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Raymond George Burger (1927–2012)

by the editor

Raymond George Burger was born in Penshurst Victoria on the 23rd February 1927, the fifth child of Fred and Meta Burger. Baptized at Tabor Lutheran Church on 20th March that same year, he enjoyed his childhood growing up on the family farm with his six sisters and one brother. He enjoyed the smell of bread being baked in the kitchen, milking a quiet black cow when he was about 5, and once a year going to the beach with the entire family.

Ray’s schooling took place in Tabor Lutheran School between 1934 and 1940. The 4 mile trek to school was done by horse and cart and the horses grazed in the church yard during school hours. He regarded spelling and mathematics as his strongest subjects. He mentions in his memoirs that he particularly enjoyed the last year of school as some new sports equipment had arrived. He left school at 13 to go rabbiting and help out on the family farm. Although it was quite common in those days, in later years he looked back on this decision with a certain amount of regret.

The year after school he attended Confirmation lessons every Saturday. They lasted for the whole day and you had to bring a packed lunch. He was confirmed into the faith of the Lutheran church on December 2Ist 1941.

Young Ray was keen on football and following the Penshurst Football Club. His parents frowned on this, and he wasn’t allowed to play regularly since it interfered with milking the cows. That didn’t stop him riding his bike into Penshurst to watch the game. His parents did, however, let him play table tennis in the 1940’s and 50’s. He played for Tabor in the local competition, which he really enjoyed. His other interests were going to the Penshurst Picture Show and taking part in lots of card evenings.

His love of farming, particularly sheep and wool developed in his youth. He helped Fred with the sheep work: making hay; stooking the sheaves; growing potatoes; and hand-milking 15 cows. When he was 15 he started shearing locally and in the Wimmera and this continued for about 10 years.

Attending Luther League also formed a big part of his youth, and he made many friendships. In 1951 he travelied to Melbourne for a convention. On a tram one day he struck up a conversation with 2 young ladies, one of whom was Audrey Thomas from Monarto in South Australia. At the end of the convention a voice within him told him “go to the railway Station, that girl Audrey might be there.” She was and he carried her bags to the train and addresses were exchanged. He vividly remembered his subsequent visit to her home. She picked him up from the Murray Bridge Railway Station wearing a green dress and driving her parent’s Oldsmobile. Ray and Audrey were married on June 27th 1953 with the words of Psalm 33:20 Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and shield. 21 Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. 22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

The young couple settled into their life together, taking over the family farm “Acacia” when his parents moved to Horsham. Over the years they were blessed with 5 children – Cheryl, Bruce, Angus, Valmai and Stuart. Life in those days was full with farm work, schooling, church, and Community activities. Whatever was happening in each day, the family always ate tea together, even when some of them had urgent commitments like footy training. Ray actively supported his children’s involvement in football, cricket and netball.

In the summer the fruit from the orchards had to be picked and the produce was plentiful, but it was Audrey who dealt with it all in a hot kitchen. Ray also loved going eeling with his boys and Gilly Burger in various local dams. The girls were never allowed to go. Holidays were always spent visiting family, usually the Thomas’s in South Australia.

Ray was never happier than when he was on the farm and working with his sheep. He always carried a pair of pinchers in his pocket and most things around the farm were fixed with these. He really looked forward to shearing time and occupying himself with wool. He had many fond memories and laughs with his shearers and shed hands over the years and always enjoyed a beer or port with them at the end of the day.

Family life as he knew it changed forever when Angus tragically drowned in the Murray River at the age of 17. Angus died on Ray’s birthday which made it particularly hard for him to celebrate it in future years. It was a difficult time, but through it all Ray was able to be thankful that he had had Angus as a son for 17 years and said “memories are precious”.

Bethlehem church, which we are in today, played a major role in Ray’s life. Tabor had a special place in Ray’s heart as he learnt to love his Lord and worship and serve him in this place. Ray’s faith in Jesus as his Saviour was deep and simply a part of who he was. Over the decades he was Luther League President, congregational treasurer, Bible study leader, and Men’s Fellowship President, serving in these capacities for anything from 15-35 years. He had many good friends here and he valued them highly.

Ray was also a Community man. To him there was no better place in the world than Penshurst. He was actively involved in many events. He served in various positions on the Penshurst Show committee, Gazette Fire Brigade, Hamilton Pastoral Museum, Gideons, and the Penshurst Bowls Club. He continued to be a keen supporter of the Penshurst Football Club. He always enjoyed chatting with the many and varied people he would meet in these places. Being involved with his local Community was just something he loved to do. It came as a complete surprise when he and Audrey received a Community Service Award from the Lions Club in 2006 and an Australia Day Community Recognition Award in 2007.

Ray always had an interest in history. Perhaps this stemmed from having the original wattle and daub homes built in 1853 by the Burger family at his front door. He preserved these buildings and would enjoy taking tour groups through them. He helped to put together the Burger family history book and organise the Burger Reunion in 1983. Over 7 years he wrote down his life story, culminating in the book ‘Moments and Memories’ in 2008. He had a good head for dates and figures and could recall most things well into his senior years. He was also an avid photographer throughout his life, documenting an endless variety of occasions – family events, Community and church things, farm life and trips away. Ray with his video camera was a man to be reckoned with.

Ray and Audrey moved from the farm into their home in Penshurst in late 1990. He continued to visit the farm in his red Subaru ute on a daily basis. He remained interested in the goings on at Acacia for many years, but as he slowed down a little he enjoyed many a good nap on the wool bales. ‘Semi-retirement’ also meant he could spend a bit more time on the bowling green and in other interests. Ray with his cap on was a familiar site out and about in the district.

His interest in family remained strong, and he travelled to all of his grandchildren’s weddings. He continued to say to his own children “if you want any advice l am only a phone call away”. He enjoyed many a happy gathering with his brother and sisters and their families and had a reputation for lengthy speeches. He was well known as a ceaseless visitor of extended family and relatives. Despite some early heart trouble, he continued in reasonably good health and celebrated his 80th birthday in 2007 with many family and friends.

He remained active, although a little less involved, until, concerned about Audrey’s health, they went to Queensland to spend Christmas with their daughter Cheryl and her husband Neville. While there, the Lord called him home suddenly on 19th December, 2012, aged 85 years and almost 10 months.

Raymond Burger is survived by his wife Audrey, his daughters and sons Cheryl, Bruce, Valmai, and Stuart, and their spouses, 5 sisters, Elsie, Viola, Stella, Gladys and Ruby, 13 grandchildren, and 8 great grand-children.