Bernward Thorsch (Berny) was born in Dresden Germany on 27 April 1920 and he passed away on 11 October 2015 in Santa Barbara. His father Benno Thorsch (deceased) owned Kamera Werkstatten, a company that produced innovative cameras and photographic equipment. The Thorsch family left Germany in 1938 because of their Jewish ancestry. Soon after arriving in the United States, Berny was drafted. After three rounds of boot camp and teaching German to the troops going to Europe, the Air Force discovered Berny’s mechanical expertise and photographic skills. Berny developed and designed air reconnaissance equipment, which was tested and perfected on B-17 bombers during his deployment in Panama City, Panama.
After receiving an honorable discharge in 1946, Berny returned to the United States where he first worked at a photographic business in Denver Colorado. In 1946 Berny and his wife Doris Rhynard Thorsch (married 1945) and young son Ronald moved to California to work with his father, Benno Thorsch at Studio City Camera Exchange on Ventura Boulevard. During 62 years as a business owner, Berny was active in the Studio City Chamber of Commerce and he was a 50-year member of the Studio City Rotary Club. His 50-year perfect attendance pin was one of his most treasured possessions.
Berny was a mountain climber, glider pilot, sailor, bicyclist, photographer and adventurer extraordinaire. Joining the Sierra Club in 1953, Berny loved the summer backpacking trips in the Sierras and throughout the western United States. Berny purchased one of the first Kelty backpacks when Mr. Kelty was selling them out of his garage. The aircraft-aluminum framed pack was the only one Berny used on all of his adventures.
Berny moved to Santa Barbara to be close to his daughter Jennifer in 2008, after the death of his wife Doris. His failing eyesight did not deter his desire for adventure and love of photography. Soon after arriving, Berny joined the Braille Institute of Santa Barbara, which became a very important part of his life. The stimulating classes, the dedicated teachers, and the enduring friendships he made enhanced his life beyond measure.
In 2010, at the age of 90, Berny and his family traveled to his place of birth in Dresden Germany and to Sankt Gallen Switzerland, where he attended the Institute auf dem Rosenberg from 1934-37. While in Dresden, the family visited the Technische Sammlungen, a museum dedicated to local technology and photography. The Director and Curator of Photography proposed hosting an exhibition about the Thorsch camera factory in Dresden. In September 2011 the exhibition entitled The Picture You Will Get opened. The exhibition and warm welcome the family received in Dresden was one of the most memorable and important life events for Berny.
Berny’s passion for photography took him all over the world from Africa to Tibet. Berny continued to take photographs (not pictures) with a Canon 35 mm film camera (no digital camera for Berny) even when his eyesight was nearly gone. Berny’s photographs demonstrate his unique sense of composition and ability to capture the moment when the light is perfect. In 2012, an exhibition of his work, Insight: The Blind Photographer was held at the Braille Institute.
Berny is survived by his daughter Jennifer Thorsch (Charles Kaska) and their son Benjamin (Cynthia), and his two grand daughters from his son Ronald Thorsch (deceased) Brooke Yamamura (Brian) and Carrie Thorsch and great grandchildren Dylan, Tyler, Presley, Autumn and Ashland.
The family wishes to thank the nurses and doctors at Cottage Hospital for their excellent care. Dr. Kyle Lemon dedicated his recent bicycle ride supporting the Arthritis Foundation California Coast Classic to Berny. We also thank Serenity House for exceptional care and compassion during his final days.
Memorial donations may be made to Santa Barbara Braille Institute 2031 De La Vina Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93105.
Gute Reise Papa, Ich liebe dich.