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
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
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
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
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
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.