Paul Bernhardt Wiss


Paul Bernhardt Wiss
February 1, 2010 to September 15, 2010

Paul Bernhardt Wiss, 98, of Milton-Freewater, OR, died at home, on September 15, 2010, due to complications
of pneumonia. Family and friends may pay their respects from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Friday and 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on
Saturday, at Mountain View-Colonial DeWitt, 1551 Dalles Military Road, Walla Walla, Washington.
Celebration of Life will be at the City Church of Seventh-day Adventists, Walla Walla, WA, on Saturday, September
25, 2010, at 5pm. Private burial will be at a later time. Pastor Mark Etchell of City Church will officiate.
Memorial Contributions may be made to City Church Evangelism Fund or to the Walla Walla University
Department of English or Worthy Student Fund through the funeral home. Mr. Wiss was born February 1, 1912, in Astoria, OR, to Otto Jeremiah Wiss and Amanda Alexandria Lehtinen Wiss, who had both emigrated from Finland. Otto sailed around the world on a merchant marine ship, and came to the United States. He settled in Astoria, OR, in a large Finnish community and sent for his childhood sweetheart, Amanda, so they could be married. Paul was the second of four children born to the couple, and the only boy. He spoke only Finnish until he went to school at age 6, where he learned English, and became proficient in the language, often interpreting for his parents. Paul grew up helping his father in his blacksmith shop, in his commercial fishing boat, and later as a young adult, in the Silver Corner Saloon that his father owned in Astoria. Paul relished retelling the story of a serious injury he suffered on his father's fishing boat. At the age of 14, he slipped on a wet deck in a rolling sea and slid into the uncovered engine of the boat, stalling the boat. As soon as his father had extricated Paul and got the motor running again, he headed back into port. With Paul's leg badly broken, Otto hauled him up to the dock by rope and pulley because the tide was very low and the boat was well below the dock. At the hospital, a young doctor wanted to amputate Paul's leg, but a kindly old WWI doctor, who had seen many hasty amputations said, "This is just a young boy. He's going to need that leg. Let's try to save it first. We can always cut it off later if need be." For many months, Paul was in the hospital, and recuperated for many more months at home, but his leg was saved and served him well throughout his many years. Paul had a wonderful singing voice, and was asked to sing often at his mother's Lutheran Church in Astoria, particularly at Easter Cantata and Christmas programs. When he was about 21, he went to Portland, OR, and became a singing waiter at The Rathskeller, a popular restaurant of that time. A beautiful young woman in the distance caught his eye as he was singing, and he vowed then and there to make her his wife. He always reminisced that "It was love at first sight," and "One look was all it took." JoAnn Lauree Bauer came in every night to the coffee shop of The Rathskeller, ordered a cup of coffee, and sat there for a couple of hours to listen to "that handsome fellow" sing. Paul introduced himself the first night he saw her, and after a brief courtship of only six weeks, they eloped to Sacramento, CA, by hitch-hiking all the way. JoAnn's friend, Bonnie, went along with them on the adventure as a "chaperone." They were married by a Justice of the Peace on December 24, 1934, a romantic Christmas Eve wedding. Paul soon got a job singing at a night club in Sacramento, and JoAnn worked as a hat-check girl. Her friend Bonnie worked there too, just long enough to earn fare back home to Portland. Another club owner heard Paul sing one night and offered him a job in his club in Sonora, CA. They moved to the mountains of Sonora where Paul sang and JoAnn again worked as a hat-check girl, and they were soon treated like family by the owners, Mack Gracie McKibbon, When they realized they were expecting their first baby, they decided that they didn't want their child raised in the night club business, so with the owner's blessing and a farewell party, they headed out and hitchhiked back to Astoria, where oddly enough, Paul went back to work in his father's saloon until he proudly welcomed his newborn son, Gary. In the following years, they kept in touch with the McKibbons. In early 1936, with Gary just a month old, they left Astoria and returned to JoAnn's hometown of Portland, where Paul worked at several jobs, eventually becoming a Navy/Coastguard Certified welder/steamfitter. Because of his "bad leg" and deafness in one ear, he was not eligible to serve in the military, so he served in the shipyards, working on Liberty Ships and Aircraft Carriers during World War II. After the war, Paul was head maintenance man at a chemical plant for 19 years, where his son Gary also worked for a time when he was in college. Paul later worked in industrial construction until his forced retirement at the age of 61, due to a work-related accident and hospitalization. In 1947, Paul and JoAnn attended an evangelistic series in Portland, and both gave their hearts and lives to the Lord. At that time, Paul also gave his singing talent to the Lord, and for many years thereafter, sang in Church, at weddings and funerals, and at various evangelistic meetings in the area. His wife JoAnn was often his accompanist on the piano. Because of his fluency in the Finnish language, he was also an interpreter at an evangelistic series in the Finnish community outside Portland, and was often called upon to interpret for Bible Studies. In 1949, their second child, Judi, was born, and as JoAnn always told the story, Paul was so excited to get his little girl, he kissed the nurse! He was active in the Mt. Tabor Seventh-day Adventist Church in Portland, OR, for many years, and enjoyed working with his wife in the Junior Division for over 10 years, pointing many young lives toward Jesus Christ. They often had picnics and corn feeds at Eagle Fern Park, in Estacada, OR, and parties in their home for the young people. Throughout their later years, they were contacted many times by their former Juniors-nowadults whose lives had been forever impacted by their love. The couple lived in Portland until retirement in September of 1973, when they bought a small U-Pick orchard in Milton-Freewater, and moved to be near their children, who lived in Walla Walla. Paul considered his 60-year marriage and his children and grandchildren to be his greatest treasures and achievements. In January of 1995, just 6 months before JoAnn's death, the Wisses celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary by renewing their vows - this time with a pastor - in the company of family from near and far, and special friends. Paul was a member of City Church, and for many years, his special joy was attending services, his pockets bulging with candy for the children, who affectionately dubbed him, "The Candyman." Paul's special interests throughout his life were singing, reading, spending time with family and friends, going to church, fishing, playing games, doing crossword puzzles, sharing stories about his life and his Finnish heritage, camping at the coast, and in the last few years, loving people and sharing about the Lord to them so he could meet them in heaven. He also spent many hours reminiscing about his wife, and watching ball games with his grandson, Tony Greer, who was his devoted caregiver for the past two years. Surviving are a sister, Kate Wiss Toms of Seattle, WA, a son and daughter-in-law, Gary Wiss and his wife Cheri of Walla Walla; a daughter and son-in-law, Judi Wiss Cronk and her husband Jerry, of Milton-Freewater; "chosen" son and daughter, Mike and Barbara Morehead, of Pilot Rock, OR; 10 grandchildren, (4 biological, 6 "adopted") Lisa Wiss Martin and her husband David, of Phoenix, AZ; Laura Wiss Wolosek and her husband John, of Washougal, WA; Larry Wiss and his wife Tina, of Nashville, TN; Geoffrey Wiss and his wife Dinah of Allen, TX; Valorie Wiss and her husband Marty Ytreberg, of Moscow, ID; Nathaniel Wiss of Bellingham, WA; Tony Greer of Milton-Freewater, OR; Rebecca Cronk Elliott and her husband Bradley, of Sherwood, OR; Erik Peterson and his wife Lori, of Oakdale, CA; and Heather Cronk Wilkinson and her husband Alan, of Albany, OR; 13 great-grandchildren - one of whom was named after Paul's mother, Amanda, and six nieces and a nephew. Paul was preceded in death by his parents, his wife JoAnn Wiss, and his sisters, Ethel Wiss Borgen, and Ebba Wiss Urell.
Friends may write memories and sign the online guestbook at
This life sketch was lovingly written by Paul's daughter Judi Wiss Cronk.


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