Fred Scherz Sr., 79, of Rock Road, Verona, died Saturday, November 14, 2009 at his home with his family by his side. He was born July 18, 1930 in Stokes, New York, the son of Ernest & Anna Burki Scherz. Fred was a former dairy farmer, logger, owner/operator of an excavation business, as well as a world class musician. Fred’s word was his bond. He also raised Belgian horses for many years and competed in draft horse contests, winning many of them. Fred was one of those people that had a larger than life personality and could relate to seemingly anyone. He was a master joke and story teller and provided laughs to thousands over the years. Fred will truly be missed.
On August 30, 1952 he married Shirley Reigler in Rome, NY. She died December 4, 1991. On March 2, 1993 he married Nancy Hughes in Boonville, NY. Fred was a member of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Farm Bureau, National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame and the National Academy of Arts & Sciences.
Many people knew Fred was a successful dairy farmer for over 50 years, and that he played the piano accordion, sang, and sometimes even played the Swiss accordion for Fritz’s Polka Band; which he helped form in 1978. Here are some things that people might not have known about Fred: While growing up during the Great Depression, Fred always had a passion for music, particularly the accordion. During his teens, if he had a spare nickel, he would put one in the nickelodeon, and select one of Frank Yankovic’s tunes, either the "Just Because Polka" or the "Blue Skirt Waltz." In 1944, Fred bought his first accordion. Not long after he started playing, it was apparent that he was a natural, as in 1946, only two years after first picking up the accordion, he joined the Roy Kessler Band. In 1948, he joined the Jimmy Nelson Band, and ended up performing with that group through the 1960’s. In the early 1960’s, Fred finally got to meet his musical idol, Frank Yankovic.
In 1978, at the encouragement of many of his friends and family, Fred formed Fritz’s Polka Band, along with his son, Fritz, and son-in-law, Gabe Vaccaro. In 1979, Fred’s dream of performing alongside of Frank Yankovic came true, as he and his son, Fritz, performed with Frank Yankovic and His Yanks at the Utica Memorial Auditorium, where Frank celebrated his 64th birthday. From that night on, Fred developed a close, personal relationship with the man known as "America’s Polka King." In the early 1980’s, Fred got to meet another one of his musical idols, Walter Ostanek, "Canada’s Polka King." Fred developed a great relationship with Walter and remained close friends with him over the years. In 1995, Fred was proud to receive the "50 Years of Musical Excellence in Accordion Playing" Award from the Central New York Polka Fans.
2004 marked Fred’s 60th year of performing. Fred was honored in November 2004, as he became the first person in New York State to be inducted into the Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame in Euclid, Ohio, when he was presented the Trustee’s Honor Roll Award. Throughout his 60+ years as an award-winning, accomplished accordionist and song writer, Fred had the opportunity to perform in places that you might not expect to see a "polka" band, as his band performed in 1999 at Woodstock ’99 in Rome, NY, at B.B. King’s Blues Club & Grill in New York City in 2003, and at The China Club in New York City in 2006. In addition, Fred was proud of the fact that he was in the only polka band sponsored by Jagermeister (since December 2002), as well as the oldest member of a Jager band! Fred took pride in playing music that was upbeat and lively, and truly enjoyed making people of all ages happy. Fred helped coordinate numerous benefits over the past 31+ years, and truly believed in contributing to worthy causes in his community.
Fred is survived by his wife, Nancy; his children, Nancy Vaccaro and her husband Gabe, Linda Scherz Allen, and Fritz Scherz and his wife, Kathy; 6 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren; his sisters, Marie Glur, Alice Hutton, Margaret Yauger and Freda O’Brien, and brother, Charles (Jeff) Scherz; stepchildren, Mike Croneiser and his significant other, Lori Muha, Pete Croneiser and his wife, Ann, Rita Myers and her husband, Pete, Pat Croneiser and his wife, Hope, and Dollie Kaido and her husband Pete; 10 step grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.
Fred was also predeceased a grandchild, Dominique Scherz; sisters, Hilda Zarnoch, Ida Rimiller, Anna Pierce and Mildred Leslie, and brothers, Arnold, John and Ernest. Fred was also affectionately known as "Grandpa" or "Grandpa Fox" to many kids that weren’t even related to him.
The Scherz family would like to extend special thanks to Dr. Gilbert Lawrence and all the members and fans of Fritz’s Polka Band, neighbors, friends and family.
Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Verona. Interment will be in St. Peter’s Lutheran Cemetery. Relatives and Friends may call at the Prince-Boyd & Hyatt Home For Funerals, Inc., Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. and Wednesday 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society.