Address by the German partners on the occasion of the Tree Dedication in memory and honor of Donald Wittwer

(Sept.16, 1930 – Jan. 2, 2021)

As we say in Germany, “Heaven should have waited”.  

There are no words in any language that adequately express what this unique, amiable and warm-hearted dear friend Don meant to my own family and the Sister City Association of Lengerich. As I try to find some appreciative words in honor of Don Wittwer to fight my initial speechlessness I catch myself beginning an inner dialogue addressing our deceased friend. “ How friendly you received the first visitors from the distant ‘planet’ Germany in 1994. I also recall how keenly you showed interest in the ongoing of the growing friendship between the citizens of both our cities and particularly the private relationships emerging from the initial spark.”  

The American friends did not get tired of talking about the great German beer and wine, the food in general, the ancient castles, traditions, common values and the German way of life, likewise we Germans were much impressed by the easy-going way, the unparalleled hospitality, by Hamburgers, corn on the crop, Marshmallows, cheese macaronis etc. Eventually we both discovered that the national differences became less distinct and the conviction that it was diversity we shared most as a common experience in a democracy became an asset we both enjoyed in coming together.  

Don was born in 1930 like the most famous son of Wapakoneta , Neil Armstrong.  

Unlike Neil he did not reach for the stars and particularly the moon, but he reached out for strangers from Germany whom he met for the first time. There was no fearful expectation, but mere curiosity about what adventure there was to come. The Westphalian guests were received with respect, appreciation and kindness. This is the legacy we today still feel committed to.  

May Don’s forward going spirit and his human kindness inspire the next generation to continue his great but yet unfinished work to make this world a little better against all odds.  

We will never ever forget our friend who was so close to our heart. He will live on in the hearts of the people who benefited from our cultural exchange between Lengerich and Wapakoneta. 

Ursula Hohmann-Assig (president)