Jakob Zollinger Dr. hc

School Teacher, Historian and Author , 1931 - 2010

Jakob Zollinger grew up in Herschmettlen, a small hamlet in the municipality of Gossau in the Zürich Highlands. From the time he was eleven years old, he started collecting plants and documenting the inscriptions on local farm buildings, and for the rest of his life he never lost his passion for the history and the environment of his native region. His early interest in the history and the traditions of the region inspired him to always focus on the people around him, in order to find out their own history and their local knowledge. Jakob Zollinger considered this emphasis on the human resource far more important than research in archives. He had the gift to connect to the people around him, which generated the kind of relationship that made them eager to share their personal stories with Jakob.

Jakob Zollinger trained as a teacher, and among all his varied interests, teaching the youth of his community remained his favourite occupation for the rest of his life. He was a teacher for 42 years, and for 32 of these years he taught several grades in the same classroom in the small hamlet of Herschmettlen, in the very same classroom where he himself sat as a pupil many years earlier.

During his teacher training, he also attended courses in folk history at the University of Zürich, where he found a mentor among his professors. He encouraged Jakob to continue his field studies, which was a new approach to historical research that had not yet been well recognized. And although Jakob Zollinger did not have the academic qualifications, he gained the respect of historians because of his profound local knowledge and his long experience. This is reflected in the fact that he contributed some 70 articles in local newspapers and historical publications. In his free time Jakob loved nothing more than to be outdoors, be it as a mountaineer, or hiking in the local forests and hills. And after his retirement in 1993 he could spend as much of his time as he chose in his beloved outdoors.

Although his interests were far-reaching, he was not the distracted academic, on the contrary, he was always very well organized. But the pursuit of his interests were so exciting for him that he often worked late into the night. Yet his study was also always open, be it to welcome his children to play and draw there, or for the visits of friends and neighbours, for whom he always made time to listen to their concerns. Jakob Zollinger published several books on the historical farm house construction styles, on the inscriptions on local farm buildings, and many other topics that interested him. He also illustrated his books with his own pen drawings, and he sometimes took the time to paint landscapes of his beloved Zürich Highlands.

In 2003 he was recognized for a lifetime of contributions to the history of his home region, and awarded the “Doctor h.c.” title by the University of Zürich. In the Laudatio he was in particular praised for his research and documentation of the traditional farm buildings of the Zürich Highlands, and for his research on the moor areas of his home area. He passed away on March 27, 2010, having been valued as one of the most important historians of the region.

Source: Obituaries in the Regional Newspaper “Zürcher Oberländer”, Wetzikon, March 29, 2010


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