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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

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Krockenberger, Oskar (1926–2012)

There are stars up above, so far away we only see their light long, long after the star itself is gone. And so it is with people that we loved. Their memories keep shining ever brightly, though their time with us is done. But the stars that light up the darkest night, these are the lights that guide us. As we live our days, these are the ways we remember.
Jewish proverb

A private and humble man, he would probably hate this being said, but Oskar Krockenberger was such a ‘star above’ – not only to those who loved him, but to all who shared time with him during his lifetime of hard work, family life and service to the Templer Community.

Oskar was born on 18.4.1926 in the German Templer settlement of Haifa, Palestine; his late sister Irene (Severin) was born in 1919, Frieder in 1921 and Bruno in 1931. Their parents, Karl Krockenberger and Hilde née Heselschwerdt, had a farm in Betlehem/Galilee where Oskar enjoyed a happy childhood, roaming the beautiful surroundings. When WWII broke out in 1939, the settlement was enclosed by barbed wire and Templer families from Haifa were interned there, too, with several families quartered in each house.

In 1941, with hundreds of other Templers, Krockenbergers were transported on the Queen Elizabeth to Australia and interned in camps outside Tatura in northern Victoria. School classes were soon organised and Oskar was able to matriculate, but life was frustratingly restricted in camp. After 5½ years, he was released and worked on a dairy farm in Kerang, then as a bricklayer in the Barossa Valley, where he built a house for his parents in Tanunda.

In April 1954, Oskar married Margarete Weiss in Bentleigh, Victoria, in a double ceremony with Gretel’s sister Trudy and Bruno Herrmann, and a strong foursome was formed. Oskar and Gretel lived in Tanunda, where Michael (1956), Ingrid (1959) and Tania (1964) were born and Oskar established a successful poultry farm.

In June 1974, they moved to Melbourne, where Oskar was now employed as business manager in the TSA Office. Every Monday he was at the Templer Home for the Aged in Bayswater, dealing with wages, rent and often the personal concerns of residents. By 1989, Mark Herrmann became his ‘apprentice’, working under his expert tutelage; his wise counsel, understanding and guidance were greatly appreciated.

In 1990, Oskar retired to live on his ‘hobby’ farm at Nar Nar Goon, where he raised cattle and continued with his breeding program of horses. His daughter Ingrid shared his love of horses. Nearby were Trudy and Bruno on their farm, and they all came to community events in Bentleigh or Bayswater. Oskar and Gretel were also part of the Discussion Group, an informal think tank that met for many years.

In 1990, Oskar’s close friend and work colleague Dieter Ruff (at the forefront of TS leadership) wrote the following tribute for the Templer Record:

Oskar brought to his work a fortunate combination of personal qualities and abilities. He rigorously and consistently applied these to any specific task, the application process being characterised by common sense and a profound understanding of human nature. For him the human side came first, it had priority over other considerations.

Nowhere were Oskar’s extraordinary prudence and patience more evident than in his practical day-to-day work for the Templer Home for the Aged – be it in his handling of the many personal concerns of the elderly living at the Altersheim, in dealing with administrative and staff related matters, or in sorting out maintenance requirements and financial difficulties, or in the planning and building of extensions and additional self-contained units.

Perhaps the key to Oskar’s personality can be found in his attitude to life. It is positive and forward looking, borne by faith and a strong sense of purpose, and full of goodwill and concern for others. All this set the course he steered as the TSA’s business manager – working in a myriad of capacities – it shines through his work as an Elder, and it gives meaning and substance to what he is passing on to others to continue.

In this unreserved vote of thanks and good wishes I include his wife Gretel who so ably supported Oskar, and let him work and be the way he felt called to.
[Dieter passed away in late 2004.]

In 1999, Oskar was able to go with Mike and Ingrid on ‘something of a pilgrimage’ to the land where he was born and which he had left 58 years earlier, aged 15. The tour company had advised that there was a guesthouse in Betlehem, so it was booked.

Arriving in the village, they saw the house of pale stone blocks with red tiled roof and shuttered windows. Astonished, Oskar exclaimed ‘That’s our house!’ With the owner Joseph he checked the mundane details that still lurked in his memory; he was very happy. Their room ‘was in the old horse stable, now with an en suite Jacuzzi installed, but with the feed trough retained’. Oskar had often fed his father’s Arabian horses at that trough. For Mike came understanding: his family had always farmed, kept horses, grown olive and oak trees, run a few sheep to keep the grass down – here was the model that made his father’s stories fall into place. And now they ‘had stayed as Joseph’s guests in a stable in Betlehem’, as Mike concluded an article he wrote for The Age about their experience.

Oskar and Gretel moved to a new unit in the Templer Village in 2000, again close to Bruno and Trudy, and just across the road from TTHA, where he volunteered. He enjoyed the lawn-mowing, pruning and so on for a number of years, as well as the contact and conversations with the residents, many of whom he knew well.

He was held in high esteem, and it was richly deserved. He made time, had patience, showed genuine interest, was prepared to share and was skilled in making people feel comfortable when speaking with him.

Oskar became increasingly unwell and was finally diagnosed with PSP – Progressive Supranuclear Palsy – a rare neurological condition. He passed away at TTHA on 6th November, aged 86. There is relief that his suffering is over. And sadness that the foursome has ended. Many will miss Oskar, but he will stay in our memory.

‘In the end, these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you learn to let go?’ The famous Largo from Handel’s Xerxes was played at the double wedding. Monika Herrmann played it beautifully as a final tribute at the conclusion of the dignified service honouring Oskar’s life.

Original publication

Citation details

'Krockenberger, Oskar (1926–2012)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/krockenberger-oskar-18058/text29635, accessed 24 July 2021.

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