Obituary: Edgar Schmeisser


Edgar Schmeisser

January 2, 1934 – January 28, 2024


Edgar, formerly of Edmonds, passed away peacefully at home on January 28, 2024. He was an extraordinary man who lived an amazing life. As the oldest child of three, he overcame severe deprivation and the harsh conditions of eastern Germany during World War II. He went on to work for the field service of Ford Motor Company of Europe, after his family fled the East, and later became a successful Ford dealer in Lorrach on the Swiss border.

Edgar was born at home on January 2, 1934, in the small village of Langenwetzendorf, East Germany. He had a younger brother and sister, Siegfried and Waltraud. Their parents Arno and Frieda both worked at Zeiss Optical walking five miles each way to Zeiss. When war broke out their father was conscripted as a mountain paratrooper, although not a Nazi. He was later captured by the Russians in 1944 and forced to work in Siberia in a lead mine. The family suffered greatly during this time, especially under Russian occupation; Edgar and Siegfried had to steal food and firewood from nearby farms and woods to survive. His family did not know that their father was still alive until he was released from Russia in December 1951 and returned to Zeiss for his old job in the patent office. The doctor who examined him told him secretly that they planned to put him to work in a uranium mine. Arno told his family that they would leave on a train the next day with one suitcase each. The Berlin Wall had not yet been built. They took a train to Berlin, travelling in two separate groups so they would not be suspected of escaping. The Americans ultimately flew them to the West, where they landed in Cologne and set up a new life.  Edgar was apprenticed at Ford and worked his way up to own a Ford dealership in Germany. He began his love affair with America in 1959 when Ford sent him for training to the U.S., and he travelled across the country.

A lifelong skier from the age of five, Edgar’s other athletic accomplishments were legendary. An avid tennis player until his early 80s, he also learned to sail, both on Swiss lakes and the North Sea, and he survived an Atlantic hurricane with four friends when the boat capsized and rolled 360 degrees off the coast of Africa. He also ski mountaineered and summited many of the Alps. In his late 50s he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. He also soloed Mt. Rainier in his early 60s after moving to Washington. He took up golf in his mid-80s with his partner of 28 years, Gwynne, in Birch Bay Village, where they lived.

His infectious smile, debonair outfits, stories, and sweet spirit were unparalleled. Some of his happiest memories were when the U.S. tanks liberated his German town and a GI gave him his first chocolate bar after years and first chewing gum ever, and the proud day he became a U.S. citizen in 2002.

The memory of his smile, love and kindness will live on in his survivors: three children, Frank of Bellingham, Jorg (Susan) of Kodiak, AK, and Ellen of Hamburg, Germany; grandchildren Justin (Kayla) of Dillon, MT, Len of Hamburg, Germany, Mitchell and Jessica; nephews, Marc of Stuttgart, Germany, Volker (Tina) of Stetten, Germany, Olaf Hoffmann; nieces, Silke and Meike Schmeisser, Britta Hoffmann; and cousin, Christina Anders of Griez, Germany. He is also survived by Gwynne’s children Megan (John) Ellingsen, Sarah (Matt) Rose and Joshua Briggs and grandchildren, Emma Ellingsen, Kate, Spencer and Warren Rose. Edgar, Gwynne and family shared many laughs and sunny and wintry adventures, sailing, skiing, and tennis. A private memorial for family and friends will be held this summer at Birch Bay Community Clubhouse.

In lieu of flowers, please send contributions to Whatcom Hospice at 2800 Douglas Avenue, Bellingham, WA 98225.