Josef Werner Rosenast 1936 - 2024

Josef Werner Rosenast, 88, of McMinnville, Oregon, passed away April 23, 2024, at his daughter’s home in Granbury, Texas, reuniting with his recently deceased wife, Hilda.

Sepp was born March 16, 1936, to Josef and Anna (Klaus) Rosenast in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. His formative years during WWII were spent along the Rhein River, where his father was stationed as a border guard. There, he acted as ringleader of pranks among his four siblings. One time, he shaved a Swiss cross on top of his little brother’s head; smeared the surrounding hair with tomato sauce; then stationed him on the river bank, bent over with his “flag” pointed at passing boats. Another time, he took apart a rude neighbor’s horse-drawn wagon…then reassembled it on the roof of his barn. This is just a small sampling of his many youthful pranks.

After Swiss military service and graduation from an agricultural trade school, Sepp was among 55 men chosen from 1000 applicants to join the Zürich Police Academy. As a police officer, one of his favorite jobs was directing traffic; but typing his own reports in triplicate made him want to “throw the typewriter out the window.” At one point, he even made it to the cover of the national newspaper for his daring work in apprehending a criminal.

Sepp jumped at the chance in 1963 to join fellow officers on a trip to America. Upon his return to Zürich, his sister Renata suggested that he share travel stories with her friend, Hilda Frei, who had a keen interest in travel herself. The talk went well, and on August 29, 1964, the two were married in a small church in Morschach, Switzerland. Their first daughter, Elisabeth, was born in June 1965. Later that year, Sepp and Hilda decided to move to the United States. His first job in the U.S. was as a garbage collector, which allowed time for tending his berry farm in Boring, Oregon. The family welcomed their second daughter, Andrea, in May 1968. After a brief stint in Albany, they purchased a dairy farm in McMinnville, Oregon, where they remained for over 50 years. It was here that Tony, Trish, and Joey were born.

Sepp loved dairy farming. He LOVED cows. With a proud, never-give-up attitude, Sepp worked hard to provide for his family. He never quit: seven days a week, 365 days a year, no vacations. He once had a fever of 104, and Hilda told him he couldn’t go out to the barn with a temperature that high. Sepp looked at the thermometer, said, “It goes up to 107," and went out to milk his cows.

People would always comment about his HANDS— those big, rough, strong, thick-palmed, meaty bratwurst-fingered hands— and the firm handshake he would always greet people with. Although, you had to make absolutely sure to give him a good grip in return, or he would think less of you.

Sepp commonly judged the character or worth of a person by how well he thought they accomplished a certain task or chore, and he set a very high standard. While stoic and demanding, he could also be quite tender. His children recall times when he’d come into the house from the barn at night and go to their bedside, pull up their blankets, and make sure they were snugly covered up.

Sepp had a charm and charisma that made you glad to sit and listen to his stories, of which he had many. He gave out quirky nicknames, and made up all kinds of words and catchphrases, creating his own little scat-like jingles that he’d sing when in a jovial mood. The kids delighted in pushing the buttons of a broken radio in the old pickup truck, while Sepp “played” the stations, singing different songs and making up his own commentary. He’d write funny little notes and poems and sing silly ditties to his wife. The kids remember him sharing long, sweet hugs with her in the kitchen. He sure did love her.

Sepp was a lifelong devotee of “Schwingen,” or Swiss wrestling, a national sport of Switzerland. He was a wrestler himself in the 1950s and  '60s, and a member of the Zürich Schwingklub. He was even crowned the Schwingerkönig (Schwing King). He kept up with the sport throughout his life and loved reading the Schwingen newspaper. He was also a member of the Portland Swiss Society and the Yodelklub Edelwyss.

There was also that coy, mischievous smirk of his. It either meant he found something funny or that you were on the receiving end of one of his pranks, or maybe both. And one could never forget that hysterical, infectious laugh of his. Sepp loved comedy, and his boisterous, bursting guffaw could always be heard when something funny was on TV, like The Carol Burnett Show (especially the exploits of Tim Conway), or Benny Hill.

Later in life, Parkinson’s dealt a surprising blow to this man who had always been known for his strength and physicality, but it was a difficulty he never really complained about and just treated as one of life’s many foibles.

Make no mistake: complaints about everything else were still forthcoming. For instance, whenever some celebrity or famous person came out with a book, he would always say, “Oh boy... another book. Everybody has to write a book,” then facetiously comment, "Maybe I should write a book." With all of his stories, we wish he had.

He died surrounded by family and cows. He is survived by his children, Elisabeth “Rocky," Andrea “Quacks" Hamilton (Shawn), Tony "Mr. T” (Maggie), Trish “Yips” (Chad), and Joey “Chuckie"; grandchildren, Austin Hamilton, Cassie Johnson, Mason and Gavin Rosenast, and Zander Candia; and great-grandchild, Corby Johnson— “A Wonder"; and brothers, Hilmar, Peter, and Armin. He was predeceased by his wife of 59+ years, Hilda Rosenast; and his sister, Renata Ostertag.

Auf wiedersehen Sepp/Joe/Dad/"Paps the Great”/Pappi
Liäbä di.
We love you.

A Rosary will be recited at 12:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 7, 2024, at St. James Catholic Church in McMinnville, Oregon, followed by a Funeral Mass at 1 p.m. Sepp will finally be laid to rest next to his love, Hilda, in a matching coffin in the St. James Catholic Cemetery. A reception will follow at  Golden Valley Brewery, where we hope everyone will continue to share their stories of Sepp with one another— if you knew Sepp, you had a story.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to: Rafiki wa Maendeleo Trust ( or The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research ( To leave condolences, please visit


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