Valley Lives - Karl Baron von Wendt
The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the February 15, 2006 issue. Reprinted with permission.
Hills aristocrat drowns in U.S.
Karl Baron von Wendt, one the "characters" of the Gatineau Hills, met an unfortunate death on Feb 6, when he apparently fell overboard from his 42-foot yacht in Chesapeake Bay, and was found drowned. von Wendt was living aboard the boat for the winter.
Bill Brown, of Cantley, who had spoken to von Wendt Just the night before, recalled that the Baron had complained about the decks becoming slippery with ice.
Known as "the Baron", von Wendt first came to the Gatineau Hills in 1975, when he purchased an estate of 1,000 acres and a 20 per cent interest in the Mont Cascades Ski area. Within a few years he purchased the shares of the other partners, and added a summer slide, turning Mont Cascades into a year-round operation as it still is today.
von Wendt had crossed Canada twice looking for a place to settle, before deciding on the Gatineau Hills. The population and crowding in Europe had made him yearn for more space.
The Baron was born in North Westphalia in Germany in 1937, to a family whose roots go back to the 11th century. He lost both his father and uncle in World War II. At age 18 he gained control of the family estate.
Karl was an expert rider, and breeder of fine horses, with stables that could accommodate 90. He moved from horses to autos, first in go-carts, and soon became the European champion. He soon moved from go-carts to road racing sports cars. He was so successful that the Porsche factory team hired him to drive prototype sports cars for them. Karl and his co-drivers dominated the racing scene in Europe and took the European championship several times.
He took a racing team to Argentina and helped establish a sports car racing league in that country.
Back in Germany he invested in a ski area near his home village only to be faced with several years of no snow. That's when he developed a summer slide and developed a theme park which still hosts more than 1,000,000 visitors a year.
While living in the Gatineau, von Wendt kept himself busy with other things. He was a pilot and regularly flew his twin engine turbo prop to the various cities of Europe. He became a diver and an expert underwater photographer.
Hids great love became boating, ranging from cruising the Gatineau River in a 38-foot pontoon boat to ocean racing yachts. His Dehler '38s won many trophies racing from Tampa, Florida, to the Bahamas over a period of several years.
After trying a period of retirement during the reunification period in his native Germany, Karl returned to the Gatineau.
His body was being flown to Germany for burial in his native village of Gevlinghaussen at the request of his two sons and a daughter.
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