Gerhart Bendix died peacefully at his Yreka, Calif. home on April 28, 2007.
He was born in Berlin, Germany on January 1, 1913, the first child of Otto and Gertrude Bendix. He began his working life as a farmer in Czechoslovakia. At age 21 he sailed to West Africa where he managed a banana plantation in the French Cameroons. In 1937 he traveled back to Germany to help his mother and siblings leave Europe; he then intended to return to Africa and the job he loved there. Instead, at the urging of his mother, he departed for the United States where the family purchased a small farm out of Forest Grove, Ore. At a Grange Hall card party he met Louise Peters who was the teacher in a nearby one room school; they married in 1941. During World War II he was an interrogator in an intelligence unit known as the Ritchie Boys, a group of mostly Jewish native German and/or Yiddish speakers who trained at Fort Ritchie, Md. At the close of European hostilities he traced the whereabouts of his father and later learned that Otto Bendix had died at Terezian concentration camp. He left the U.S. Army a Captain. He began his career in the lumber business as a clerk at Gales Peak Lumber Company in Forest Grove where his mother was already the bookkeeper. In 1953, the key personnel from Gales Peak, including Fred Voget, Richard McCurdy, Sr., Gerhart, and his mother formed Hi-Ridge Lumber Company and purchased a sawmill in Seiad Valley, Calif. where the company processed timber from surrounding National Forests at a time when the local District Ranger insisted he needed a sawmill close by to help him manage the forest. Shortly thereafter the company added a planing mill in Montague, Calif. Throughout most of the firm's 46-year life, members of the Voget, McCurdy and Bendix families collaborated in owning and running the operation. Hi-Ridge always enjoyed a large core group of long-term, skilled, and dedicated workers; one of the times this was most evident was in 1970 when the Hi-Ridge crew dismantled the Seiad mill and re-erected it as a greatly modernized facility on Phillipe Lane in Yreka, Calif. In business, Gerhart was fair in dealing with partners, employees, contractors, competitors and timber industry associates; he was dogged in looking out for his company in negotiations. He loved working whether it was at the company or at home where he tended a large garden, a broad lawn and lots of fruit trees. He loved Louise who predeceased him after 56 years of marriage. She was proud of the fact that he had farmed on three continents; Europe, Africa and North America. He loved big, loud family gatherings, especially when he could tell stories and listen to the stories of other family members and friends. He saw that the United States had shortcomings but he knew there was no better country on Earth; he considered Siskiyou County, Calif. a paradise; he adored the lush green of Washington County, Ore.; he understood the good of what life gave him and he was grateful for it.
He is survived by his brother, Gunter of Oldsmar, Fla.; by his sister, Moni Gomes of Berkeley, Calif.; and by his sister Ruth Burlingham of Forest Grove; by his eldest daughter, Kathleen Liebenow and son-in-law, Larry of Providence, R.I.; by his son, Gerry of Redding, Calif. and daughter-in-law, Ursula of Yreka, Calif.; by his son, David of Yreka; by his daughter, Judy and son-in-law, Tom Pehrson of Richmond, Calif.; and by grandchildren, Danika Miskelly, Anna Petra Liebenow; Valeska Martin, Peter Bendix, Nika Bendix, Piper Pehrson, Zoe Pehrson, Sage Cannon, and Meredith Cannon.
A memorial will be held at the Yreka Community Center, 810 N. Oregon St., Yreka, CA on Saturday, June 23, 2007 at 11:00 a.m. Donations may be made on behalf of Gerhart Bendix to Madrone Hospice, 255 Collier Circle, Yreka, CA 96097.