Ernest (Ernst or "Ernie") Windisch was born in Germany in 1929 and served in the German military during World War II, as a corporal on the Russian front, where he suffered severe frostbite. After the war he immigrated (in 1957 or earlier) to Canada, where he lived at 1576 Desmarche Boulevard in Montreal, Quebec.
In November-December 1957 Ernest had his name and address listed as a mineral collector in the "Collector's Corner" section of Rocks & Minerals magazine, expressing his interest in making contact with other collectors. He advertised in the May-June 1959 issue of Rocks & Minerals, offering an "Outstanding collection for saleóMany xls, xl groups, fluorescents." Whether this was his personal collection (brought from Germany?) or a collection bought for resale is unknown, but he had been collecting minerals for several years by that time.
Apparently the interest in his collection was so encouraging that he decided to go into the mineral business for himself the following year, moving to a new town (while his wife remained behind in an apartment in Montreal) and operating as the Champlain Rock Shop in Philipsburg, Ontario. He first advertised his new business in Rocks & Minerals in November-December 1960 (when he was 31 years old). He acquired many of his specimens by field-collecting, offering "Canadian minerals. Hackmannite (fluorescent), arsenopyrite, uvarovite, diopside, hematite, silver, skutterudite, erythrite..." and "Iridescent fluorite crystal groups. 2 x 2 inches, $4." (See Jones, 1961).
In the November-December 1961 issue he changed his company name to World Wide Minerals, at the same Philipsburg address "one-fourth mile north of the Vermont border on Highway 7." His small, classified ads offered various items including fluorescent scapolite, opals and pyritized snails, but a substantial part of his business was mineral specimens. In June 1966 he wrote: "We maintain the largest stock of choice crystal specimens from worldwide localities." He also traveled periodically to acquire specimens, writing in March-April 1963: "No mail orders please until May. We hunt minerals in Mexico and Europe. See us at Oklahoma [National Show, June 13-16] and Lake Placid [Eastern Federation Show, June 20-22]."
According to Bob Jones, when Ernest was on the road selling minerals he dealt mainly out of his car, and seldom bathed. He would show up at any hour, even in the middle of the night. Sometimes Bob would wake up to find him sleeping in his driveway.
His favorite drink, which probably killed him, was a Canadian vodka of some kind, a taste probably acquired in Russia. He would drink a couple of water glasses full with lunch.
Ernest Windisch died on 24 March 1967, at age 38; he had suffered from diabetes, and was found unconscious (probably due to diabetic shock exacerbated by alcohol consumption). He was buried in Outremont, Quebec. His ads continued for a few months thereafter, probably having been paid for in advance. His brother Heinz Windisch took over his business when Ernest died, continuing to sell minerals until at least 1970 (according to the back note on a Eugene Sensel label).
Peter Zodac of Rocks & Minerals magazine, who knew him personally, described him:
"Mr. Windisch was well-known by the rockhound fraternity, collectors, dealers, and had attended a large majority of rock and mineral shows held all over the country in recent years. We found him to be a fine gentleman who was always most helpful and courteous to all who came in contact with him. Mr. Windisch is survived by a mother and brother in Germany."
JONES, B. (1961) Collecting fluorescent minerals. Rocks & Minerals, 36 (5), 497.
JONES, B. (2019) Personal communication.
ZODAC, P. (1967) Ernest Windisch of World-Wide Minerals dies suddenly. Rocks & Minerals, 42 (5-May), p. 381.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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||50 x 86 mm; dated on the back "Fri. Nov. 12, 1965"|