Hermann Ruess

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  • "There will never be another Herman! Our prayers and..."
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Anchorage resident Hermann Ruess, 77, died March 12, 2009, at Lukas Klinik in Basel, Switzerland, after a short illness.
A celebration of life will be 6-8 p.m. April 9 at the Lake Hood Aviation Museum, 4721 Aircraft Drive.
His cremated remains will be scattered over Keyhole (Beaver Lake) near Mount Susitna.
Hermann was born Jan. 20, 1931, in Zurich, Switzerland, to Otto and Teresa Ruess.
He and his friend Hansruedi Scheuter had a great desire to learn to fly. They played accordion duets at dance parties to make enough money for passage on the Queen Elizabeth to Canada in 1953. On board, they entertained the ships' passengers.
When they arrived in Canada, they searched for jobs until they were down to their last can of sardines; fortunately, Canadian Acme Screw and Gear Limited hired them. After Hermann tried repeatedly to get to the United States, the Ford Motor Co. in Cleveland sponsored him to work at its plant as a tool and die maker.
The first thing he did in the United States was learn to fly.
He and three of his European friends worked six months together and were drafted into the military by the U.S. government, which gave them the choice of either entering the service or leaving the country. He spent four years in the Air Force hoping to get into flying, but once in the service, he and his friends were assigned as tool and die makers in South Carolina and New Mexico, finally ending up at Elmendorf Air Force Base.
After separation from the Air Force, he worked as an engineering aide, investigating crash causes. He spent four years with the Boeing Co. in Seattle, working full-time and studying at the University of Washington for a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.
Thereafter, he was hired by the Los Alamos Laboratory, which installed a personal shop for him called the "Swiss Foundry," where he designed and built anything the physicists dreamed up, mostly equipment for nuclear fast breeder reactors.
In 1970, U.S. Fish and Wildlife hired him for the dream job of his life, to rebuild a Grumman Goose for long-range surveys of whales, seals, walrus, polar bears and caribou, which included flights in the "Aleutian Goose" throughout Alaska and the Lower 48.
After 14 years with U.S. Fish & Wildlife, Hermann flew DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otters and a Fairchild F-27 for Evergreen, Gifford Aviation Inc., Pacific Alaska Airlines and Misty Air in Alaska and California. Then, for eight years, he flew a Citation for Security Aviation. Finally, he flew for Katmai Air for about eight years, flying a Navajo.
During his long career, he made the first jet landing on the Arctic ice near Red Dog Mine, his family wrote, and landed with a Twin Otter across the runway at Kotzebue in 50-knot winds to save a patient's eyesight.
He also made a landing on the sea with a Grumman Goose at Dutch Harbor and taxied for several miles to reach the shore due to low ceilings, and later made an emergency landing in Anaktuvuk Pass on one ski so he could avoid a steep canyon.
"Hermann flew just about every airplane, knew a tremendous amount about the construction of an airplane, how to fly it, and how to teach students," his family wrote.
His final year of flying involved teaching students in his favorite Taylorcraft float plane, N44047.
"His love of precision carried into all phases of his life, from how to slice bread to how to fix and fly an airplane," his family wrote.
Hermann will be missed by his wife of 53 years, Heidi; son, Rick Ruess; daughter, Heidi Vania, and son-in-law, Mark Vania, all of Anchorage; brother, Reini Ruess, and sister-in-law, Renate Ruess of Switzerland; sister, Helena Mueller, and brother-in-law, Walter Mueller of New Jersey; his favorite cat, Snoopy; and all of his other friends.
Memorial donations may be made to the Alaska Humane Society, P.O. Box 240587, Anchorage 99524.
Published in Anchorage Daily News from Mar. 29 to Mar. 30, 2009
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