Guenther Woerne, a pioneering baker who left a lasting imprint in the culture of Seattle's University District and in the local German-American...
Guenther Woerne, a pioneering baker who left a lasting imprint in the culture of Seattle’s University District and in the local German-American community, passed away Wednesday at the age of 75. He died of heart disease.
Mr. Woerne was born in the town of Ihringen in southwestern Germany, and at age 16, began his apprenticeship as a baker. Yearning for adventure, he left for Canada and later moved to Seattle, where in 1959 he and a partner opened Guenther’s Pastry Parlor near the University of Washington.
His wife, Lynnette, was a UW student when she met him as he decorated the new site with souvenirs from his South American travels.
“I looked into those wonderful blue eyes,” she said. They married in 1961.
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In 1963, Mr. Woerne opened Woerne’s European Pastry Shop and Restaurant, destined to become a landmark for UW students and faculty. Mr. Woerne made sophisticated pastries in the Old World tradition and let clients linger — providing a rare haven for intellectual talk in a city that was yet to develop a cafe culture.
“There were very few places in Seattle where we could have the kind of gatherings we had in Vienna,” said Dennis Andersen, a pastor at the Bethany Lutheran Church. Andersen was a graduate student at the university’s Department of Germanic Languages and Literature in the 1970s. “It really shaped a couple of generations of graduate students,” he said.
UW students who dated in Mr. Woerne’s restaurant and later married would bring their children to sample the pastries, said his daughter, Maria Drury. Mr. Woerne’s specialty was the Black Forest Cherry Cake. For his daughter’s wedding, he baked “eight or nine different types of cake,” said son-in-law Peter Drury.
Mr. Woerne’s establishment foretold the coffeehouse boom in Seattle. “Its menu of rich but inexpensive treats was an early example of the ‘little luxuries’ concept later promoted by Starbucks, Cinnabon, and their ilk,” said Clark Humphrey, who wrote about the restaurant in a book titled “Vanishing Seattle.” Later in life, after selling the University District business in 1988 and briefly running a bakery in Magnolia, Mr. Woerne would consult for Starbucks.
Mr. Woerne liked skiing, woodworking and gardening. He remained closely connected to his homeland, and devoted his time to the local German-American community. He was a member and past president of the Continental Club. After his death, his hometown, Ihringen, “rang the church bells for him,” Maria Drury said.
Mr. Woerne is survived by his wife, Lynnette; his daughter, Maria, and son-in-law, Peter Drury, of Seattle; and his son, Robert, of Grand Junction, Colo. Also surviving are his siblings, Annamarie Gumpert, Horst Wörne, Helga Mayer, Gretel Müller, Dieter Wörne and Inge Sexauer, all of Germany; two granddaughters; and numerous nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Lake City Presbyterian Church.
The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to North Helpline/Emergency Services and Foodbank, 12707 30th Ave. N.E., Seattle, WA 98125 (www.northhelpline.org), or to the charity of one’s choice.
Ángel González: 206-515-5644 or firstname.lastname@example.org