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Dr. Patrick Werner, second from left, with colleagues presenting a report on Nicaraguan archaeology to Chinese canal developers.

NICARAGUAN ADVENTURER: Bay City Native Patrick Werner Heads Canal Dig

August 21, 2016       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Patrick Werner traveled 2,100 miles to attend the 1966 Bay City Central High School class reunion last weekend, no doubt becoming one of the longest-traveling alumni ever in local history.

It was the first time Werner had been here in 30 years, and he brought his Nicaraguan wife, Maria, to meet his friends and classmates.

Werner, 68, son of the late Sam Werner, well-known local attorney, would scarcely have enough time to recount all his adventures in Central America even if the reunion took several days. He is likely among the most venturesome Bay Cityans, perhaps, since Dr. Esson Gale went to China in 1908 and ran the Salt Administration for the Allied Powers.

If you had a chance to hear him, Werner would amaze with tales of dealing with the infamous Contras revolt of the 1970s, guiding Russian journalists for Izvestia in the northern mountains, exporting snook fish to Costa Rica on a gunrunners' boat, searching for -- and finding -- gold, rebuilding rifles for the Nicaraguan army, winning the national pistol championship with a World War I vintage 45-caliber, and his latest project, heading a team of two dozen archaeologists preparing the way for the Grand Nicaraguan Canal planned by the Chinese.

More mundane jobs included teaching at the American School for more than 20 years (where he met his wife Maria Auxiliadora Zeledon, a physical education teacher there) writing fiction stories about his exploits for Gun Digest, making saddles and penning about 50 academic papers on Nicaragua delivered at conferences all over Central America.

Did he find gold? You betcha! There's plenty of the shiny stuff in the mountains. Maria was given two ounces of gold when the pair got married in 1989, he said.

Oh, and by the way, in his spare time he published a book on orchids, a subject on which he is an international authority. He also expanded his scholarly activities and became an expert on Nicaraguan labor law, college accreditation, and mining law.

His Michigan adventures pale by comparison: helping run Bob Traxler's historic 1974 campaign for Congress, serving as assistant Friend of the Court in Saginaw County, earning bachelor's and master's degrees in Latin American Studies from Michigan State University.

His two daughters from a previous marriage live and work in Wyoming and Maria's daughter is a teacher at the American School while her son pilots a shrimp boat for the international food giant firm Cargill.

His academic credentials come from tenure as academic dean of the University of Mobile (a private Christian college in Alabama that has since pulled out of Central America) in Nicaragua. As a boy, he grew up on Cass Avenue and attended Broadway Baptist Church.

Recently he has served as Associate Professor of Law and History for Ave Maria College of the Americas San Marcos, Nicaragua.

Dr. Werner's archaeology for the HKND Group handed over to the Nicaragua Grand Canal Commission the Report of Preconstruction Archaeological Investigation in Brito and all the artifacts discovered during the course of excavation.

More than 5,000 pieces of pottery sherds, lithic artifacts, and coins dating from 500 BC to the pre-Columbian era were discovered during the archaeological investigation, indicating human settlement and activities on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua as early as 500 BC.

The most noticeable findings of the excavation include an intact jar for salt production and 14 fire pits, which serve as the first salt production evidence in Nicaragua, according to Dr. Werner. The archaeological investigation has deepened the academic knowledge and understanding of Nicaraguan history and culture during pre-Colombian era, contributing to the development of Mesoamerican anthropology and archaeology studies.

If you want to learn more, check him out on


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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at

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