Respected Rotarian, music supporter dies at 85

By Cliff Wells
Western Star Staff Writer
Tuesday February 7, 2006

Pasadena - Karl Diemer, a long-time town resident and businessman, died Friday.

Born in Ober-Kaufungen, Germany in 1920, Mr. Diemer's career as an actor was cut short by the Second World War. He was captured at the battle of El Alamein, while serving under Field Marshal Irwin Rommel in the Afrika Corps, then brought to Canada as a prisoner of war and returned to this country in 1954 as an immigrant where he became a school photographer.

He settled permanently in the province in 1960 and opened Nova Photo with his wife Roberte two years later.

Bernd Staeben, former Corner Brook businessman and fellow Rotarian, said Mr. Diemer was a conscientious member of the service organization.

"There was no question he was committed to the concept and principles of Rotary," he said. "He, certainly, gave 100 per cent.

"He attended all the meetings and participated in everything."

He said Rotary was a natural fit with Mr. Diemer.

"He was quite heavily involved in music," said Staeben. "Music meant a lot to him. Rotary has the music festival and so on, so he did his part as far as being a good Rotarian is concerned."

Born in Germany himself, Staeben said he had a special bond to Mr. Diemer. He said they often talked about Germany if one of them took a trip to the country.

He said being a Rotarian with 30 years of experience, seeing Mr. Diemer take up Rotary at a late stage and diving into it fully was inspiring, but that's not where they first met.

"I remember Karl way back when," said Staeben. "He started Nova Photo in the Millbrook Mall when the mall first opened in the 1960s. I was down there at McMurdo's Pharmacy in those days. I knew him then and he had quite a successful photo business."

He said Mr. Diemer spoke to Rotary about some of the experiences of his life.

"Karl told some wonderful stories about how he was captured," said Staeben. "He had one program (at Rotary) about when he was in Africa and told some quite unique stories. That was quite enthralling. I think everybody listened about how war isn't all peaches and cream. It's a pretty dirty business."

Gary Graham, a city musician and music teacher, was well acquainted with Mr. Diemer, especially from the concerts held at Villa Fairwind - the Diemer home.

"In these concerts, they brought a lot of people in, but they always started with a mature student," said Graham. "That was a wonderful thing because that not only gave them an opportunity to perform, but also exposed them to the performance of the people they brought in to do the main concert.

"Mr. Diemer always enjoyed giving a pre-concert chat about the composers."

He said Mr. Diemer's generosity extended further than opening his home for classical concerts.

"Once we started having concerts there, they invested in a much better piano," said Graham. "When we started, they had a small, upright piano. On the advice of people and trying to bring in more and more artists, they purchased a nice grand piano, with the acoustics of the room it made an ideal spot for these concerts.

Dr. Brian Harley, a Rotarian and doctor in the region, said Mr. Diemer was also known as being a very private person.

"He was approachable, he was talkative, he was sociable, but I can't say I knew a lot about him," said Dr. Harley. "He had a lovely wife - a very kind person - she looked after him a lot, brought him to Rotary meetings and brought him back, and she looked after him."

He said Mr. Diemer was a contributor to the community and a good volunteer, along with being a model Rotarian.

"His manners, his speech and everything was European," said Dr. Harley. "His liking were European - not necessarily German.

"In the room where all those concerts took place, all the painting were European - some of them medieval. You would never see it in any other person's house in Canada.

"His instincts were European, although he'd been here for many years."

A memorial service for Mr. Diemer is set for today at the First United Church on Park Street in Corner Brook at 10 a.m.