North High School Wall of Honor
Louis Jacob Weertz; aka Roger Williams
Class of June, 1942
Louis Jacob Weertz, 1942 North High Graduation
Research done by Claradell Shedd, Class of 1953.
Louis Jacob Weertz

Louie graduated from North High School in June, 1942. Louie's next of kin was listed as Reverend and Mrs. Frederick J. Weertz, Brown Hotel, Des Moines, IA. However, while attending West Junior High and North High School, Louie lived in a two-story house at the corner of 19th and School, the building now having been demolished.

Louis Jacob Weertz
Year   Rank   Status
At North High x Interests x Louie says his main interests were "sports and girls." As a boxer during North High days, he brokes his nose three times ("But never injured my hands!") and his basketball team reached the state finals. During the summer months, he worked as a lumberjack and as a guide in the lake regions of Minnesota.
At North High x Interests x As a North High School teen, played at Babe Bisignano's (Babe's Restaurant on Sixth Avenue between Locust and Grand) for $6/night plus all of the spaghetti he could eat. Also played at Younkers Tea room and had a radio show (KRNT).
June, 1942   Graduated   Graduated from North High School, Des Moines, IA. While at North High, his father encouraged him to focus on boxing (his father was a boxing enthusiast), but he returned to music after sustaining numerous boxing injuries and breaking his nose several times (as mentioned above).
1943 x Military x Tried to enlist in Des Moines in the military, but was turned down because of hay fever.
1942-1943 x Schooling x Drake University. Majored in music. Expelled from Drake for playing "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" in a music practicing room.
1943 x Miltary x Having been turned down on his military enlistment attempt in Des Moines because of his hay fever, he moved to California where that condition was much more compatible with the climate. He enlisted in the Navy there. Enlisting in the Navy, Louie requested active duty. "But they gave me a test and discovered that I had a great aptitude for engineering."
1942 x US Navy/
x Boot training at US Naval Training Center, Farragut, ID which was opened September 15, 1942 (Navy V-12 Unit). Six weeks. In boot camp, won Navy Boxing Championship and was voted "top man" by 300 Navy colleagues who honored him as their Man of Warsman. Roger: "Those were tough guys in the Navy. They had all kinds of tattoos, which was a really big thing at that time, but they voted for me. I still have the certificate. It means so much." Even though he had determined that music was to be his life's work, a near tragic incident occurred during a gunnery course that almost destroyed his future in music. A big gun breach crashed on his right hand while he was loading a shell. Doctors recommended amputation, but heeded Roger's pleas to refrain and, urged on by his great love for music, he nursed his hand, exercising and massaging it, and giving it the special care that was needed to heal.
1942-1945 x US Navy/ Rank x Navy Boxing Champion during time at Farragut, ID, He held the fleet championship. He believes boxing is good for physical conditioning and feels that he owes to boxing the credit for helping him become the fastest piano player in the west.
date x US Navy x Navy ROTC Unit, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
October 19, 1945 x US Navy x Discharged at US Naval Training Center, Farragut, ID.
1948 x Professional x While playing at a concert at Idaho State University in Pocatello, he met Ora Joy Dunsmoor, a music majoring student and ex-Idaho State beauty queen. Written versions claim he proposed after the first date.
July 30, 1948 x Family x In Des Moines at St. John's Lutheran Church, married Ora Joy Dunsmoor who was a student at Idaho State University. Wedding officiated by Roger's father and uncle. Entire congregation of 1,500 attended. Roger played some of the organ music before the ceremony started. He is quoted as saying, "I'm probably the only bridegroom who played at his own wedding." Children of this union are Laura Lou (1951), Alice Ann (1954), and James Frederick (1959). Ora Joy Dunsmoor deceased 1999.
1949 x Schooling x Graduated from Idaho State University. BA in engineering. Additional studies at the University of Washington.
1950 x Schooling x Drake University. Master's degree in music
1951 x Julliard School of Music x Julliard School of Music, New York City, New York. Studied under Lennie Tristano and Teddy Wilson.
1951-52 x Employment
x Scheduled to play accompaniment for vocalist on Dennis James's "Chance of a Lifetime".. Vocalist did not appear. Louie played piano selection and was eventually signed to contract by Kapp Records, with name being changed professionally to Roger Williams.
1955 x Employment x Record-breaking hit of "Autumn Leaves"
1955-1972 x Employment x Had 38 hit albums and 22 hit singles, including "Autumn Leaves"
February 8, 1960 x Induction into Hollywood Walk of Fame Induction into the Hollywood Walk of Fame
1966 x Career x "Born Free" winning Academy Award for Best Original Song
1984 x Family x Married Louise DiCarlo. Deceased 2003.
1987 x Induction x North High Hall of Fame, North High School, Des Moines, IA
1991 x Honorary Degree x Idaho State University. Received honorary Doctorate degree.
May, 2003 x Award x Inaugural Spirit of Life Award given by Philharmonic Society of Orange County
June 7, 2003 x Achievement x Steinway Lifetime Achievement Award during Steinway's celebration of their 150th anniversary; Carnegie Hall; June 5, 6, 7, 2003. Roger is the only artist to have received the Steinway Lifetime Achievement Award and the first ever to have a series of pianos named after him by Steinway. Reader's Digest: "Roger Williams is undeniably one of the greatest pianists of the 20th Century. His illustrious career in music is unparalleled."
October 29, 2004 x Induction x Inducted into Nebraska Music Hall of Fame
May 14, 2005 x Dr. Williams! x Presented with Honoary Doctorate at Drake University. Dr. Williams!
October 5, 2005 x Induction into Iowa Hall pf Pride, Des Moines, IA x Installed/Induction: Iowa Hall of Pride in Hy-Vee Hall, Des Moines, IA w/Steinway & Sons president and CEO, Bruce Stevens
November 3, 2005 x Marathon Concert x 14 hour marathon concert played at Steinway & Sons, 109 West 57th Street, New York City. Marathon played to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his record, "Autumn Leaves."
2010 x Induction x Inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame
October 1, 2010 x Marathon Concert x Final Marathon Concert at Music Instrument Museum in Phoenix, AZ.
October 8, 2011 x Deceased x Encino, CA. Continued concerts worldwide until 2011.
Farragut Naval Air Training Center; Farragut, ID
Farragut Naval Base rose almost overnight on wide-open fields and rolling hills that had once served as a seasonal stop for early Indian and pioneer migrations. In late 1941, the U.S. government snapped up the land from private owners, Kootenai County, and a railway company to establish an inland naval base more than 300 miles away from the western coastline, where the nation feared a Japanese invasion. For the next nine months more than 22,000 men worked 10-hour shifts for 13 of every 14 days for Walter Butler Construction Co. to build mess halls, libraries, movie theaters, living quarters, chapels and other buildings. In the great hurry and with a supply crunch, many of the 776 buildings were constructed with green wood. The flurry of construction activity provided a giant economic shot-in-the-arm for surrounding communities like Sandpoint, still mired in a slow revival from the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Between its opening in September, 1942, and its decommissioning in June, 1946, this stunning expanse of 4,000 acres served as temporary home to almost 300,000 naval recruits. Located about 30 miles from Sandpoint at the far end of the lake, the Farragut Naval Training Station -- briefly to become Idaho's largest city -- served as boot camp for "Blue Jackets." During basic training, recruits left home for the first time, came to Farragut and learned to how march, row, swim and use firearms before heading off to the Mediterranean Sea or the South Pacific. Others received additional training as signalman's gunner's mates, the hospital corps or radiomen. WAVES (women naval officers) served as nurses at the base hospital.

Man-0'-Warsman Award:
Believe this award had its origin by referencing Admiral Davis G. Farragut, for whom the Farragut Naval Station was named. Farragut was the first admiral of the US Navy, an office created for him by Congress. His famous quote is "Damn the torpedoes...full speed ahead."

Louie Weertz aka Roger Williams:
His first piano training originated from his mother Dorothea Weertz, who was involved in the music program at St. John’s Lutheran Church in downtown Des Moines, where his father, Rev. Frederick Weertz was pastor. “Little Louie,” was performing in church before he started kindergarten. While attending North High School, he was playing for the dinner hour at the legendary Babe’s Restaurant (on Sixth Avenue between Locust and Grand) and the lunch hour at the Younkers’ Department Store Tea Room restaurant.

Besides music at North High, he also played baseball in his freshman year and was a reserve in basketball, winning a letter in his senior year. “I’ve still got that letter on my wall at home, and I’ve still got my North High letter sweater, too,” he said. He is featured among the “notable alumni” of the sports programs, those who’ve gone on to distinguish themselves in later life.

Pianist Roger Williams' (born Louis Jacob Weertz) sweeping, sparkling arpeggios, showy technique, and gentle, easy listening arrangements made him one of the most popular pop instrumentalists of the late '50s and '60s. Like many other easy listening musicians, he blurred the boundaries between pop, jazz, and classical, creating a smooth, relaxing hybrid. Between 1955 and 1972, he had 38 hit albums and 22 hit singles, including the number one hit, "Autumn Leaves." Williams began playing piano as a child, but he was lured into boxing while he was a high school student. After suffering several injuries -- including breaking his nose a number of times -- he decided to turn his full attention to music, enrolling as a piano major at Drake University. As a student, he began playing hybrids of jazz, classical, and pop. A school official heard him playing "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" in one of the university's practice rooms and expelled the young musician. Following his expulsion, Williams joined the Navy, where he earned a B.A. in engineering. When his tenure in the Navy was finished, he went back to Drake and re-enrolled in the university. After a couple of years, he moved to Juilliard, where he studied under jazz pianists Lenny Tristano and Teddy Wilson. Williams' first big break arrived when he was scheduled to provide accompaniment for a Juilliard vocalist on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. The vocalist didn't appear at the show, leaving the pianist to play a solo spot. Dave Kapp, the head of Kapp Records, heard Williams on the show and was impressed. Kapp signed the pianist to a contract and changed his name from Louis Weertz to Roger Williams; the name derived from the founder of Rhode Island. After releasing a few singles, Roger Williams had his first hit with the arpeggio-laden "Autumn Leaves" in 1955. The single reached number one on the U.S. charts and began a streak of 22 hit singles that ran through 1969; he had two other Top Ten hits, "Near You" in 1958 and "Born Free" in 1966. Williams was equally successful on the album charts, racking up a total of 38 hit records between 1956 and 1972, including the Top Ten albums Songs of the Fabulous Fifties (1957), Till (1958), Maria (1962), and Born Free (1966). Roger Williams' audience faded away in the early '70s, but he continued to record into the '80s. Williams remains one of the most popular pianists of the postwar era. He was the first pianist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and he played for every President of the United States between Harry Truman and Bill Clinton. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

The first pianist to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Roger has 21 Gold and Platinum albums to his credit. He is a Steinway Artist, he is the first and (so far) only artist to receive the Steinway Lifetime Achievement Award, and he was featured at Carnegie Hall for Steinway’s 150th Anniversary. Roger Williams is also the first to ever have a series of pianos named after him by Steinway. Reader’s Digest puts it this way, “Roger Williams is undeniably one of the greatest pianists of the 20th Century. His illustrious career in music is unparalleled.”
North Des Moines High School logo Drake logo Idaho State University logo Drake logo Julliard School of Music logo
North High School
Drake University
Idaho State University; BA;1950 Drake University/
Federal Building, Des Moines, IA Farragut Naval Training Station, ID
Enlisted at Old Federal Building, Des Moines Naval Training Station, Farragut, ID
Farragut, ID Naval assignment Roger at his golden Steinway piano. See Roger at his piano at the Iowa Hall of Pride website,
USO Club where Roger played gigs; Farragut, ID The Autumn Leaves Piano
Gold Steinway piano; $258,000
Cover of one of Roger's  cd's Roger Williams Louie in his memorabilia room
Roger Williams Roger Williams Louie Weertz/Roger Williams at home
Click on keys to hear "Autumn Leaves"
Louie Weertz at 3 Roger Williams Roger Williams
Louie Weertz at 3 Roger Williams Louie Weertz/Roger Williams
Louis Jacob Weertz
aka Roger Williams
US Navy

US Navy Seal

Farragut Naval Training Station; Farragut, ID

Louis Jacob Weertz

US Navy Insignia

Correct sleeve rank coming

Navy Good Conduct Medal; American Theater/Campaign Medal
Coming: Weertz medals
Memorial Program; October 16, 2011 Memorial Program; October 16, 2011 Memorial Program; October 16, 2011
Memorial Program; October 16, 2011 Memorial Program; October 16, 2011 Memorial Program; October 16, 2011
Memorial Program; October 16, 2011 Memorial Program; October 16, 2011 Memorial Program; October 16, 2011
Memorial Program; October 16, 2011 Memorial Program; October 16, 2011 Memorial Program; October 16, 2011 Memorial Program; October 16, 2011
Memorial Program; October 16, 2011 Memorial Program; October 16, 2011 Memorial Program; October 16, 2011 Memorial Program; October 16, 2011
Memorial Program; October 16, 2011 Memorial Program; October 16, 2011 Memorial Program; October 16, 2011 Memorial Program; October 16, 2011
Memorial Program; October 16, 2011 Memorial Program; October 16, 2011 Memorial Program; October 16, 2011 Memorial Program; October 16, 2011
Memorial Program at Crystal Cathedral Memorial Gardens; Sunday, October 16, 2011; crypt below
(1) Information was obtained from the Records on Military Personnel Who Died, were Missing in Action, or Prisoners of War as a result of the Vietnam War. This document can be found online at the National Archives and Records Administration at

(2) The comprehensive list of names from North High's 1893-2023 graduation classes are from Claradell Shedd's North Des Moines High School website. The names of North High School graduates can be found online at: Louis Jacob Weertz's 1942 class page is:
Visit Louie/Roger at his website: or
Roger Williams Interview: NAMM Oral History Library (2006)
Drafted and given to Roger for final version: 08/12/11. Died 10/08/11.
Music: "Anchors Aweigh"
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