Fred Gungl conveyed sad news: my good friend Peter Kefer died.
I was Peter’s neighbour in Adelaide and we were very close friends. We had some fine times together: fighting his landlords; experimenting with coffee and food; and getting stuff done around our houses. I gave him my old laptop and he quickly learnt to search for information. By the time I last saw him, we were as close as brothers.
When I first met Peter and heard his story, he was a proud guy but in poor shape, mentally, physically and financially. He told me of his sky-diving and what that led to; about his life in Munich, working with his parents in their business; and about how he came to burst his spleen at the “Seven Habits” conference, the first time he felt he had his life together.
I liked him enough to start feeding him decent food and to give him a metalwork project out on our street, where the neighbours could see that he was not as scary as he looked; this soon led to him working for many of them, too. I learnt a lot from his Germanic work methods, “85% preparation”, and photographing everything as he disassembled it. Once, I gave him two old Kenwood Chef mixers and asked him to make one good one. A few days later, when he flicked the switch, it tripped our electronic fuses. “This is impossible”, he said, “My work methods cannot fail so your fuses must be faulty”. It took me some time to convince him to search for the tiny stray wire touching the case; not enough current to melt his house’s older fuse wires.
Over a couple of years, he got himself together and ready to move on. Having his rotten teeth pulled and replaced was a big event; he insisted we lurk about the supermarket so that he could grin at women! His doctor, in the Adelaide Hills, proudly paraded “The New Peter Kefer” to his waiting room and staff after his final visit; one of his few successes.
He was keen to leave Adelaide, then, because it reminded him of his past. Few of his close friends were still alive but he hated meeting the wrecks of people he knew. As he got clean, he started to look for an activity that would distract him and give him a new purpose. After his first paragliding lessons with Fred, he was thrilled that he had made a connection and was super-keen to return. About that time, at the first firing of the brick oven he and I had built, he met Katy Torokfalvy, another of Fred’s students and was given a tandem chute to trade by another of our guests.
I moved his stuff to the camp site in Bright just before I left Australia in 2011. I know the area a bit, from cross-country skiing, and was pleased with his choice. We corresponded sporadically because he was busy and Internet connection was difficult. He said that he was happy to have made a new life in Bright, where he felt he had become a valued member of society with real purpose. His job with Fred sounded perfect and I was very happy to know someone else had seen through his shell to the kind heart and keen mind inside.
He wrote to me of his illness while Fred was on holiday and was dreading telling him and his family. I sent him some cash to get medical help and we corresponded a couple of times after that. He was worried that, because of his history, the pain-killers may not work but seems to have got that sorted, eventually. Then he said he was ready to die because he felt his life was now in order; that in Adelaide he expected to die but wasn’t ready.
In mid-September he said he moved in with Dianne when it got too cold and then moved home again, where he had nurses visiting. That’s the last I heard from him.
Now, I’m very happy that Peter found his place; even that he no longer needed any support from me. I’d just like to know that he died in peace and with the serenity and dignity he deserved. Not too much pain. I asked Fred to lie to me, if necessary.
Peter was a gentleman, one of the best I’ve known. I will miss him.