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A tribute to...

Kurt Rolf Ulmer

Published: Sat 30th May 2020

"my darling Kurt, you were amazing and special! May the music of the spheres delight you in your stardust Heimat. "

- Hella Ulmer

Kurt Rolf Ulmer silently passed away in his nursing home bed at Georges Manor Aged Care facility in NSW on Easter Monday, April 2020.

Although he died alone, with family members unable to be with him due to COVID-19 restrictions, he was well-loved and gracefully ended his seven-year battle with cancer to find peace.

For 75-year-old Kurt, his passing marked the end of a remarkable journey that started in Heubach, Germany on March 8, 1945.

At 17, Kurt and his Mum, Dad and three younger sisters moved to Australia, settling in the inner city suburb of Yarraville in Melbourne, Victoria.

Blessed with fluency in English he was able to immediately enrol in Year 11 at Footscray High School. He obtained his leaving certificate at the end of the year and took on a job at the Australian Institute of Management as a junior, keen to help his parents with the family bills.

His thirst for education remained strong though, and he, along with his then girlfriend Hella Elise (Waszczyszyn/Wass) Langer, enrolled in evening classes at Taylor's College in Melbourne to study for the Victorian Matriculation. They both passed their exams in December 1965.

Hella and Kurt's lives went different ways after that time. Their romantic relationship ended, only to be rekindled 46 years later.

Kurt went on to study at the Australian Institute of Management, then became a management consultant at the Institute, holding seminars and lectures throughout Australia.

He met his first wife Shirley during this time, and in 1972 he was appointed director of the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Institute of Management at Hobart, Tasmania, a position he held for ten years.

In a mid-life career change, he left the corporate life and trained to become a wood turner and wood craftsman. In 1983, Kurt and his (former wife) Shirley purchased the historic Mill Cottage at Richmond, Tasmania and showcased Kurt's work. After historically sensitive renovations and extensions to the building, Kurt established 'The Peppercorn Gallery' as an outlet for his wood turning creations. The Gallery also became a popular outlet for the work of other Tasmanian artists of a wide variety of genres.

The Peppercorn Gallery as it is today.
The Peppercorn Gallery as it is today.

In 2003, Kurt and Shirley sold the Gallery and retired to Clifton Springs, near Geelong in Victoria. To this day, the Peppercorn Gallery, under different ownership, continues as an outlet for unique Tasmanian and Australian arts and crafts.

Kurt moved to Sydney in 2012 after he and his wife Shirley separated.

Kurt and Hella were then reunited. However within the year Kurt was diagnosed with cancer in 2013, a battle he fought for the next seven years. Towards the end of his life, Kurt and Hella were married at last.

Kurt had a lifelong interest in forestry, botany, gardening, and in being an all-round handyman with useful carpentry skills. He was a valued and active member of the Marrickville Men's Shed, and later of the Strathfield Men's Shed, where he contributed his considerable practical and artistic skills whilst he was able.

Being an autodidact par excellence, he had amazing general knowledge and he loved learning. He wrote a biography of his father's WWII German U-Boat experiences and in retirement he wrote (published) short stories. He also became a dedicated bonsai grower, courtyard potted garden enthusiast, gym member and Pilates practitioner, as he tried to hold cancer at bay.

An experienced amateur genealogist with a special interest in DNA genealogy research, Kurt identified lost ancestors for several American, and British DNA relatives.

istic life, always accompanied by an eclectic love of music that included Willie Nelson, Irish Folk Music, classical guitar, Jazz, Erik Satie, Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Mendelsohn, and too many others to mention. He had an extensive repertoire of German folksongs, and he greatly enjoyed playing the mouth organ.

He went into palliative care in January 2020 as he was reaching the final chapter of battle with cancer.

Kurt was predeceased by his loving mother Emma Ulmer (*née Hammel), his father Kurt Jakob Ulmer and his beloved paternal grandmother Marie Ulmer (*née Zwick). He is survived by his younger sisters Maria Wiseman, Ingeborg Dauncey, and Brigitte Fischmann, along with his daughters Emma and Kate Ulmer.

Kurt was loved and respected by Hella's family, and by his extended relatives, and his many friends in Australia, Germany, the USA, the U.K., Turkey, (and elsewhere).

Hella's final message for Kurt was simple.

"Vale, my darling Kurt, you were amazing and special! May the music of the spheres delight you in your stardust Heimat."


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