You are here

The first Bluffton Pirate

8th in a series about famous BHS alumni

By Fred Steiner

May 7, 1912 - Jan. 25, 2013
BHS class of 1929

Question: Why is the Bluffton High School mascot a pirate?

Answer: Because of John Hartzler, member of the Bluffton High School class of 1929. While some say it takes a village to make a child, For Bluffton, it took a John Hartzler to make us Pirates.

But, there’s much more to Hartzler’s story than the naming of the BHS school mascot, as that explanation comes later. This lanky 6-foot-5-inch athletic and talented musician, following college, was an extremely popular high school teacher and school administrator, eventually becoming assistant school superintendent of the Akron City Public Schools.

Described as a person of many talents, after high school Hartzler graduated from the College of Wooster, and later attained a master’s and doctorate from The Ohio State University. 

During and briefly following his college years, he formed his own jazz orchestra, performing for several years across the Midwest.

Further demonstrating his appreciation for music, Ashland High School music students recalled that while high school principal at that school he often conducted rehearsals when the band director was absent.

Ashland HS started a stage band in the mid-1950s with his encouragement, another example of the support for teachers and students.

He also worked with Ashland Symphony Orchestra, and with the All-Ohio-Boys’ Band at the Ohio State Fair. And, he was the original Bluffton Pirate.

Here’s his story
Hartzler was born in Elkhart, Indiana, son of John E. and Mamie (Yoder) Hartzler. His grandparents were Amish.

His family moved to Bluffton when his father, John Hartzler, Sr., who earned a master’s from the University of Chicago and a doctorate from Hartford Theological Seminary, became president of Witmarsum Theological Seminary and later a faculty member at Bluffton College.

Back to his son, John, the BHS graduate. It is difficult to name any Bluffton student, even today, who participated in more school activities than John Hartzler. 

As a senior he ranked first in his class on a school honor system, based on points received through meritorious service in scholarship, athletics, debate, class leadership, instrumental and vocal music and dramatics. In this scoring he was 73 points ahead of the second place student.

Consider his partial list of high school activities: 

• Yearbook editor (senior)
• President of the student senate 
• All-Ohio Symphony Orchestra (senior)
• 5 times cast member in class plays
• 3 years basketball team (captain as a senior)
• Member state basketball tournament team
• 3 years Debate Team
• 3 years Hi Y 
• 4 years orchestra (cello player) and band (baritone horn)
• 3 years piano accompanist boys’ glee club 
• 2 years class vice-president
• 2 years National Forensic League

Click HERE for the rest of the story.