Morinville residents were stunned to learn this week that one of their longest-serving mayors died on Friday.
Robert Lloyd Bertschi died from complications related to throat cancer on Oct. 5, his family reports. He was 59.
Bertschi, who went by Lloyd, was one of Morinville’s longest-serving mayors, having held that post from 2001 to 2012 and serving as a town councillor from 1989 to 1995.
It’s been a tough time for everyone, said Bertschi’s younger brother, Al, reached at the family home in Camrose.
“It’s not easy. It’s been difficult.”
Al said he knew Bertschi as his hockey and ball coach growing up, and remembers helping him hand out flyers in Morinville during his first run for office.
“Lloyd was an argumentative soul,” he said, laughing, and his father, Ernie, had been an alderman and firefighter.
“Community is one of those things our family does.”
Bertschi was an avid follower of the Edmonton Oilers and Eskimos, who never missed a Grey Cup for 11 years straight, Al said. He was also a fan of hunting, and the two of them would often go out duck hunting in the fall.
Bertschi came to Morinville in 1980 as a power line technician, Al said. He was irritated by the way the town was perceived, and got into politics to put the town on the map.
“The economy was absolutely in the toilet,” Bertschi told the Gazette in 2012, and the town was nearly bankrupt. It was the town’s decision to turn away a proposed racetrack that prompted him to run for office in 1989.
Bertschi’s time as mayor was marked by significant population and industrial growth in Morinville, as well as the construction of the town’s splash park, centennial clock, Community Cultural Centre and new town hall.
It also, in one bizarre moment, saw him kiss a cow.
It was at a fundraiser where residents had to vote on which local celebrity would kiss a cow, Bertschi told the Gazette in 2012. He didn’t win, but the crowd kept egging him on.
“So I planted a great big wet sloppy one right on the end of its nose,” he said.
Morinville Mayor Barry Turner, who served two terms under Bertschi, said it was Bertschi’s strong leadership personality that won consistent support from voters.
“He had a clear vision of things he wanted to see and pushed to reach those goals,” he said, and while they didn’t always see eye to eye, he learned a lot from him as a leader.
Former Morinville mayor Lisa Holmes said she was shocked by news of Bertschi’s passing, and said she considered him a mentor.
“He was a great example of a public servant,” she said, one who worked hard for all Albertans.
Bertschi worked for Morinville’s RV City part time for much of his time as mayor, and later became a pipeline safety consultant – a job that caused him to miss so many council meetings that he stepped down as Morinville’s mayor in 2012. After his second divorce, he left Morinville for Leduc.
Bertschi is survived by his son, Robert; mother Letha; siblings Ed, Al, Diane, and Ernie Jr.; and many nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts and cousins.
Bertschi’s funeral service will be at the Grace Lutheran Church in Camrose on Oct. 12 at 1 p.m. The family has asked that any memorial donations go towards the Cross Cancer Institute Volunteer Services Shuttle Van Program.