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Theodore E. Seiler, 1908-1981


Theodore E. Seiler, Chairman of the Board of the world reknowned Seiler Hotels in Zermatt, Switzerland, died in Zermatt on August 17, 1981.

Theodore Seiler was born on August 4, 1908 at the Monte Rosa Hotel in Zermatt. He was the grandson of Alexander Seiler I (1819- 1891) who, in 1855, purchased the Lauber Inn in Zermatt and renamed the establishment The Monte Rosa in honor of the first ascent of that peak in the same year. It was from his grandfather and father (Dr. Alexander Seiler II) that he learned and appreciated the history of mountaineering in the surrounding peaks of Zermatt. The Monte Rosa Hotel remained within the control of the Seiler family for three generations. Under the tenure of Theodore’s grandfather, the hotel earned its worldwide reputation as the center of mountaineering in the “Golden Age”. Edward Whymper used the Monte Rosa as a staging point for his numerous attempts, and final conquest of the Hörnli Ridge on the Matterhorn, July 14, 1865. The atmosphere of the Monte Rosa to the present time reflects the impact of this achievement.

Mr. Seiler’s professional life commenced in 1929 when he entered the field of world banking. During his long and distinguished career as a banker he retained control of the Seiler-owned Monte Rosa and Mont Cervin hotels in Zermatt. Amongst the numerous positions he held during his long career were Managing Director of the Swiss Bank Corporation, Vice Chairman of the Bank of Tokyo in Zürich, and Director of Swissair. In addition he also held office in many overseas financial organizations.

Mr. Seiler spent much time away from his beloved Switzerland during his life, primarily in New York and Brazil. He married Yvonne Diehl in Brazil in 1943. The Seilers were the parents of five children. Yvonne Seiler passed away in 1971.

The climbing career of Mr. Seiler only spanned the years from 1920 to about 1950, but it was enough to convince him of the importance of preserving the history of the Monte Rosa. He made three ascents of the Matterhorn, two of Monte Rosa, three of the Rimpfischorn, one of the Hohthäligrat, five of the Breithorn, one of the Zinal Rothorn and over 200 ascents of the Riffelhorn by numerous routes. The climbing which he had time for was centered about Zermatt, his home and the center of modern mountaineering. He realized the importance of the classic climbs and of Zermatt’s place in alpine history and strove to enhance and preserve it.

Even though Mr. Seiler was tremendously occupied with international banking matters throughout his life, he never lost sight of the alpine importance of Zermatt. In 1950, he applied for and was elected to membership in the American Alpine Club. Certainly a most wealthy man, he never lost sight of the magnetism of the Alps about Zermatt, and provided numerous climbers throughout the world with special rates to enjoy the unique hospitality of the Monte Rosa and its history.

Theodore E. Seiler served mountaineering and the history of the Golden Age with supreme dedication, love, and compassion for his less fortunate peers and followers of the heights, and his passing has most certainly left a void with all of us. He was a true gentleman of an era which most of us can only reflect upon.

He now lies at peace in the Zermatt Cemetary only a scant hundred yards from his birth and death place, the famed Monte Rosa, under the shadow of the Matterhorn.

We, as a fraternity of brothers and sisters, have truly lost a friend of the alpine realm.

John E. Longnecker