Frank Ditzler

1924 – 1994

Ditzler remembered as more than archer

[This article appeared in the Daily News, Lebanon on October 26th 1994]

Do you ever think about death? I do. A lot. One of the things I wonder about is exactly how I’m going to die. It would be nice to die suddenly – without prior knowledge or pain – doing something I enjoy. Sort of the way Frank Ditzler passed away two weeks ago.

Yet what makes Ditzler’s death special is not only the way he went, but the fact that it was the perfect ending to a full and happy life.

The 70-year-old Ditzler died of a heart attack on October 11th, 1994 while hunting deer with a bow, on the 85 acres of mountain land in Cornwall that belongs to the Hemlock Archery Club. Ditzler, who had a history of heart problems, apparently died while coming out of a tree stand. He was hunting alone and he was found by a group of friends when he didn’t show up for a meeting later that day.

Ditzler loved hunting with a bow, and he was good at it too. He killed nearly 30 deer in his 40 plus years of hunting, and also stalked bear, pheasants, squirrels and even rabbits with his bow. In his prime, Ditzler was one of the best archers in the world.

“He lived for hunting and he loved hunting,” said Bill Kugler, a friend of Ditzler’s for the last 28 years. “He was a world renowned archer. I’m sure there were people who were better than him, but I never met them. What made him a great archer was his determination and love for the sport.”

If he could have written where and how he would die, that’s what he would have picked, Hemlock – the place that he loved the most and in his hunting clothes,” said Ed Overdier, one of Ditzler’s closest friends, “He certainly didn’t want to leave this world in a hospital bed. He was the kind of person you liked to be around, His passing creates a void in the lives of everyone who knew him.”

Ditzler compiled a long list of accomplishments in archery, the most impressive of which were two third-place finishes in the World Field Archery Championships, four National Field Archery titles and two Field Championships of the Americas crowns. He was a retired steelworker who was inducted into the Central Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame on November 3, 1980.

“The main thing is concentration,” Ditzler, told me for a June 4, 1991 Sports Album feature in the Daily News. “If I had my mind made up, you couldn’t distract me. That’s what you’ve got to learn to do, and you need that when you shoot in the international meets.

“Some days when you wake up, you know you can shoot well, continued Ditzler. “Then sometimes you go to the archery club and don’t even shoot an arrow. You just don’t feel like it that day. I used to practice an awful lot, four or five hours a day. You need a steady bow arm, good eyes and a lot of strength, and you’ve got to have some luck too.”

But for all his skill in the sport, Ditzler will be remembered more for the man he was. He was a caring husband, a loving father and grandfather and a devoted sportsman. Some would do well just to be one of those.

“The thing I’ll remember about him is that he loved life,” said Overdier. “He was never a pessimist. He was always positive.” Someone might say, ‘You can’t do that.’ And Frank would say, ‘Well, why not? Let’s try. All you can do is fail.’ “

“Frank was quite a man,” said Kulger. “He loved his life and lived it to the fullest. He was a great teacher and a close friend. He believed it was important to promote archery with the younger people.”

From the Hemlock newsletter.

I would like to thank all the members who came out to help find our fallen friend and archer, Frank Ditzler. on Tuesday, October 11, 1994. After a few phone calls, in a matter of minutes, we had 25 people there to help.

Frank Ditzler had been a member of Hemlock for more years then most of our members are old. He was in a sense, the Essence of Hemlock. Frank was one of the driving forces at the club. Whenever something needed to be done, Frank was the first one there and the last to leave.

Hemlock was Franks second love, hunting was his first. And, when anybody needed help, whether it be tracking a deer or tuning a bow; Frank would always be there to help. Frank succumbed to death the way he lived, doing what Frank wanted to do. Frank will be missed by a lot of people and by Hemlock in general, but no one will miss Frank more than me.

Bill Kugler, Vice President and companion of Frank