It is with great sorrow that we learnt of the death of Lys Assia on 24 March at the grand old age of 94.
Miss Asia will always be remembered as the winner of the inaugural then Eurovision Song Grand Prix in Lugano in 1956 where she represented the host country Switzerland with “Refrain”. In accordance with the practice that year she actually performed two songs in the contest, both representing Switzerland, the other being “Das alte Karussell”. She participated in the contest again in 1957 and 1958 representing Switzerland and returned to the Swiss national selections in 2011 and 2012.
During the 1950s, Miss Assia enjoyed chart success in German-speaking countries, most notably with her song “O mein Papa” but she returned to the limelight in the 21st century as the First Lady of Eurovision, making regular appearances on the live shows. Fluent in 6 languages including German, French and English, she was always delighted to meet fans of the contest and could often be found partying the night away at the EuroClub. She was always charming, friendly and relaxed around people who had not even been born when she won the first contest.
Born Rosa Mina Schaerer on 3 March 1924 in Rupperswil in the Canton of Aargau, Switzerland, she began her singing career in 1942 and also worked as an actress. She married Henry Kunz in 1957, only to widowed just 9 months later. In 1963 she remarried, this time to Oscar Pedersen, a Danish hotelier. They travelled widely but the couple suffered a tragic car accident in 1995 which killed Oscar and left Lys in a coma and then a wheelchair for several months. She settled in Cannes, but in 2004 after 38 years in France she returned to her native Switzerland, where she lived on the shores of Lake Zurich. She died on 24 March 2018 at the Zollikerberg Hospital in Zurich.
Many OGAE members across the world have their own very personal and fond memories of meeting the gracious Lys Assia. Countless fans have posted photos on social media of these meetings with an ever smiling Lys (often accompanied by her beloved dog). She will be greatly missed but will live on in the Eurovision heart.
On behalf of all our thousands of members, OGAE would like to pass on their deepest condolences and sympathies to Miss Assia’s family and friends.