Physician, father, regular at the Kinsmen Sports Centre; born in Munich, Germany, on March 22, 1929; died on August 22, 2013, in Edmonton, of heart failure, aged 84.
When Werner Schulze was a little boy in Berlin, a city the Nazis had already made their capital, before he was old enough to go to school and since he was lonely because his older sister had already begun, he invented an imaginary playmate, a little girl.
When he finally grew tired of his mother’s teasing him about it, Werner announced that his playmate had left: She was Jewish and had to leave the country. As a young man, Werner wrote to his older sister from university in Switzerland to say he had met his imaginary playmate – and planned to marry her.
In 1954, Werner Schulze, a Lutheran, whose surgeon father had served in the German army in both world wars, married Sylvia Sandberg, from an Orthodox Jewish professional family in Zurich.
In Germany, Werner had studied medicine like both his parents (though his mother never practised). He chose gynecology and obstetrics as his specialty over pathology when Sylvia pointed out he would prefer living patients to the dead. After a first residency in Frankfurt, Werner left Europe for Canada in 1956, with Sylvia and their newborn son. After an internship in Toronto, they moved to Edmonton in 1958.
Until he established his own practice, Sylvia supported Werner as a secretary, since medical interns and residents were not paid at that time. After that, she raised their four children, Bernard, David, Philip and Naomi; as well as her nephew and niece, Edward and Carola Sandberg, who moved to their home from Zurich in 1972, at the ages of nine and six, after Sylvia’s brother, Rolf, lost his wife to leukemia.
Werner raised his children in the Lutheran faith and took pride in helping his wife to raise her niece and nephew in the Jewish faith. In years when the dates aligned, the family would light the advent wreath and Hannukah lights on the same evening.
Werner and Sylvia lost their daughter Naomi in unexplained circumstances at the age of 18; while staying with family friends in Germany, she failed to come home from school one day. Her body was found more than a year later, in early 1981. In the spring of 1983, Sylvia died of pancreatic cancer at age 51.
Werner continued to practice medicine until 1997, taking special pride in helping patients overcome infertility and having pioneered techniques such as gynecological laser surgery.
Upon retirement, he was able to take the Hebrew courses he been interested in all his life and announced with a physician’s practicality: “The mental effort should stave off Alzheimer’s for another few years.” He also travelled and continued as a faithful member of his church and an enthusiastic patron of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the Edmonton Art Gallery.
A large part of his retirement, however, was given over to a rigorous exercise regime he adopted and continued after complications from two different surgeries left him in rehabilitation. Twice he left his hospital bed in a wheelchair and left rehab with a walker, and twice he trained until he could move about with only a cane, continuing exercises every weekday at the Kinsmen Sports Centre.
In July, 2013, Werner took the train to Vancouver to attend his youngest son Philip’s wedding, where he saw children and grandchildren, as well as his brother-in-law and his youngest sister. Six weeks later, he died suddenly at home when his heart stopped.
David Schulze is Werner’s son.
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