Günter Schmitz was an original - a man whose sum was far greater than his disparate parts.
Born in 1929 in Germany, he grew up during the difficult war years and subsequent years of hardship in Cologne. A prolific and curious reader, he read many stories about the North American Wild West and dreamed of adventure in that rugged environment. Several years of prospecting and logging in British Columbia led him to increasing positions of responsibility and confidence in his own abilities. Moving to Montreal with his new wife and infant daughter in 1962, he pursued tool and die making for several years, eventually training as a draughtsman in the pulp and paper industry. Studying engineering at night at Sir George Williams, he specialized in the design of conveyor systems used for materials movement in mills, becoming a recognized and sought after expert in their creation and refurbishment. His career allowed him to travel widely in Canada, Europe, Australia and South America. Following his retirement, he would often marvel at what he had been able to achieve in Canada and expressed frequent gratitude for the many opportunities he was able to cultivate.
Günter believed that his work should be balanced in favour of his enjoyment of life. No business trip went unaccompanied by added days for sightseeing, skiing, or eating the culinary specialties of the place he found himself in. A fascinating and well rounded conversationalist, he would start chatting with just about anyone to learn about his travel destination. Largely self taught, he took every opportunity to learn deeply, spending free time reading or deep in discussion with friends and family. He was a ‘doer’ who had a passion for the outdoors spending summers hiking, cycling, and sailing. Winters were spent in the pursuit of the perfect run while skiing, followed by an equally impressive showing at the local apres-ski watering hole. An extremely talented handy-man, Günter designed and built many enhancements to the family home. A bit of a contrarian, he gardened using organic methods when it was unfashionable to do so. His neighbours complained of the stench arising from his lavish use of raw manure to fertilize the “black gold”, as he liked to refer to it. He was an excellent and patient teacher and mentor, spending hours with his daughter showing her how to fix things, make things and grow things, not to mention how to ski. The children of family friends and young colleagues at work benefitted from the same patient approach, and many went on to mention the time Günter spent with them with great appreciation.
Günter went back to school upon retirement taking up a challenging study of history and philosophy. He wrote papers, made presentations, and came to change or modify many of his original views on things. He continued to follow current events closely and could debate with the best of them into the late hours of the night. Somewhat hot tempered, he had a very clear understanding of right and wrong and a strong sense of honour. His life as a man in a very traditional household came to an abrupt halt when his now deceased wife, Elke, developed Alzheimers. In typical fashion, he informed himself on what to do and started looking after her in a commanding display of selflessness.
Günter’s last years in Toronto were quieter but filled with love from his family and grandchildren. He did not complain about the hardships of aging but instead appreciated any effort made to spend time with him. His last visit to his beloved mountainscapes of New England was in the autumn of 2019 to mark his 90th birthday, and he remarked on how content he was to appreciate their majesty and to marvel at the views that stretched forever. There was a hint of snow in the air and he was happy.
Günter passed away suddenly on May 2, 2020 and leaves behind his grieving daughter Dagmar, her husband Alan, and their children Callum and Holly. He felt particularly close to his nephew, George Priniotakis and his wife Erin O’Brien in Montreal as well as a sister, Maria Schindler and her children and grandchildren, all located in California. He also leaves a niece, Linda Schmitz in Holland.
A private Service for Günter was held on May 6, 2020 at the Turner & Porter “Peel” Chapel, in Mississauga. A public Celebration of Life will be held at a later date. For notification of the date and details of the public service, please leave a message for the family through www.turnerporter.ca, on Günter’s memorial page, under “Guestbook”, then “Sign the Guestbook” with your name and email address.