Dr. Bertil Herman van Boer

March 23, 1924 - June 30, 2014
Dr. Bertil Herman van Boer

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Dr. Bertil Herman van Boer, Sr. accomplished conductor, composer, concert flautist, and music educator, went to his eternal rest peacefully in Hendersonville, North Carolina on June 30, 2014 at the age of 90. He was a beloved mentor to young aspiring musicians, a great father, a loving husband, and a true friend.

His unique sense of humor delighted all. Once, when asked why he made the move to immigrate to the United States from his native Sweden, he explained in typical fashion, that he was tired of the cradle to grave security of Scandinaviaís socialism, adding that such a system was ìstiflingî to the human spirit. ìIn Sweden, they commit suicide by the thousands out of sheer boredom. But donít get me wrong, I like the Swedes.î Then, with a slowly spreading grin, he added, ìI even like the Norwegians!î

His work as founder or conductor of significant music organizations included notable groups such as the San Gabriel Valley Symphony, Napa Symphony, and the Asheville Chamber Orchestra. Bertil convinced his friend, winemaker Robert Mondavi, to create the first music amphitheater at his new winery, organizing and performing programs there. As a flautist, he also founded and toured with his professional group, the Des Arts Trio, in addition to his career as a recitalist and soloist.

He wrote over 200 compositions performed in North America, Europe, and the Far East. He was known for works such as the North Carolina Medley, the Napa Valley Suite, and the Nordic Suite, many uniquely reflecting the American musical landscape.

Born in Kumla, Sweden in 1924, Bertil entered the Swedish army at the age of only 13, rising rapidly to become that countryís youngest lieutenant at 17. In recognition of his musical talent, he received training at the Royal Swedish Academy in flute, conducting, and music composition, and performed with the Royal Swedish Opera. In 1947, in search of opportunity, he immigrated to the United States, becoming an American citizen in 1952.

As a music educator he began his career as head of the music department at Madison College earning a Masterís degree in composition under Roy Harris at Vanderbilt University while playing first flute in the Nashville Symphony. In 1950, he taught at Florida State University, later moving to California for doctoral work at the University of Southern California. In 1960, Bertil accepted a professorship at Pacific Union College in the Napa Valley, and then at Napa College in 1964, where he taught for over 20 years. After retirement, he continued his love of teaching at Sierra Nevada College and Sierra College before moving to North Carolina in 1994.

A life-long train enthusiast, Bertil delighted in riding the finest express trains in Europe, and thrilled visitors with his model trains. He also designed and built four family homes, and was a private pilot.

He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Helen Shirley Bush van Boer, of Hendersonville North Carolina, by their three sons, Bertil Jr., Eric, and Kenton van Boer from Washington, California and Maine, and by two grandchildren, Aaron and Alexander van Boer, all of whom deeply miss him.

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  • March 09, 2023
    Jim Pryts says:
    He brought excellence to the Napa College Concert Choir, and coaxed sublime beauty from our voices. He gave us a great gift, when he convinced his friend, Jester Hairston to lead us in a special concert. Bertil was a master musician and brilliant choir director, and he was also a good friend to knock around with in Disneyland after a choir recital in Southern California. Skoll, Bertil. Thank you!

  • July 08, 2014
    Phyllis Drye says:
    To the family of Dr. Bertil Human van Boer. Please accept my sincere condolences for your loss. May you always fine solace in the wonderful memories you've shared together. And may the God of all comfort give you peace at this most difficult time

  • July 13, 2014
    Francine & Roger Varady says:
    Helen and family, We are so very sorry to hear of Bertil's passing. We know your many years of shared experiences and memories will live in your heart forever. For now, may those memories bring you peace. Best regards, Francine and Roger Varady (in the Kidwell house!!)

  • July 14, 2014
    Brenda Phetteplace says:
    I haven't seen Bertil in a number of years but I remember him fondly. As a conductor of the St. Matthias chamber concerts, he was always kind, funny, wise and brought order to our chaos. We were lucky to have him and to know him.

  • July 19, 2014
    Williams says:
    My sincere condolences to the family take comfort in knowing that a momentous time; when it will possible to see; ìDeath swallow up forever.î 1 Corinthian 15:54.