Wurstfest Headliner Dies of Cancer

Maloney, Ron. "Wurstfest Headliner Dies of Cancer." Herald-Zeitung, 24 July 2005.

Because of another engagement, Myron Floren will not be coming back to Wurstfest, and our signature sausage and heritage festival will never be the same.

Floren died at his Rolling Hills, Calif. home Saturday morning surrounded by his family. He was 85. He leaves behind his wife, Berdyne, and five daughters and their families.

A memorial service will be set in California at a later date. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to a special fund that will be set up to benefit the United Service Organization or USO, which books entertainment for American troops overseas. The Herald-Zeitung will provide that information when it is available.

News of Florens passing came from Wurstfest spokesman, Herb Skoog, who said the entertainer best-known around the world as Lawrence Welks accordion-playing sidekick, succumbed to a long illness.

We got a call about a week ago, telling us he had probably 24 hours to 48 hours to live, and he rallied, Skoog said. Then we lost him this morning.

Skoog said Floren had passed a very bad time, and his family suggested he lie down and sleep. A couple hours later, they realized hed slipped away to play his instrument for the angels.

All of us at Wurstfest are saddened at the news of the passing of our friend, Skoog said. Our hearts go out to Berdyne and his family at this difficult time. Myron Floren lives in our memories as a true gentle man. He was our headline entertainer from his first appearance in the Wursthalle in 1968 through his last show in 2002.

In all, Floren played at Wurstfest for 34 years, only missing 1998 to recover from heart surgery.

During his visits, he was very generous with his time and talent, going beyond normal entertaining to visiting nursing homes, civic clubs and doing many visits, Skoog said. He was always warm and courteous to everyone. After doing a long, hour and a half show, he would take all the time needed to sign autographs and visit with friends. In all the years he entertained at Wurstfest, he remained our Happy Norwiegan.

Floren made many friends in New Braunfels, a city whose residents could truly appreciate, as Welk had, Florens virtuosity with his chosen instrument.

Even in latter years when he struggled with personal health problems, Floren maintained a cheerful and positive attitude, Skoog said.

Lederhosen-clad Grosse Opas come and go each year as the master of ceremonies or local symbol of Wurstfest.

On the national scene, though, it was Florens headliner power built over decades of playing for Welk that played the greatest part in making Wurstfest the nationally known success it is today.

In 1968, when Wurstfest was considering a featured entertainer, late director Raymond Baese, suggested to the board that Floren be brought in.

Skoog said a lot of people scoffed at the idea a national television performer like Floren would consider coming to New Braunfels, but Baese called, and Floren loved the idea.

With the passing of Myron Floren, the Lord has a new, talented member to add to his fold, and we have lost a member of our Wurstfest family, Skoog said. We will all miss him.

Floren was born in Roslyn, S.D., the eldest of seven children. At age 7, he talked his father into ordering a Sears accordion.

He attended Augustana College in Sioux Falls, where he met Berdyne Koerner, his future wife.

At KSOO radio in Sioux Falls, he played an early morning show that featured waltzes and polkas of Polish and Scandinavian origin.

When World War II began, Floren tried to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Corps, but was turned down for medical reasons. He enlisted instead in the USO and entertained the troops overseas.

When he returned from the war, Floren and Berdyne lived in Sioux Falls where Myron had a radio show. In 1946, they moved to St. Louis. One night, they danced in a ballroom where Welk was appearing, and Welk invited Floren up to the stage to play a song.

Welk offered Floren a job that night. He joined Welk in 1950, and stayed with him until the show ended in 1982. Reruns still play on more than 200 public television stations around the United States.

Biographical information courtesy of the Lawrence Welk Show Web site, www.lawrencewelk.com

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