AMHERST - Wilfried Malsch, 88, passed away peacefully on the morning of March 12, 2013, in his home in Amherst.
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He leaves his wife of 40 years, Sally, his daughter Elisabeth and her husband John of Manhattan, and grandchildren Annabelle and Oliver.
His son Christian predeceased him.
Wilfried was born in Karlsruhe am Rhein in Germany, just a ferry ride away from France. The only person in his childhood community who owned a car was an actress who was always in a hurry, he said.
World War II claimed many of Wilfried's friends, cousins and his brother, Rolf, whom he sorely missed.
Wilfried often spoke of how relieved he was for his parents when he was captured by the Americans in Natuno, Italy.
At 17 he was the youngest in a prisoner of war camp, first in Alabama and then in Pennsylvania. There, he first developed his love and respect for America as a place of tremendous change and endless hope. A constant thread throughout his life from then on was both his fear of economic depression that led to fascism in Germany and his hatred of war in general. He actively campaigned against the rearming of Germany and welcomed the development of the European Union.
Wilfried had a long and distinguished career as a professor of German of international repute, especially in the 18th century period known as the Goethezeit. He received his doctorate from the University of Freiburg and habilitated at the University of Tuebingen, entitling him as a full professor. After shorter appointments at the Rice University in Texas and at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, he became a professor of German in the department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1971.
Wilfried was a scholar in the true sense of the word whose numerous and genial contributions had far reaching intellectual influence that not only became an essential study for other scholars, but often changed the direction of critical thought. On the mundane level, Wilfried applied his ability to identify essential problems and create solutions in every aspect of his daily life from designing furniture to practical ideas about paper cups with straight sides and self-driving cars. Finally, he really loved teaching, and he was grateful he could interact with his admiring students until he was 78 years old.
Even in 'retirement' his lifelong avocation was his vocation, and he enjoyed embarking into new language and literary studies, most recently Tolstoy's "War and Peace."
Above all, the family was paramount for Wilfried, and he continued in the literary vein by imparting his traditions to us through story telling. He could entertain us with stories about his missionary grandfather in Ghana, Africa, who axed a snake about to strike his grandmother; about how a chapel is built within a church there in honor of Pastor Mohr who not only converted the locals to Christianity but who introduced bananas and cocoa, now essential to Ghana's economy; about his grandfather who made a dictionary for translating Ashanti to English; about his mother who was born in Ghana but raised in the Basel mission like all her siblings sent out of Africa; about his rich childhood in a large extended, Christian family; about his mathematician father who led the fire brigade; and always again about his beloved mother who started knitting when she was four and died knitting for her granddaughter when she was 95.
He wrote in German, "As death is coming ever closer, I still want to continue living a little longer for the sake of my family." He was always optimistic and willing to fulfill his commitments to healing himself.
One often saw him first running and then walking throughout Echo Hill, and he was an avid member of the Athletic Club. Despite his self-imposed heavy workload and disciplined work schedule, he never made a promise he did not keep to his wife and children. No matter the adversity, he was grateful for his home and good fortune and he repeatedly told his loved ones how happy he was to share his life with them. They were happy as well, and our beloved husband and father Wilfried will be sorely missed.
A memorial service will be held on Monday, March 18, at 11 a.m. at the Immanuel Lutheran Church, 867 North Pleasant St., Amherst, with a reception to follow. Burial will be private.
Obituary and memorial register at www.douglassfuneral.com.
Douglass Funeral Home
87 North Pleasant Street Amherst, MA 01002
Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette on Mar. 15, 2013