Building a life

Gerd Roessler (1922 - 1999)

Gerd Roessler was born in Dresden, Germany, on 31 October 1922, one of twin boys born to Else and Max Roessler. He grew up in his hometown but his twin brother Werner did not survive to adulthood. After he left school, Gerd took up a position as an apprentice cabinet maker, learning a trade which would change the course of this life.

During the war Gerd served as a radio operator in the German Navy and returned to a very different homeland when the conflict was over. With Dresden in the communist-held East Germany, he fled to the west and in 1951 answered a call for builders and carpenters to come to Australia under a scheme instigated by the AV Jennings building company. One hundred and fifty men were recruited by the company and they became known as the Jennings Germans, who were responsible for building many of the new homes in the rapidly expanding city of Canberra. Almost 50 years later, the Jennings Germans still hold reunions.

After two years in Canberra Gerd started looking for a warmer climate and hearing of work at Keepit Dam he travelled north with a friend. After missing the turn-off at Willow Tree, arrived in Gunnedah by chance.

The new Regal Hotel was rising from the ashes of the old Royal which had been ruined by fire and after enquiring about work, Gerd was invited to start immediately at the Regal, beginning a long association with his adopted town.

In 1955 his finance, Trudy Thurnagel arrived in Australia to join him and they were married at the German Lutheran Church in Goulburn Street, Sydney, on December 16, 1955. Gerd brought his bride to Gunnedah where he built his own home and they raised two children, Eric and Christa. He became a naturalised Australian citizen in 1956. Over his working life he worked for local builders and eventually went out on his own. He also taught his craft at the Gunnedah Technical College for quite a few years and finished his career as a maintenance man at Gunnedah District Hospital.

In his youth Gerd was a fine sportsman, excelling in gymnastics in his homeland and enjoying rifle-shooting, cycling, tennis and swimming in this new life in Australia. In his later years, his passion became bowls which he mixed with gardening, home brewing and hobby trains.

He returned to Germany three times and was finally able to walk freely when he visited in 1996 after the reunification of Germany.

Gerd loved Gunnedah and never wanted to live anywhere else. He was a man who accepted life as it was with no pretentions and no artifice and was a loving husband and father, a true friend and a loyal Australian. He passed away in 1999.


-          This article first appeared in the Gunnedah Paper, 18 March 1999.