Our beloved Ulf Pacher, former colleague and editor of Austrian Information from 1969-2000, passed away on February 5, 2012 in Kitzbühel after years of illness. All who knew him remember him with a smile, and he is sorely missed by his wife Monika, son-in-law Charles, daughter Daniela, and granddaughter Belinda.
My father was born on November 16th, 1937 in Wiesau, Silesia and spent his boyhood skiing and acting out the adventures of novelist Karl May’s native American Indian in Tirol. His fascination with the United States began when he received a single Louis Armstrong jazz trumpet as a teenager.
The music quite literally struck a chord within the young intellectual eager to expand his horizons. He studied political science at the University of Vienna, where he continued to perfect his accentfree English. He would soon put this talent to good use by translating political science books and by becoming a translator for United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
During his student years he became involved in politics with his long time friend and professional colleague Dr. Leopold Gratz, who later becameMayor of Vienna and Austrian Foreign Minister. My father’s deep interest in American history and politics eventually took him to the University of Arkansas at the age of seventeen - he was one of the youngest Fulbright scholars from Austria.
As a student, he participated eagerly in the civil rights protests underway eagerly in Little Rock. He later pursued graduate studies in New York, where he received his Master’s Degree from Columbia University’s School of International Affairs in 1970. Among the many Austrian political figures who were close friends, none was more influential than Bruno Kreisky.
The two bonded during Kreisky’s opposition campaign as they traveled throughout Austria orchestrating a political victory. Chancellor Kreisky then grudgingly accepted my father’s decision to leave for New York, calling 1968 a “bad year” with the departure of his friend, as well as the death of the lady who supplied him with his favorite mushrooms. A planned one- or two-year interlude at Columbia University brought the family to the United States when I was only two-years old.
The first visit turned into an exciting thirty-two years, I later received my law degree from Columbia University and live in New York to this day.
While still completing his studies, my father joined the Information Service to edit Austrian Information. From 1969 to 1982 he served as Editor with the Austrian Information Service in New York, and from 1972 to 1982, worked concurrently as Press Counselor of the Austrian Mission to the United Nations. He was then posted as Consul for Austrian Press and Information in Los Angeles.
Here he enjoyed holding court with countryman Wolfgang Puck at his Hollywood starstudded restaurant Spago. Finally, he served as Press Counselor at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, D.C. until his retirement to Kitzbühel in 2000. My father enthralled everyone he met with his encyclopedic knowledge of American history and politics, his “native” English, and his charismatic humor. His famously lengthy stories both amused and edified friends, students, reporters, and politicians alike, but also chronicled a unique historical period as Austria strove to define its post-World War II identity.
His greatest asset was his ability to build bridges – whether it was between opposing political actions, diverse ethnic groups, or different religious affiliations. He becameinvaluable by developing strong contacts with the American media, members of Congress, members of state legislatures and leaders of Jewish organizations. He actively fostered better understanding between Austria and his adopted home, since he was uniquely equipped to work in both countries simultaneously. For anyone who knew my father, the name “Ulf ” is synonymous with jazz.
For a man with no musical training whatsoever, jazz became the emotional embodiment of the civil rights movement, of his passion for America, and of his politics. His jazz collection eventually totaled over 11,000 albums, and he spent innumerable hours in jazz clubs, particularly his favorite club Bradley’s in New York. He could most often be found there at 5:00 a.m. when only musicians remained. He cried when his good friend trumpet legend Wynton
Marsalis serenaded him with “Sweet Embraceable You” on the eve of his granddaughter Belinda’s birth. He was tickled pink when, by complete coincidence, Belinda became best friends with the daughter ofWynton’s trumpet protegé, Roy Hargrove.
His love of jazz and tremendous goodwill in that world culminated in a ground-breaking fundraiser at the Austrian Embassy in Washington in 1993. At this event Wynton Marsalis and other jazz luminaries packed the embassy halls to raise money to bring the body of the great tenor saxophonist Carter Jefferson home from Poland, where he had died of kidney failure while on tour. My family would now like to continue his dreams.
To that end, we would like you to know about the Jazz Foundation of America. For over twenty-one years, this organization has worked to save the homes and lives of elder musicians in crisis; it literally “saves jazz and blues...one musician at a time.” Donations of any amount can be made in my father’s name at http://jazzfoundation.org/memory_honor or sent to Jazz Foundation of America, 322 West 48th Street, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10036.