Music 02

Richard D. Wetzel

December 27, 1935 ~ December 10, 2023 (age 87) 87 Years Old
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Richard Wetzel Obituary

Richard D. Wetzel passed from this life on December 10, 2023, at the age of 87 following a brief illness. He was a cherished father, grandfather, brother, friend, teacher, and community leader whose loving kindness and quiet gentle spirit touched the hearts of all who knew him. His smile and laughter will be missed by many.

Richard was born in Pitman, Pennsylvania on December 27, 1935, the son of Violet E. (Witmer) Wetzel and Myles H. Wetzel. He was raised in Central Pennsylvania, graduated from Millersburg High School, and received his undergraduate degree from Indiana State Teachers College (now Indiana University of Pennsylvania), eventually earning his Ph.D. in Musicology from the University of Pittsburgh.

Richard was Professor Emeritus of Music History and Literature and Chair of Graduate Studies in the School of Music at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio for fifty-two years. He was a lecturer on the history of European and American Music with emphasis in Jazz. His books, Frontier Musicians (Ohio University Press, 1976) and The Musical Life and Times of William Cumming Peters, 1805-1866 (Harmonie Park Press, Warren, Michigan, 2000) are notable scholarly achievements in the history of American Music. He wrote essays for two editions of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians; The New Grove Dictionary of American Music; American Biography, and professional journals. His essay on music in the Midwest is contained in The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Regional Culture (Westport, Connecticut, and London: Greenwood Press, 2004). His most recent books are The Globalization of Music in History (Routledge, 2012), and Johann Leisentrit’s Geistliche Lieder und Psalmen, 1567, written in collaboration with Erika Heitmeyer (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2013).

A gifted composer, Richard’s compositions include choral works, pieces for piano, film scores, songs, chamber music, pieces for band, and an American folk musical (River Country). Some of his compositions are published by Santa Barbara Music Publishing (Santa Barbara, CA.), Southern Music (San Antonio); Hope Publishing Company (Carol Stream, Ill); Bas Publishers (Athens, Ohio) and Westminster Press (Philadelphia). His hymns and liturgical music are published in Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Church of Christ hymnals. He served on the editorial board of The Worship Book, 1972, a hymnal published by the United Presbyterian Church. His extensive collection of musical Americana, including hundreds of copies of popular sheet music, was donated to the School of Music of Ohio University in 2006 and comprises the major part of the School of Music’s Richard D. Wetzel Collection, an archive of primary sources that date from the 18th through the 20th centuries.

Richard was a person of deep spiritual faith and a devoted member of the Chesterfield Monthly Meeting of Friends (Quakers), Chesterhill, Ohio. He was a civic advocate for community development in southeastern Ohio, was past Vice President of the Board of Trustees of the Public Library System in Morgan County, and served for 40 years as Mayor of the Village of Chesterhill.

In addition to his parents, Richard was preceded in death by two brothers, William E. Wetzel, and Ralph F. Wetzel, one grandson, Mark J. Gillis, as well as his wife of fifty years, Arlene M. (Ranshaw) Wetzel. Richard is survived by two sisters Ruby J. (Wetzel) Bellis Vaughn of Harrisburg, PA, Evelyn M. (Wetzel) McDanel of Billings, MT, and one brother, Robert M. Wetzel of Manhattan, MT. He is also survived by his four children, of whom he was most proud: Richard D. (Diana) Wetzel, Jr. of Mount Vernon, OH, Erika S. (John) Paradiso of Virginia Beach, VA, John M. (Angela Opell) Wetzel of Albany, OH, and Dara A. (Mark) Gillis of Powell, OH. In addition, he is survived by three grandchildren, Laura (JT) Meyer of University Heights, OH, Andrew (Krystle) Wetzel of Nashville, TN, Jessica Gillis of Ohio City, OH, and one great grandchild, Olive Meyer of University Heights, OH.

A celebration of life for Richard will be held at the Ohio University Inn, 331 Richland Ave, Athens, OH. on January 27, 2024, from 1:00-3:00 P.M. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Richard and Arlene Wetzel Scholarship in Music through the Ohio University School of Music (contact the School of Music at 740-593-4244), to Southeast Ohio Foodbank, or to the charity of one’s choosing. Stone-Matheney Funeral Home in Chesterhill is handling the arrangements.  To send a note of condolence to the family go to 

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January 27, 2024

1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Ohio University Inn
331 Richland Ave
Athens, OH 45701


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