December 26, 1928 – December 2, 2021
Horst (Harry) Paarsch was born on 26 December 1928 in Bischdorf, Upper Silesia, Germany, and completed his adventure here on Earth on 2 December 2021, in Parksville, British Columbia.
Although his given name was Horst, he went by Harry: His mother’s labour began during a blizzard at Christmas time, and no Christian midwife would attend to his birth. Instead, Frau Liebzeit, who was Jewish, delivered him. Her husband’s name was Harry, so in her honour he used that name his entire life.
During the Depression that was the early 1930s, Harry’s parents did not have the means to support him, so he lived with his maternal grandparents until he was five. At age twelve, Harry earned admission to a military academy in Orlau and went there to prepare for a career as an officer in the navy.
Except for visits home at holidays, he stayed in Orlau until he went to Vienna for his induction into the officers’ corps in January 1945. On his return to Germany in February, he was given a choice: Eastern Front or Western Front. Harry was captured by the Americans on 19 April 1945 near Koblenz, and released from the French prison camp at Sinzig on 4 August 1945.
For the next eight years, he lived a contented life in Kruft, near the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers, first working on a farm and then making cement blocks.
In 1953, Harry immigrated to Canada to begin the greatest adventure of his life. Initially, he stayed at the Salvation Army on Dunsmuir Street in Vancouver, trying to learn English by watching movies that ran repeatedly all day in the theatres on Hastings Street.
At his first job on a mushroom farm on Marine Drive in Vancouver, the German owner and all of the workers only spoke German, so Harry boarded a bus for the North, going up the Fraser Canyon and getting off in Clinton after twelve hours because he was hungry and tired.
For the next twenty years, he lived in Clinton—learning a trade, courting and marrying Betty Haase, raising their son, and developing several businesses. In 1973, he and Betty retired to Qualicum Beach, where they spent the first eight years fishing. When his son was in graduate school, Harry began a small business making kitchen cabinets as well as fine furniture, which he did successfully until 2003, when he sold his tools and retired for good.
Retirement was pleasant: he wrote a book, walked a great deal, and drove Betty around. After Betty’s passing in 2009, he recovered from the grief and spent the next ten years or so chatting with everyone he met, whether he knew them or not.
In his last years, dementia slowly took over: after several falls, he moved to Trillium Lodge, where he spent his final time, delightfully confused as one staff member put it, but well attended and quite happy.
Anyone who knew Harry will miss his infectious smile, and his engaging way of chatting as well as the kind, respectful (sometimes mischievous) way in which he dealt with all: he was a gentle soul, who will be greatly missed, especially by his son.
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