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Kitchener, June, 2012 – On June 13, 2012 the German community of Kitchener-Waterloo lost one of its strongest supporters and benefactors, Paul Tuerr. Paul was born on August 30th 1920 in a German speaking town in Serbia called Miletić. He was the third child of the Donauschwaben Josef, a builder, and Barbara Tuerr. His two sisters were Marianne and Barbara. While the town of Miletić was located in Serbia, Paul was raised in the German culture and traditions. The town population was over 90% German. The whole area was, until the First World War, part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

During his lifetime, Paul was always trying and exploring new things, so in 1937, shortly before turning 17, he decided to leave his hometown of Miletić to work in larger cities in Serbia and Slovenia. But because of some bad experiences he returned home to work for his father. However, in Summer of 1939, he decided to leave Serbia for Germany. The destination was Leipzig. He travelled by train with only five Reichsmark in his pocket. In Hof, a city near the Saxon border, he stopped to have lunch and a beer. He told me that he is still wondering how he envisioned his future with so little money in his pocket. However in Leipzig he found a job and got an advance to pay for his accommodation. His job included working at the world renowned Leipziger Messe. After a short stint in Berlin, Paul moved to Stuttgart to study construction engineering.

During the last few months of the Second World War Paul briefly served in the German military as a “Sanitäter” (paramedic). At the end of the war Paul's parents fled to Germany, to escape the suffering ethnic Germans had to endure under Tito. On his way to meet up with his family Paul saw the city of Dresden after the bombing on February 13 and 14. It was a horrible sight. After being reunited with his family they fled to the west to escape the advancing Russian forces.

Moving westward he became a prisoner of war of the Americans and was released from the prison in 1946. After working for a while, he went back to school to complete his education obtain a degree in architecture and construction engineering. He soon found a job and in his profession. Somehow, with his adventures spirit, he was again ready to make a major change in his life. He decided to emigrate to Canada where his older sister Marianne had lived. So in September 1948, he and his parents, boarded the Auswandererschiff SS Beaverbrea (formerly the SS Huascaran of the Hamburg-Amerika Line) and they arrived in Canada on the 24th of September 1948.

A new life in a new country with a new language had began. A life full of challenges with new opportunities.

Because of his limited knowledge of the English language, he had to work for a few month in construction as a labourer and a bricklayer. But in order to supplement his income he did architectural drafting in the evening. Paul always had an eye for opportunities and only one year after arriving in Canada he borrowed $1,000.00 from a friend of the family to start his own construction company. The company started out as a partnership, but after only a few months Paul paid out his partner and became the sole owner of Paul Tuerr Construction. The company celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2009.

The business initially operated out of a small room in his sister's house on Mill Street, Kitchener. The company's first project was a three-bedroom home at the corner of Dominion and Park Streets. In the beginning he took on every job he could get, but after a while he focused on the construction of homes.

In 1949 Paul met a young lady by the name of Anna German, they fell in love and got married in 1951. Unfortunately, Anna died suddenly on May 30, 2002. It was a shock for Paul to lose his wife after 51 years of marriage and I think that he never got completely over it. My wife and I were privileged to meet Anna many times and I always had the feeling that she was the anchor in Paul's life.

Paul Tuerr & Ernst FriedelOne day, when we talked about all his accomplishments he said, yes, he had achieved a lot during his life, he had worked hard and was also very lucky, but the most important part of his life is his family.

Over the years Paul sponsored 36 German families and provided them with work guarantees so they could come to Canada. Among them Helmut Oberlander, who also became his friend and business partner. When Helmut Oberlander was accused of war crimes Paul was one of those who stood up for him boldly. Like many others of us, he was convinced that working as an interpreter at age 17 for the German armed forces was never a crime. All Oberlander did was facilitate communication between two parties.

In time, the growing enterprise, Paul Tuerr Construction, would go on to build many more homes and apartment buildings including Metropolitan Towers, one of the first high-rise apartment buildings in Waterloo, a subdivision in the Carwood Avenue area near Rockway Golf Course. After being very successful in construction he became the founder or co-founder of numerous other companies. Kaiser Investments, TOP Development, (the initials stand for Tuerr, Oberlander and Pawlowski) Scheuertu Investments, Dimension Investments and HIP Investments (the initials of his three daughters Helene, Ingrid and Pauline).

In the 1970th he became publisher of two newspapers the Kitchener Journal and Newsday. While very successful in the beginning, over the long run the papers did not succeed. He blames that on his lag of experience in the news paper business. For many years Paul was also a director of the German Canadian Congress. During my time as president, I could always count on him for advice and financial assistance.

For many years Paul and his wife Anna spent their winters in Florida, and during that time he would call at least once a week, sometimes twice, to hear how the DKK and our German community was doing.

In Florida he became interested in the arts and he took up painting. A few years ago Paul took my wife and me to his studio to show us his paintings. When we were ready to leave he was asking us which one of his paintings we liked the most. There were so many and it was not easy to find one that stood out. When we finally showed him the one we liked the most he just said: “that is yours” and he asked us to take it along. So we are now in possession of a beautiful painting that will always remind us of Paul.

Even though Paul had lived in Canada for over 60 years he never forgot his German heritage and his German roots. Nor did he forget the suffering millions of Germans had to endure when they were expelled from their homelands in Eastern Europe after the Second World War. He felt that these sufferings must not be forgotten and should be remembered like all the other sufferings people had to go through during that terrible time.

For this reason he founded the German Canadian Remembrance Society an organisation that is dedicated to preserve German Heritage, German Language and remember the horrible experiences ethnic Germans had to endure. In addition he was instrumental in creating a Park with a monument. The park is called a Anna Tuerr Memorial Park in memory of those who lost their homeland and hat to suffer so much, just because they were Germans. The park is named after Anna Tuerr, who had to spend two and a half years in a Soviet concentration camp. Many ethnic Germans and other Europeans did not return from those labour camps, and Paul felt their story should be part of the curriculum in schools.

When his construction company started encountering a lot of red tape at City Hall he set his focus on developing land, with the company eventually developing more than 1,000 acres across Waterloo Region including Country Hills, Woodhill Estates and Mannheim Village Estates. Huron Business Park was another of Paul Tuerr Construction's land development. Nearby, along Strasburg Road, is a Pioneer Cemetery. In conjunction with Michael Klosch, a former history teacher at KCI, the company restored the cemetery and transferred its ownership to the City of Kitchener.

He was a tireless champion of our German heritage and when the Centre for German Studies was established at the University of Waterloo, he was the first one to donate a substantial amount of money to the project. He also served for a number of years on the steering committee to get the project off the ground. His efforts and contributions were recognized by the then Canadian Prime Minister the Rt. Honourable Paul Martin.

During his life Paul received a number of awards to mention just a few: The Golden Jubilee Medal of Queen Elizabeth II in 2002, The German Pioneers Award in 2009, the German Heritage Award from the German Canadian Congress and others.

Paul was a tireless worker. Even in his 90th year he was still going into the office for a few hours every day. A few years ago I asked him why he did not retire. His answer was that he does not have to worry much about things because his secretary for over 30 years, Dianne Jones, can almost read his mind and she makes always the right decisions.

With the passing of Paul Tuerr we lost a father, a friend, an entrepreneur, a benefactor. A man who was proud of his German heritage. Good bye Paul

Ernst Friedel

 

 

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