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Obituary: Dr Arthur Kratzmann 1925-2015 Print-ready version
December 13, 2015

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Dr Arthur Kratzmann

December 13, 2015

It’s a long way from a dairy farm at Speedwell to walking the corridors of power in Canada, but for Dr Arthur Kratzmann – who died recently on Vancouver Island – the journey was meant to be.

Arthur was born in 1925 at what is now Graham House in Murgon, the son of sharefarmers Bill and Dolly Kratzmann.

His amazing journey to success in Canada began with the kindness and goodwill of St Mary's Catholic School in Kingaroy.

At the time, the Kratzmann family had shifted to Booie; Arthur would have been the only Grade 7 student at the Booie School so family friends arranged for him to attend St Mary's.

He rode a horse up the Booie Range every day to get to school – bareback with just a bridle – and on many occasions did not arrive at school until 10:00am after taking a tumble from the horse.

Under the tutelage of Sister Michael at St Mary’s, Arthur gained excellent results in his Scholarship exam.

His aptitude was spotted by a local priest, Fr Troy, who visited the Kratzmanns’ Booie farm. Sitting on a hay bale, Fr Troy told Bill that Arthur should go onto higher education. However, Bill had no funds to provide secondary classes, so the matter was left at that.

A while later Fr Troy visited again and this time asked Bill if he would allow Arthur to attend Nudgee College in Brisbane as a boarder. Arthur would receive all his uniforms and books etc, and if they were happy with his progress, they would pay his way to Teachers Training College.

And so began Arthur’s career.

This generosity started a journey which ended in Canada with Arthur a Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University at Edmonton (Alberta) and later the University of Victoria (Vancouver Island).

In a memoir, Arthur recalled his time in the South Burnett:

"There are so many memories of Murgon that come to mind. What a thrill it was to go to the movies at Sweet's Theatre and watch the silent films while a pianist created live mood music. What a sense of grown-up-ness when Dad perched me on a hotel bar and ordered a raspberry drink for me. What joy, on Friday afternoons, when Dad coming home from work would lift me on his shoulders and give me some lollies.

“How fascinating, actually transfixing, to stand in front of auctioneer McInery's shop window and watch the working models of sawmills. How absorbing to learn the stories of the Bible in Sunday School at the nearby Church of England where Harold and I were baptised. And then of course there were the joy rides available in Tiger Moths at the nearby Angelfield.”

But life for the Kratzmann family was tough, especially with the onset of the Great Depression. Workers were laid off, including Bill.

Over the years, Bill and Dolly battled the elements to farm at Booie, Ellesmere, Boat Mountain and Sexton (north of Woolooga) and later grew vegetables at a home in Auchenflower, Brisbane, just to survive.

There were four boys in the family: Harold, Keith, Col and half-brother Jim Seabrook (the son of Dolly’s first husband, Charles Seabrook, killed in action in France during World War I).

Dolly was particularly affected by the hardships. She had to help milk large herds of cattle morning and night, as well as assist with many other chores. At Murgon, she went through the trauma of losing twins just after birth; and a daughter died in an accident aged just two years old.

On a brighter note, Arthur successfully made it through Nudgee College and Teachers Training College.

At the age of just 16, he was put in charge of primary school classes at Thallon, near St George, and later at Haystack, near Warra on the Darling Downs.

A year later, with Australia at war, Arthur signed up with the RAAF.

After some initial training in Australia, including time at the Kingaroy air base, his squadron was sent to Alberta, Canada.

It was here that he met his future wife, Mary, who was in charge of the squadron's post office.

As the war began to draw to a close in 1945, Arthur and Mary were married at the Dafoe base in Saskatchewan.

Returning to Australia and civilian life, Arthur was sent to teach at Stuart Valley, a school then located on the Bunya Highway south of Kingaroy (opposite the Stuart River rest area).

The teacher’s accommodation at Stuart Valley was fairly basic for the couple, and Arthur threatened to quit.

He was then posted to Munbura, a school near Mackay. By this time, Arthur and Mary had two young sons, David and Terry.

In 1949, the family decided to return to Mary’s home country.

Arthur went from teaching in country schools in Queensland to teaching in country schools in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The teacher's quarters at Stuart Valley School ... the building wasn't quite this dilapidated when Arthur, Mary and their son David were living there, but it was not pleasant for the young family

Another career breakthrough occurred when he was nominated by the University of Alberta to study for a doctoral fellowship at the prestigious University of Chicago.

Chicago put him on a career path that he would have never dreamed of in earlier years, leading him on to becoming the Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Edmonton, and later the University of Victoria, British Columbia.

One of his greatest achievements was in 1994-95 when he was the driving force behind a Royal Commission into the future of education in British Columbia.

Arthur and Mary made several trips back to Queensland, and his brothers and their families visited them in Canada.

Arthur is survived by Mary, 93, and sons David and Terry and their families in Canada; and brothers Keith (Tingoora) and Colin (Kingaroy).

FOOTNOTE: Canadian singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell dedicated her first studio album “Song To A Seagull” in 1968 to Arthur who had taught her Grade 7 English: “Mr Kratzmann, who taught me to love words”.

The Victoria Time Colonist newspaper published pages of condolences online after Arthur’s death, including:

Arthur Kratzmann was one of my favorite people in the world. I was his secretary during his tenure as Dean of Education and will never forget his guidance and patience – Sharon Hanslip

Arthur was a noble educator, charming gentleman, astute professional and a dear friend. What a beautiful difference a single life made - Coral and Rupee Pallan

Dr. Kratzmann was the finest educator I have met. He spoke to us of Joni Mitchell from a Grade 7 student to an outstanding Canadian entertainer and the influence of her words on him. His knowledge from all walks of life was outstanding and my reaction was amazement at the way his mind worked. He had a powerful intelligence but an open, friendly manner. I am lucky to have been one of his students at UVic - Lynne Murdoch

I was fortunate to be able to share my deep affection for this remarkable friend and patience. He was always a source of inspiration and guidance to me and shared his great love of his beloved family. My belief has always been that leading by example was best and he was the master in every respect. – Bruce Russell

External links:

[Information and photographs from Keith Kratzmann]

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