Wilbert Diel

Mr. Wilbert E. Diel, retired music director from Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church, and teacher, died at home on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2007 after a long struggle against PSP. Born on August 17, 1921, he was 86.

Bill Diel was organist and choir director at Our Lady of Sorrows in south St. Louis for over 38 years. A member of the American Guild of Organists, he was extremely well known and respected in the local church music community. He taught art for the St. Louis Public Schools and retired from McKinley High School in 1986. Mr. Diel held 5 undergraduate and graduate degrees from St. Louis and around the country. A lifelong student and teacher, he taught (and took) classes at the Thomas Dunn Memorials Adult Education Program until just a few years before his death.

Mr. Diel was a medic in World War II and served in Europe, including the Battle of the Bulge. Winner of a Purple Heart, he never picked up a rifle until he returned stateside. While stationed in France, the extent of his aggression was finding small church organs in the French countryside and playing them. One soldier pumped the organ bellows for Bill while another stood lookout for the enemy.

He chose to view his military assignment in WWII as a European adventure, and it led to a lifelong love affair with travel. He visited extensively throughout the world, including Europe, Asia, Australia, Alaska, and South America. His favorite destination was England, which he traveled to 12 times.

An accomplished artist, Mr. Diel was a painter, sculptor, maker of jewelry, pottery, batik and countless other forms of artistic expression. Many of his works reside in the homes of friends and family today. He was once a tour guide for the St. Louis Art Museum.

He was a generous contributor to his church, as well as local and national charitable and cultural institutions. He also gave to many children’s foundations around the world. Instead of flowers, individuals should make contributions to their favorite charities.

Mr. Diel was the last surviving member of his immediate family, but remaining family includes a sister-in-law, Shirley Diel, and many nieces, nephews and their children from his brothers, Elmer, Edgar and Harold. He lived at home for the last several years with his godson, Joseph Clark. His legacy also includes the thousands of people who were his students and choir members.

He donated his body to the St. Louis University School of Anatomy.

Memorial Mass Information


  1. Wanda Pesce on September 4, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    I, was a student of Mr Diel at MeKinley High in the late “60’s. I was from a troubled and poor home. He was an amazing teacher, and hero to me. He made me believe I could accomplish anything. He taught me to view even the smallest thing in detail. I’m sorry I only got yo visit him once after all those years. I still remember him calling me Gadiola when he was upset with me. Also calling me Petunia when pleased with me. The only teacher to allow him chewing in his class. But if you chewed like a cow there were consequences. I remember getting an “F” in one class. I cried. He offered to explain to my mom. He was “an all or nothing at all” teacher. I failed to submit one lesson in error. He was let us trade him about his eye brows and the fact his head was balled. He was a very an excellent teacher, precious human and friend. Excuse my very late writing. Wanda Miller (Wanda Pesce now).

  2. Allen Davis on March 1, 2020 at 3:30 pm

    The best teacher I ever had. Kept in touch for many years. RIP.

  3. Deb Mead Chavez on June 28, 2021 at 12:53 pm

    I had Mr Diehl for art for 3 or 4 years at McKinley High from 1968-1972.
    I sensed his joyful passion for art and wanting to pass on that same passion to his students. And he did. He was my favorite teacher.
    And he was kind and compassionate, truly caring about his students.
    We need more teachers like Mr Diehl.
    God rest his soul.

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