Wilhelm Rettenbacher

Wilhelm Rettenbacher was born January 19th, 1924 in Schladming, Austria. Raised in Austria until the age of 14 when he took to the road by himself and traveled to Hamburg, Germany. Once Wilhelm arrived in Hamburg he quickly found work as a deck hand on one of the many fishing boats.
Wilhelm worked as a deck hand until the age of 17 when he joined the German Kreigsmarine. During his time with the Kreigsmarine he was once again united with the Ocean when he was a member of the famous German U-Boat Fleet. Wilhelm served with the German Army and the U-Boats until the end of World War II. Once the War ended, Wilhelm returned to work as a deck hand on a Swedish fishing boat.
In 1955 Wilhelm decided to risk leaving his home in Germany and immigrate to Canada. Ten years past in Canada and Willie entered the United States of America via Seattle, Washington. Once in Seattle, Willie joined the Merchant Marines. Willie began his career with the Merchant Marines as an Ensign in 1965 and served with Pride and Honor for 38 years. Wilhelm held the rank of 2nd Officer at the time of his retirement from the Merchant Marines at the age of 79. Despite travelling thousands of miles from home, Willie still remained loyal and returned home to Austria every year for the last 30 years.
Wilhelm Rettenbacher survived his son Ronald Rettenbacher. He battled prostate cancer for 18 years, bladder cancer for 2 years, and Willie finally passed on Tuesday May 25th, 2010 at the age of 86 due to renal failure with his closest family members by his side comforting him. He is survived by his Wife of 26 years, Marlies Rettenbacher, three step-children, five grand children, and four great grand children.
Throughout his life Wilhelm walked to the beat of his own drum. He loved life and lived his 86 years on this Earth to the fullest. Willie loved to ski and loved to share that passion with others. More so than anything else though, the most common thread during the course of his life Wilhelm respected and cherished the open Ocean. Wilhelm will be returned to the Ocean that gave him so much joy and the Ocean that played such a large roll in his life.

4 Responses to “Wilhelm Rettenbacher”

  • Teddy Donobauer says:

    Uncle Willie was my father Victors half brother. I only met him when he was over to visit my mother in Sweden ia gfew years ago. He filled in the picture about my father who died when I was just 5 or so. He had traveelled the seas around Scandinavia and even been to Mariehamn on Åland where I now live. May the sailor rest in peace.

  • Clarissa Bieber says:

    Willy was my grandfather and I will never forget him!

    My father, Norbert Bieber, was his son, born in 1944 …

    Willy met his mother (my grandmother), Käthe Bieber, in Kaliningrad (formerly Königsberg) while he was doing military service on a submarine.
    Being pregnant and fleeing from the Red Army, Käthe was going to Austria as per the wish of Willy. But she didn’t succeed and gave birth to their child in Lengenfeld, a village in the German region Saxony.
    I don’t know all details because both of my grandparents never spoke about it. I think they wanted to forget the history. Certainly, it hurt to much …

    The contact between each other broke down. Willy married his first wife from Hamburg and emigrated with her later. Both had a son too, but he died tragically when he was still a child.

    My father, who regretted that he didn’t know his father, began his researches after the German wall had come down. We were in Austria/Schladming when he met the right person for transmitting our contact to Willy.

    It was Willy’s wish to meet my father and us, his family. So I met Willy first, when I was 11 years old.

    Owing to the long distance between Dresden and Seattle and the years before without any contact, we weren’t able to rebuild up a closer relationship as it was. I wish, we got to know each other under other circumstances. If I had had the money, I would have travelled more often to Seattle.

    This night, Willy has appeared in my dream. He seemed to be lucky and gave me the feeling that everything is OK.

    Willy: I admired your journey through life and I’m proud to have had such a grandfather!


    PS: Today, I’m living in Strasbourg/France.

  • Danny R Bowles says:

    I collect Walthers and have done so for many years. I came to have Mr Rettenbacher,s ppk or pp holster. It has his name inside of the flap and is in excellent condition
    Thank you so very much.

  • Donald Marshall says:

    Willie and I were shipmates on several APL vessels and several tankers the names of which I’ve forgotten. I haven’t forgotten his dedication to job and his optimistic outlook on life. We were issued our USCG licenses at the same time. Willie had an original 2nd mates license a huge accomplishment in 1979. We saw each other often at the MMP Union hall and were friendly until he crossed the final bar. Steady as she goes, Willie and full ahead.

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