Roger Welsch, ‘America’s Premier Storyteller,’ Dies at 85
As far as the nation is concerned, the storyteller is a figure of legend, a master of storytelling.
But to Richard Schweitzer, who died of cancer on Dec. 31 at the age of 85, the nation’s storyteller will be remembered for a better reason.
Born Nov. 6, 1922, in West Allis, he was a child of privilege, a child of many stories. When he was a boy, his father made him the subject of a vaudeville act. He also was the recipient of a large inheritance. And while his parents were still alive, he left for New England to attend Harvard, a decision that was the culmination of an educational process that started when he was still a child.
He was a man of great wit and curiosity, a man of many stories, a man who could tell them with equal parts irony and humor.
At Harvard, Schweitzer was elected editor of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, a position that required him to live in a fraternity house, and he was also elected to an honorary degree, known as the Olin Medal, by the university. When he told his classmates at Harvard in the late 1930s that he was going to become a writer, there was a collective gasp, and then laughter.
Many years later, when Schweitzer was making an appearance at a bookstore to promote his new book, “The American Dream,” his wife asked him, “Why do I look like you?”
“My wife is not the star of the story,” he said to her, and went on to recount what his wife had done while he was away. (He wrote a book about his wife.)
“It is,” he added, “a great American story.”
In retirement, he served as a senior consultant to the United Nations and as