|Birth: ||Aug. 23, 1917|
|Death: ||Oct. 23, 1994|
When asked, "What personality, in fact or fiction, do you think towers above all others?", Mr. Wentz answered, "Mr. Birdseye....the man who invented the T.V. dinner."
In 1920, Robert at the age of three, was living with his parents, Ruth V. and Walter Brayton Wentz. He had an older brother, Vincent, and a younger sister, Betty. The family resided in Franklin, Shelby County, Ohio, where Walter worked as a garage man for a prosperous automobile sales and repair company. By the 1930 Federal Census, the Wentz family had settled in Anaheim, Orange County, California. A fourth child had been born, daughter Ruth. Robert's father supported his wife and children by working as a merchant at an automobile company.
Robert's father was born in Ohio in 1889 and his mother, Ruth, was born in Kansas in 1895. They appeared in the 1922 and 1928 Yorba Linda city directories as residents of Garden Grove, but Walter worked in Yorba Linda. He was the co-owner/operator of W. B. Wentz and R. C. Dale Garage on Stanton Avenue. Walter died in Orange County in 1961 and Ruth in 1968.
From 1936 to 1943, Robert was on his own and residing in Stockton, California, where he was teaching in a secondary school. By 1941, he was living at Turlock in Stanislaus County. Robert gave his Turlock home address when he enlisted as a Private in the United States Army on July 6, 1943. Robert's registration card indicated he was a post graduate; was employed as a secondary school teacher; and was single without the responsibility of dependents.
In the fall of 1947, Robert began teaching at Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach, California and at some point, at Orange Coast College. He soon earned a reputation for his very creative, award winning theater arts and speech programs and became a very beloved teacher to the NHHS students he mentored for more than three decades.
Robert appreciated the individuality of his students and knew how to motivate each one into getting involved and enjoying the art of drama. He taught at Newport Harbor High for thirty-two years and after retiring in 1979, he kept himself busy by continuing his passion for acting.
Robert's personal acting career included many performances at the local Laguna Moulton Playhouse, as well as other Southern California community theaters. In New York theater, he was featured in "Caine Mutiny Court Martial"; "The Seven Year Itch"; and "Harvey." Robert had minor appearances in the Hollywood films "Melvin and Howard" (1980) and "Jimmy the Kid" (1982). He also had parts in two made for televsion movies "Long Hot Summer" (1985) and "PK and the Kid" (1987). In 1985, he was in "A. D.", a five part televison mini-series.
In 1992, Robert was suffering from the many debilitating effects of Parkinson's disease and living in a retirement community. One of his former drama students found him and with a little encouragement, he agreed to move into her home in Costa Mesa.
Shortly before his death, Robert took part in the Newport Harbor High production of "Chess the Musical." It is said he was so wonderful, that the audience was moved to a standing ovation at every performance. Robert was survived by his brother Vincent and sisters, Betty and Peg.
Some of Robert Wentz's drama students who pursued acting careers include: Harrison Ford; Peter Jason; Diane Keaton; Paul LeMat; Kelly McGillis; Ted McGinley; and Anthony Zerbe.
The day prior to Robert Wentz's death in 1994, the board of trustees for the Newport-Mesa United School District, decided to name the large stage area of the Norman Loats Performing Arts Center, the "Robert B. Wentz Theatre". The theater was dedicated in 1995, but closed in 2003, when the building was deemed seismically unsound. The theater was rebuilt as part of a $55 million construction project and then seven and a half years after construction began, the "Robert B. Wentz Theatre" opened as a district theater for the Newport Harbor, Corona del Mar, Estancia, and Costa Mesa high schools. The main stage is 40-by-40-foot and the complex has a very expansive lobby. There is a ticket booth, a concession area, two dressing rooms, and a music library. The complex even has a set construction room, complete with garage doors, plus a choral practice room, a green room, and an orchestra pit. There is a very state-of-the-art lighting and sound system and also a black-box performance area.
For you Mr. Wentz and there is no doubt you attend every performance....
Links to Find-A-Grave memorials of some other Newport Harbor High school graduates and teachers can be found listed with Lt. Kent Anderson, class of 1962:
Lieutenant Kent Anderson - Class of 1962
Cremated, Location of ashes is unknown.
Created by: Jo-Ann
Record added: Jul 11, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 93446429
On my wall forever: you, seated in the audience of a darkened theater, on a break from rehearsal at Laguna Playhouse. You are unforgettable.|
Added: Jan. 2, 2014
Remembering you this Veteran's Day...|
Added: Nov. 10, 2012
Many happy wishes to you on your special day!|
Added: Aug. 23, 2012
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