In New York City, Dorothy Goetz auditioned to sing for Berlin. While another young singer got that part, Berlin did ask Dorothy on a date! She agreed and their romance began. He compared her beauty to that of a rose. They fell quickly and deeply in love and Berlin proposed marriage some weeks after their meeting. When he proposed, he told Dorothy “if she married him, their lives would be like a bed of roses.”
Dorothy said yes, and they were married just a few months later, in February 1912. The couple went to Cuba on their honeymoon. But shortly after they arrived, an outbreak of typhoid broke out. They quickly returned home, where Dorothy became very ill. Her illness worsened over the next few months, and with doctors unable to help her, she died on July 17 – just six months after their marriage.
Berlin was deeply affected by her death, and for a while his songwriting was affected, as he wrote several joyless songs. Five months later he decided to write about his wife’s death, pouring his grief into the ballad called When I Lost You, a simple waltz with a bittersweet harmony under the melancholy melody. Berlin insisted that the song was based on his wife’s death – the only song he ever admitted was related to his own experience.
For the next 12 years, Berlin contracted with a Buffalo florist to deliver a single white rose every other day to his wife’s grave in Forest Lawn, which is located in section 9. (A photo of her gravestone is shown below.) That continued until Berlin remarried. He died in 1989 at the age of 101. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.
The story of Dorothy Goetz Berlin (including some of her husband’s iconic holiday music) is one of several that are featured in Forest Lawn’s critically acclaimed theatrical production of It WAS a Wonderful Life – a show that has become a WNY holiday tradition.