You have seen him ...zipping around Salmon Arm streets on his motorized scooter; Willie Joswig aka Speedy Gonzales.
Willie, as he prefers to be called, is 87 years old.
Willie tried to raise awareness and money for the Salvation Army Food Bank as he wanted to to help keep the shelves filled.
He had a sign on his scooter and printed a 1000 flyers and distributed them. When asked why he did this he replied, “It is the right thing to do. I have been through hard times in my life and just want to help out people who are in need.
He did indeed face difficult times.
Willie was born in 1928 and was brought up on a small farm outside of Johannisberg, Prussia, along with 11 brothers and sisters. He started school at 7 years old, he had to feed cows and then walk 3 miles to the school house. As the Germans continued their onslaught, Willie’s family was concerned that they would end up in a work camp. He was sent to live with his uncle who ran a woodworking shop. He lived there for 4 years while learning the woodworking trade.
At 16, he was conscripted into Hitler’s army and sent to the Eastern front. With the fall of the front, Willie was taken by the Russians to a prisoner of war camp, where he remained for one year. Out of 2000 men in the camp, only 147 survived (Willie was one of them). At seventeen and a half, he emerged, weighing only 81 pounds. He says that it was hate and anger that kept him alive.
Following the war he took up a trade to be a tailor and went back to school.
In the early 1950s he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Textile Engineering and Industrial Management, attended the Institute for Fashion Design Mueller and Son, in Germany. He also studied at the International Fashion Academy Jean Darroux, Paris, France. He became the Technical Supervisor for the Clothing Factory Eduard Wilken in Gelsenkirchen, Germany and later, Plant Production Manager for Marcona Clothing. He was married in 1954.
Willie and his wife immigrated to Montreal in 1957. His knowledge of clothing design and manufacture, landed him jobs for Sport Togs Inc. and Utex of Canada, both in Montreal. In 1965 he started a career as an independent consultant and worked as a fashion advisor in a managerial capacity for well-known firms, such as: Hudson’s Bay Company, Aero Garment Limited, Holt Renfrew, Surrey Classics and London Fog.
Willie’s wife passed away in 1990. He moved to Salmon Arm 2 years later.
Arrangements are in the care of Bowers Funeral Home and Crematorium, Salmon Arm.
Willie passed away on April 7, 2016. No service by request.