So today on his birthday we are reprinting a short ode that Max Hedt put together to celebrate of Werner's 88th birthday.
As many people know Werner is a founding member of the old Wimmera Soaring Club and the club today wouldn't be what it is with out him.
Werner was born in Batteakinden, Switzerland on the 18th. December 1918. It has always pissed Werner off that he has never had a birthday party as everybody says that it is so close to Christmas that he can wait to have his party on Christmas day. Werner grew into a fine handsome lad with considerable charm which he quickly learnt to apply with discretion and taste in the presence of the female sex. Naturally, to Werner’s gratification, this made him quite a hit with the ladies. Werner, in his youth, was not adverse to using his charms in any suitable circumstances. When into his teens, he and some of his mates used to sneak down to the adjoining villages to check out the local village girls and when he got caught by the local lads had the shit beaten out of him for his trouble. He and his mates did likewise to any interlopers on their patch.
Werner in the manner of all Swiss citizens also had to serve his time in the Swiss army. His memories of his time in the army are rather hazy as the unit he served with consisted mostly of farmer types who were somewhat skilled in the brewing and distilling of vastly over proof bootleg schnapps from the ample supply of local apples. At times, while in the army, his unit had to ski down the mountains and he is still trying to figure out how, with the ongoing effects of the schnapps, he and his army mates never fell off some of those Swiss mountains! He was also responsible for shaving the 120 men in his unit and is quite proud that despite his occasional schnapps induced state, he never ever cut any body while shaving them.
Werner was apprenticed and trained as a Ladies Hairdresser. After the Second World War, Werner decided to seek pastures new and made his way to Paris. The European money system was in a shambles so Werner had to find some way of earning some French Francs to support himself until he got established. The solution was easy! Werner loaded himself up with the valuable and much sought after Swiss watches. To get them into France he sealed each watch into a short piece of bicycle tube and then sealed them into tins of various types, which he then managed to get across the border into France without being caught! However, as his French was minimal at this stage and the black market was being stamped on, he had to be discrete in disposing of the watches. He managed to sell about half the watches and then met a French gentleman who after some negotiation agreed to safely dispose of the remaining watches for a 50 percent cut. The watches and the French gentleman disappeared never to be seen again! Werner is still swearing and is still ready to have that French bastard’s vitals served up on a red hot platter if he ever catches him!
Werner decided to migrate abroad. His first choice was South Africa but he had to be sponsored by a South African who had to vouch for him for at least five years. He figured that if things went wrong it was going to be bad five years so decided to consider other options. It was while dressing the hair of a lady client that he mentioned that he would like to migrate overseas. She replied that she had sister in a place called Horsham in Australia who might be able to help with the migration. So Werner thought why the hell not!
Werner arrived in Horsham in 1950. By 1952 he had his own hairdressing business and then went on to have a chain of hairdressing businesses in Warracknabeal, Ararat and Ballarat as well as Horsham. There were many ladies who would only have their hair dressed by Mr Werner. Now as we all know our Mr Werner is a cunning old sod! He was always known as Mr Werner, never as Mr Grossenbacher. This had some big advantages as the ladies of the town would, as usual, decide that they wanted their hair done mid afternoon Saturday for that very important party on Saturday night. There was no Mr Werner to be found in the phone book! Damn!
Werner took up power flying around 1959 and started training at Warracknabeal Aerodrome with the Wimmera Aero Club. His first instructor was Dick Hunt who later went on to become the CFI of the WAC. (Horsham did not have an airfield until about 1961 or 62 when one was established on Howard Rodda’s property on the Laharum road.) Around this time Werner would quite unexpectedly announce to the girls at his hair dressing establishment that he was going flying and they could look after the place and then he would promptly disappear for the day. Soon after starting flying training, around 1959, Werner disappeared for one of his trips back to Switzerland. This time when he came with a very good looking lady on his arm called Yvonne whom he informed us was now his wife. A year or so later, a sad Werner told me that due to problems Yvonne had, they could never have children. It was only a short time after this, around 1961, that a small miracle occurred and in due course Yvonne, to the great delight of both Werner and Yvonne, gave birth to a fine healthy son whom they named Mark.
When the Wimmera Soaring Club was formed in about March of 1963, Werner was one of the first to join the new club. He was also very active in the Horsham Yacht club which operated on Green Lake. It actually had water in it in those days! He was also active in the Archery Club as well.
Werner has always thoroughly enjoyed his flying and has often provided the rest of us with quite a few laughs usually at his expense. He has always taken a good deal of ribbing with much protesting but underneath he has accepted the ribbing with a great deal of grace. Around the mid 1960’s, Werner and I set off for Orange week at Waikerie which was a big deal in those days. We took the Nymph which had a 40 foot long one piece wing which extended full length along the towing car when being trailered. You could just see the end of the wing by leaning forward and looking up through the windscreen. Somewhere out of Pinnaroo, Werner looks back at the trailer and suddenly informs me, “The ving, the ving, she is gone!” Bullshit I think, he’s having me on but it was definitely gone. Panic! To our immense relief, we found the wing mostly intact and about 15 feet up in the Mallees adjoining the road a couple of miles back. I climbed the Mallee to lift one end of the wing out of the tree and Werner, our lady’s hairdresser then picked up the whole forty feet of wing that two good strong men were usually required to lift, and walked off with it!
Werner is also the only pilot I have ever seen who could shear a 6 inch wide section of 3/4 inch thick laminated wood bulkhead 3 or 4 inches side ways while doing a low level turn in a 15 metre Boomerang glider. Admittedly it took some time for the Boomerang to emerge from the cloud of dust that resulted from the wing tip hitting the ground however the bulkhead was the only damage and was soon repaired. He still blames me for that too!
Werner has had an interest in quite a few gliders and one delightful little J2 Taylor cub with a hotted up 65 HP engine which he bought in Sydney around 1963. He flew his J2 around for a few years until, to his ever lasting regret he went and sold it. He also together with his good mate Hans Stettin, used to fly a Nimbus 2 for a few years and also a DG100 plus a couple of other aircraft. As the Nimbus had a superb radio that broadcast over long distances, some of Werner's and Han’s radio conversations earned a high level of notoriety amongst the gliding mob over a good part of south eastern Australia. Like, “ Where are you Hans?”, “I am here Werner!” or “I am just to the left of the sun, Hans”.
For longer than I can remember Werner together with Lorelle and over time other helpers, has taken on the job of the social committee for the Club. In doing so, over the years, he has earn’t many tens of thousands of dollars for the club. Sometimes we forget just how much money Werner and Lorelle and others who have helped out have actually raised for the club. (Over 30 or more years, the social committee has raised somewhere around $100,000 according to Lorelle.)
Werner has always had a bit of a kink for farm machinery so to indulge his fantasies, in the mid 1980’s he bought an old tractor and a rotary slasher. For many years, he used his “farm gear” to slash the aerodrome on a regular basis under the direction of the City Council and in doing so again raised considerable amounts of money for the Club. Hence the name “The Tractor shed “ for that storage area between the workshop and the toilets.
Werner has always ensured that an adequate supply of suitable liquid refreshments were on hand, including a number of trips to find, and of course sample suitable red wines for the discriminating palates of the Club’s assorted yobbos! Werner has also made sure that the rubbish bins are emptied and the rubbish put out for pick up and has vacumned the Club rooms every week. He has carried out these jobs which are so important to the pleasant running of the Club, in such a quiet way that very few of us have even noticed that these jobs are getting done.
Even now you will often find Werner having a quiet read mid afternoon in the Club rooms.
Werner is still flying at every opportunity that he can get with his good friend Eric Boschen.
Between them they total up about 165 years in age and about 75 years flying between them. May both of them continue on for many years yet. Werner , we love you! HAPPY BIRTHDAY