is saying something … since his living room, with its incredible view of Mt Tallac was his sanctuary. And when the sun was just right, his cathedral.
It is not surprising that he found comfort in the place and the people at Bert’s. It was a restaurant after all, his Cheers. If you are one of the thousands of people who worked in one of the restaurants at the Sahara Tahoe (High Sierra, Horizon) during his tenure, you probably remember him as the boss who insisted on hard work, but was absolutely fair and who you could count on to have your back.
Bob was born in Washington, Rhode Island on February 18, 1927 to Joseph Francis Dietz and Susan Mancini Dietz. Bob’s brother Francis (Frank) was two years older and was his best friend throughout their childhood and young adulthood. Due to the conditions during the Great Depression, Bob and Frank ended up in temporary foster care while their parents searched for work. This cemented their bond as brothers-in-arms. Bob’s nickname from his brother was “Bean-Head.” Why this nickname? It is anybody’s guess, since Frank died in March 1945 during the Battle of the Bulge.
Wanting to join his brother in the fight, Bob quit high school early so he could, join the Navy. He was assigned to the USS Oberon as a quartermaster. He loved his time in the Navy and even joined the merchant marines at the end of his service in the Navy. The USS Oberon had regular reunions, which he always greatly anticipated, even hosting his crewmates in Tahoe one year.
Upon returning from the sea, Bob had a number of jobs on the east coast, mostly in the hotel and restaurant industry, but he even worked briefly in a penny stock boiler room. Wolf of Wall Street, he was not. Being burdened with a moral compass, Bob’s career in finance was cut short very quickly. During this time, Bob met and married Lorraine O’Leary. And in 1954, Robert Thomas Jr. was born.
This marriage was relatively short and since Bob had only ever lived on the east coast of the U.S., he started looking west. His first job in California was as the manager of the Mammoth Mountain Inn in the early 1960s. In 1961, he met a young ski afficionado named Mary Strobel. During this time, Bob got married, got thrown from a horse, broke his back, made some great friends, had two kids (Susan Allison and Thomas Francis), moved to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, Manhattan Beach, Forest Home and La Quinta.
While managing a large hotel in Huntington Beach, he met a woman who was recently widowed. Betty Jo Balentine had three children (Jeffrey David, Heather Ann, Julie Kirsten). This was 1969, the same year that the Brady Bunch was released. And there were plenty of parallels between the blended Dietz and Balentine families.
After a couple of business ventures didn’t go as well as planned, Bob wanted to make some changes. He loved his time at Mammoth Mountain and he had made a good friend while there named Bob Trim. In 1976 with the help and encouragement of Bob Trim, Bob and Family made the trek to South Lake Tahoe, and thus began Bob’s legacy as the best boss in Tahoe, a co-founder of the Tahoe Wildlife Care, Toastmaster, American Legionnaire, sailor, and future Bert’s Café customer.
Bob died at 12:04am, September 7th. He died peacefully from natural causes in his “spot” where he had enjoyed his view of Mt Tallac for many years. He was visited by friends and family in the hours before his passing. His family was by his side at the end.
Due to Covid-19, the family is going to do an improvised extended memorial “service.” Bert’s Café has agreed (enthusiastically) to host a Memory Book for Bob Dietz. Please stop by Bert’s Café at 1146 Emerald Bay Road, South Lake Tahoe and add your memory of how you knew or met Bob. You are not required to sit down and order, but we would certainly recommend it.
In addition to his children, Bob is survived by grandchildren, Jerrod, Bryan, Dylan, Jessica, Chris, Nick, Jackson and Ethan, and 4 great-grandchildren.
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