SARASOTA — Arthur Grotefent, a former member of the famous family circus troupe, The Flying Wallendas, died Friday at age 95.
“He was one hell of a wire walker,” said Jackie LeClaire, 82, who performed with Grotefent in the 1940s.
A Sarasota resident, Grotefent was one of the original members of the 7-People Pyramid in the Great Wallenda High-Wire Act. Seven people in the family troupe formed a pyramid and walked a tightrope.
He served in the U.S. Naval Air Transport Service from 1943-45.
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“I was on the show with him when he came out of the service,” said LeClaire, a retired Ringling acrobat and clown. “I knew him and loved him dearly. He was a wonderful high wire performer. A very, very strong man who was well liked and always there to help someone out — very devoted to his work.”
Grotefent’s great nephew Rick Wallenda, of Sarasota, said his great uncle began performing as a little child.
“At age 11, he had to put on a wig during one show because one of the girls quit,” Wallenda said Monday. “I think that was his first high wire appearance. He was just a great guy. He and his father, George Grotefent, are the ones who engineered the apparatus, the special platforms needed to build the seven-person pyramid.”
Grotefent is survived by his wife, Dorothy; sons Francis Scheuer of Sarasota, and Nelson Scheuer of Detroit; and sister Gertrude Kienle of San Diego.
He was a member of the social club “Showfolks Club of Sarasota” formed in 1964. He was president of the club on Lockwood Ridge Road from 1986-87, Wallenda said.
Visitation will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at Palms-Robarts Funeral Home. Services will be graveside at 2:30 p.m. at Manasota Memorial Park.