Hans "Jack" Helmut Hessler

18 March , 192724 December , 2018

Hans “Jack” Helmut Hessler was born March 18, 1927 in Hamburg, Germany to parents Anna (Stark) and Ernst Hessler.

He died at home in Cambridge, Ontario on Monday, December 24, 2018 at the age of 91. Beloved husband of Mary Lou (Fanning) for 58 years, loving and dedicated father of daughters Anne Starr (Clifford) of Paris, France, and Stephanie of Concord, Massachusetts, and sons Chris of Boston, Massachusetts and Jackson, Wyoming, and David (Tatiana) of Nendaz, Switzerland. He will be lovingly remembered by grandchildren Paul Schubert, Philip Hessler, Brolin Mawejje, Thomas Schubert, Jack Hessler, Jimmy Hessler, Peter Starr, Nikki Hessler, Katja Hessler, Lisa Hessler and Alec Hessler. He is predeceased by brother Karl Ernst Hessler and sister Barbara L. Brandt.

At the age of seventeen, he was drafted into Germany’s only surviving Cavalry Regiment in Lueneburg, Germany in August 1944. A knee injury saved him from being sent to the Russian front in January 1945. He returned home in March 1945 to become a prisoner of war of the British in May 1945. He was discharged after time spent in a POW camp outside Ploen, Germany in July 1945. Jack received his Baccalaureate from the Waldoerferschule in Hamburg, Germany in 1947. He then served a three-year apprenticeship as grain merchant with a journeyman’s certificate from Handelsschule, Hamburg. Jack immigrated to the United States in 1950 to assist in the opening of the office of Germany’s largest grain import/export company, Alfred C. Toepfer, in New York City. In March 1951, as an immigrant to the U.S., he was given the unexpected choice of either being drafted into the U.S. Army or being sent back to Germany. He selected the former. Jack became a member of the U.S. Military Intelligence Service after graduating from the U.S. Army Language School in Monterey, California, as a triple linguist (Russian, German and English). He was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina where he became an interrogator of Russian defectors. After his discharge in 1954 from the U.S. Army, he was hired by Cargill, Inc. of Minneapolis, Minnesota, a global grain trading and agricultural commodities processing firm. During his 35-year career, he served in nine countries, including The Philippines, Peru, Canada and Switzerland, on four continents primarily as Country Manager. He was continually motivated by his worldwide assignments. He was nominated a Director of Cargill’s European operation in The Netherlands in 1983 and served as Chairman of the Board of Cargill’s operations on the subcontinent.

From 1998 to 2006, he served as President of the Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation, a German/American organization headquartered in New York City under the auspices of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland and the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He enjoyed the privilege of bestowing the Von Humboldt Gold Medal Prize on President George H.W. Bush, Mr. Ted Turner and Mrs. Teresa Kerry for their extraordinary accomplishments as leaders and philanthropists. Von Humboldt prizes were given to young scientists in the agricultural field, as well. His personal passion was agriculture. He and his wife purchased a 250-acre farm in Branchton, Ontario in 1971 where they lived from 1989 to 2013. He re-purposed farm buildings for a poultry operation and enjoyed a small herd of Black Angus cows. As a land developer, he developed some 200 building lots around Cambridge between 1990 and 2005.

He was a family man first and a friend to everyone. His work ethic, integrity and gift for telling stories about his life and travels were a source of inspiration to family and friends. He and his family attended the Lutheran Church in Cambridge, Ontario for many years since 1971. Jack and Mary Lou sold their farm in 2012 to retire at the Granite Landing Residence in Cambridge.

During his lifetime Jack Hessler planted many trees, probably 5,000 in total including on his farm in Branchton and several of his subdivisions. He loved trees, nature and wildlife, specifically that of South Africa where he and Mary Lou spent time in retirement.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to The Royal Canadian Geographical Society. A private celebration will take place at a later date.


  • Celebration of Life Gathering Friday, 15 March , 2019

Hans "Jack" Helmut Hessler

have a memory or condolence to add?

Claudia and Marc Lehmann

19 February 2019

Our deepest condolences go out to the Hessler family and friends. We never got the privilege of meeting Jack, but opening our home to Peter (and Anne -although we were not home at the time!) was our pleasure! We’re glad that we were able to help make your visits a little easier! From the stories we heard, he was a very special person! Xo

Clemens Toepfer

23 January 2019

To the Hessler family, our deepest condolences to all of you, particularly to Mary Lou for the loss of this wonderful man. My farther was a great and close friend from the childhood days in Hamburg and they kept their friendship till the end. The friendship is being carried on in the next generation. One of the Toepfers will for sure try to attend the ceremony for Jack. Love from the Toepfer in Hamburg

Dana House

20 January 2019

From Dana Snodgrass House
Greg sent me this beautiful memorial to Jack.
You all are always in my heart with memories of Geneva.
Love and prayers, Dana

Catherine Catton

12 January 2019

I have many fond memories of Jack and Mary Lou visiting my parents, Cliff and Hazel Luce. Very sorry to hear of Jack's passing. Sincere condolences to Mary Lou and the Hessler family.

C. Wendy Shaver

7 January 2019

Two more unlikely "brothers" may never be found, but the mutual respect and love that Jack and Donald shared over the years is a testament to humanity's ability to pursue "common ground" and live in peace. Jack's military career alone is an amazing and heartwarming journey of reconciliation. My father's military background as a tank commander during World War ll should have been an impediment to their strong bond but it only served to weld them together in a powerful way.
Both men were passionate about agricculture so that when they met, through their Cargill connection, an enduring friendship began to form.
Dad and I were honoured to be invited to a final family gathering at one of their favourite restaurants, (Crieff), last Spring.
Dad, Donald Shaver, who predeceased Jack by less than 5 months, would have wanted to say a final goodbye to his dear friend and ally.
My thoughts and prayers are with his faithful and brave wife, Mary Lou, and family at this time. God Bless You. Love you Jack.

Janice and Bob Howison

6 January 2019

We will always remember Jack and Mary Lou as gracious hosts in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We were lucky enough to be invited to an Elk Roast at their son Chris’s ranch. We bought a lot from Jack in Branchton and this started a friendship with them both more than 25 years ago. We know Jack will be missed dearly by Mary Lou and their children and grand children .
Our sincere sympathy.
Bob and Janice Howison

Gerald Menezes

5 January 2019

My deepest condolences to you, Mary Lou. It was a real pleasure and privilege to have served Jack in the capacity of corporate banker. Jack epitomized optimism, hard work, patience, civility and integrity. There was never a meeting when he did not mention his "kids", Anne, Stephanie, Chris and David. I have wonderful memories. Jack was truly one-of-a-kind and will be fondly remembered. Peace.

Jim and Connie Voll

2 January 2019

Jack and Mary Lou have meant a great deal to us. We always enjoyed our breakfasts together and we were thrilled by the adventures they would share with us. I think the lesson I learned from Jack was that there is always a solution to any problem and always a way for a win / win outcome. To Mary Lou and family we are sorry for your loss.

Marilyn Fisher

2 January 2019

I met Mr. Hessler while I was working for Cambridge and North Dumfries Hydro when he was developing residential subdivisions. It was always fascinating to talk with him and to work with him through the many details regarding the subdivision agreements.

It was also a pleasure to meet Mr. and Mrs. Hessler more recently at Granite Hill Landing, where Mr. Hessler enjoyed remembering the times we had worked together on his developments and where I enjoyed listening to Mrs. Hessler play the piano for guests and residents.

My condolences to Mrs. Hessler and the Hessler family.

Jean Davidson

1 January 2019

My husband and I shared many happy hours at Cheri and Bill's house with your parents, they were a very interesting couple. He was a great comfort to me when I lost my husband almost 2 years ago, I will never forget him saying to open the window and let Bob's spirit go. And I did, it was a great comfort to me.

Cheri's Mom Jean