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2013-01-31

Saying auf wiedersehn to Herr Bürgermeister

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

(With special thanks to Charlie Baker, Elenora Dugosh Goodley, Sandra Schott, Maggie Schumacher, Tilly Smith and Peter Smykala for their assistance with the compilation of this eulogy.)

Bandera has lost its beloved Bürgermeister Horst Kurt Pallaske, who passed away Wednesday, Jan. 23, after a long illness. Pallaske was born in May 27, 1944 in Naroczycach (Nahrschütz) Wo¬≥owski in the Kreis Wohlau District, a Silesian village that has existed since the 14th century. The area later became a part of East Germany.

His parents, Kurt Pallaske and Frieda Büttner Pallaske were natives of Wroclaw (Breslau). At the end of 1944, Pallaske's father was conscripted into the German Army. He was reported missing during the Battle of Lower Silesia in 1945.

Displaced persons' camp

Pallaske's life was not an easy one. Before the arrival of the Russian Army in Silesia, his mother had fled with her children to Nuremberg, a city in West Germany where the family lived in the American Zone of Occupation.

At that time, displaced persons were relocated to refugee or interment camps. Though circumstances were basic and even grim, Pallaske made many friends. His friendships - both German and American - lasted a lifetime.

During the time spent in the interment camp, he also became very involved in his church. Because of the influences of his mother and the church, Pallaske developed the strong ethics and high moral standards that were his hallmarks until his death.
He remained with his siblings and mother in the displaced persons camp for 13 years. When reflecting on his difficult youth, he often talked about how frail and sick he had been during that time. One of his fondest memories, however, was the smell of freshly baked pies placed in the windows to cool. He also recalled the kindness of American soldiers who gave him chocolates.

These experiences explain the joy he took in making children happy - especially those visiting from other countries. It also accounted for his love of animals and his insistence that the city's stray cats not go hungry.

Coming to America

Pallaske completed his schooling while living in the refugee camp. He later became a machinist for a large German company, which entailed traveling extensively throughout Europe. After moving to America in 1963, he joined the United States Army - to honor the American soldiers who showed him kindness during the occupation of Germany after World War II.

Pallaske became an American citizen prior to serving a tour of duty in Bien Hoa, Vietnam in 1966 and 1967. During a later tour of duty in his native Germany, Pallaske worked as both translator and military negotiator, assisting farmers whose fields had been compromised by army maneuvers. The jobs suited him because he was familiar with both the languages and cultures. Also, working in Germany enabled him to be close to his beloved mother.

During a deployment to Weisbaden, Germany, Pallaske purchased a gasthaus - and the role of host suited the affable supply sergeant.

Prior to his retirement from the army in 1994, after serving 22 years, Pallaske spent time at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. During his Texas tour, he reconnected with an army buddy and his wife, Bob and Tilly Smith, who lived in Bandera.

Bandera, at last

As Tilly Smith recalled, "Horst said, 'I'm gonna come and see you.' Well, he did and just fell in love with Bandera. After the visit, he said, 'Find me a place, any place.' Well, I did and that was how Horst got to Bandera."

As godfather of the couple's daughter, Jessica, Pallaske told the Smiths he wanted to stay close to "his little sunshine."
In addition, the convenience of his residence on Hackberry Street allowed Pallaske to walk home after downing steins of bier on weekends. As everyone can attest, he liked nothing more than a good party. "That house we got him really came in handy," Tilly Smith quipped.

Pallaske joined American Legion Post 157 in 1995. In 2001, eight people met to establish the Bandera Honors Veterans Committee; however, Post Commander Charlie Baker described Pallaske and Fidel Ramirez as the "main forces that drove the committee."

Last November, the ninth annual commemoration was held the Saturday before Veterans Day. Over 500 people crowded the Bandera County Courthouse lawn to watch Pallaske being honored for his service and continued dedication to the area's veterans.

Public service

During his sojourn in the Cowboy Capital of the World, Pallaske also served on the Economic Development Corporation and on Bandera City County. In addition, he was elected mayor for two terms, in 2008 and 2010.

A friend of Pallaske's once noted that he couldn't believe that "a half orphan who grew up in a refugee camp could become mayor of a city in America." The friend added, "Horst proved that America truly is the land of opportunity."

During his tenure in public service, Pallaske often strolled around the city wearing a 10-gallon hat with pride, visiting businesses and always giving visitors a warm welcome.

While serving as mayor, Pallaske also enthusiastically supported the Bandera-Strzelce Opolskie Sister City-County Partnership - especially since that area is located near his birthplace. In turn, he was loved and admired by many people in Strzelce Opolskie, Poland.

Citing ill health, he resigned as mayor in May 2012.

A memorial for Pallaske will take place at 1:30 pm, Sunday, Feb. 3, at Grimes Funeral Chapels in Bandera, 1214 Mulberry Street. Telephone is 830-796-3922. Veterans with American Legion Post 157 will perform the "Everlasting Ceremony" during the memorial.

"First SGT Pallaske, we salute you, our friend. Herr Bürgermeister, we raise our glasses and toast you saying, 'Ein Prosit' to you and a life well lived."

Pictured: Photo by Judith Pannebaker
During a previous Oktoberfest at Mulberry's Wine Bar and Bistro, then Mayor Horst Pallaske lifted a stein with former Councilman Nancy Montgomery, left, and Councilman Maggie Schumacher.

Photo by Carolyn B. Edwards
Bandera Honors Veterans, an annual event held each November around Veterans Day, honored Horst Pallaske last fall with a special plaque recognizing his service to the organization. Pallaske was instrumental in founding the event and worked hard every year during its nine-year history to make the salute to all of Bandera County's veterans grow in attendance and meaningfulness.