Martyn Smith, writing about Wesley College

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EULOGY FOR KEN RAPER 
(For his funeral service, Wesley College Chapel, 13 June, 1987)
(Published with permission of his brother Graeme on behalf of the family)

Ken would forgive me, I know, if I start with a football story.

Recently I heard the pundits say that football now has another young hero.  Where once we all spoke of that youngster from Essendon, Timmy Watson, we now have "young Matty Ryan" from Collingwood.  The pundits were referring to the names 'Timmy' and 'Matty' and that 'Timmy' had now become 'Tim'.  They spoke of Johnny Farnham, too, who now, to be seen to be more mature, is known simply as John.

We often add a 'y' to the names of youngsters of whom we are fond.  Well, I was fond of Kenny Raper.

It is Kenny Raper, the 13, 14 and 15 year old boarder who I remember with tenderness and sadness today.  The solid, good-natured little second-former who earnestly listened to what you had to say,  who figured out whether it was worth anything or not, and, if it was, gave you his heart.

"Not too smart at books", as the Wesley song goes, Ken nevertheless possessed a marvellous gift of relating to his peers and teachers and an ability to give a project a 'red hot go' and achieve a goal.

Once, when he was sick of playing the decoy forward in the water polo team because of his weight and uncertain swimming ability, he doggedly heeded the advice of the school doctor, David Kings, and the polo coach, George Daniels, and lost weight, streamlined his swimming and eventually achieved Honour Colours  --  a valued member of the team who gave everything for his team-mates.

He had grit and he was determined.  He wasn't a great scholar, as I've said, but he did complete Year 12.  He couldn't spell, he was untidy and his poor Graphic Communications teacher despaired when Ken, whose graphics were characterized more by coffee stains and curled corners than clarity and colour, walked into the H.S.C. Graphics class in February, 1978.  Ken didn't get his H.S.C.

But, you see, he stuck at it, and, he did it, and in the meantime, was educated.  He was confident, he was a Prefect and a House-Captain, had been a Form Captain often and a student leader at the school Camp;  he had gained Honour Colours in two sports and made many friends.

In the classroom he did his best and once, I must say, he did score more marks than his brother for the very same Ag. Sci. project which Graeme had submitted two years previous  --  so he could cheat a little bit!

Mind you, he did need his brother.

Graeme well remembers being woken one night to be told by Ken that Ken's bed was on fire!  They put it out and young Ken explained that he'd put a heater under the bed to warm it up!

A touch of silliness;  potential disaster.  Innocent then, I suspect, but, crossing the boundaries of sense is what tragically brings us here today.

At Wesley, though, he had been motivated.  He'd got the most out of it  --  and he had given a lot, too.  Often, it was compassion, given to the underdog.

Nobody at Wesley in the mid-seventies gave more to a fellow student, named Gary Roth, than Ken and Ken's mates.  Hindered greatly, both physically and mentally, Gary had been teased badly, was exploited and derided.  He came into the Boarding House in the hope that he would benefit from the fellowship there.  It wasn't as easy as that  but, with the help of a few 'protectors', Ken foremost amongst them, and more significantly, a 'fire in the belly' of Ken and his mates to teach Gary to swim 25 metres unaided, Gary left to pursue a successful career in his father's business and, now, for a long period at B.H.P.  The joy of the night of that swim and the gratitude of Gary and his parents are part of this story which now lives eternally in Wesley's folk-lore.

If 'Timmy' Watson is now 'Tim' Watson, exciting still,  but mature and experienced, then Kenny Raper, also, was fast becoming Ken.

In the last six months, with the grit, the drive, the vision, the flair, the risking and the mateship still firing on all six cylinders, he was bringing to bear his God-given talent in what the business men call "people skills".

He cared about personal relationships, he was a giver and a superb communicator.  He believed passionately in his schemes, saw and took opportunities, and was able to capture the interest and excitement of powerful men.  He drew from people what they wanted to say and he could put himself in their shoes.  Graeme and Gil, Keith and Paul have all born testimony to this.

With these gifts and, I'm told, a general smartening up of the image, Ken was instrumental recently in consolidating new business ventures which now can be his memorial.  That challenge waits to be fulfilled.

Ken took risks:  reasoned risks, instinctive risks and often crazy risks.  This mixture was best seen in the Blue Chevrolet out there on the race track.  Commentators and journalists highlighted him and admiring fans wrote him letters.

You who are here today can judge for yourselves the sense and the worth of Ken's risks and daring.

But what do we say to Elva and Keith, to Cheryl, Pam and Graeme?

How can the pain and emotional emptiness be eased?

We are all grieving the loss of Ken and come together here for comfort and to mark our respect for him.  In this Chapel are those who know what Ken stood for and are here to affirm that and to stand by his family.

We say to Ken's family, thank you for being the family you are.  Thank you for giving us Ken.  Despite deep sadness, which you all have endured more than once, you are fiercely proud of your family and your lost one.  Your family is about "putting in", being frank, generous, kind and supportive.

Above all, it is about deep, binding love and respect for each other's integrity.  This you have shared particularly with Barry, David and Angela;  with Paul and Joanne;  Petra, Karl and Gisela and with all the children.  You endowed it to Ken.

Cherish today and forever your very best memories of him.  Remember how Ken was a superb business colleague and a loving, vibrant, unrelentingly daring brother, friend and partner.

Remember all that flair, Keith.  The insight, the vision, the passion and the drive which was blossoming to such great effect.  He was making it.

Elva, how fond the memory of Mothers' Day last.  The surprise at 7.00 o'clock, in the morning.  Ken  --  without a mob of mates, at last  --  to share your day, to talk, to look over the shop and to approve.  He was always doing nice things.

We take these marvellous, endearing memories with us today, firm in the knowledge that they and all that was fine in the character of Ken Raper can never perish.

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