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“OUR BROTHER PETER”

EULOGY FOR PETER SIEGFRIED THIEL 

(1941 - 2014)

Written by Christina Hughes - sister of Peter Thiel

Peter Siegfried Thiel was born on the 7th of March, 1941 in Sprottau, Selicia - now Poland.  I remember my Mother saying he was an amazingly good baby who fed and slept and grew.  As a toddler he became the sunshine of the family with his ready smile and beautiful curly hair.  No doubt his 2 1/2 year older brother Dieter, and 1 1/2 year older sister Anita, presented him with some challenges and he had to learn to assert himself.  At age 3 a baby sister Christina was added to the mix and later followed John and much later Matthias.

Peter was precious to each one of us.  He brought sunshine and fun into the family unit.  He was our ‘monkey’ and he made us laugh.  His life influenced us in maybe different ways, but the impact and preciousness remains.  Precious memories of our brother will remain in the hearts of each one of us and I will share some of these memories with you.

Dieter (the eldest) recalls:

I discovered my brother as a friend after migrating to Australia.  We had brotherly bonding times attending a coffee shop in Adelaide, which catered for International clientele, where we competed to attract charming girls.  However my fondest memory is my visit from Germany to Peter and Celia’s home in Lismore.  I accompanied Peter on his postal run and he almost succeeded in making me carsick!  I remember with pleasure visiting Rebecca in her legal office and Joanna in the dental surgery and persuading them to come and share some family time.  That evening, which we all spent together, will remain as a precious memory to me.

Anita (the big sister’s) precious memories:

As we were growing up, we had to help our Mother to be food gatherers.  One day she said to Peter and I, "You two, go to the forest and get me some blueberries, here are the buckets and don't come back until they are full".  Oh, those buckets were big.  So we took off to the railway station, caught the train, and got to the forest.  It took almost the whole day to fill those buckets and our backs were breaking.  After walking back to the railway station, there was a long wait on the platform for the train to come.  We got bored, so we started clowning around.  We must have amused our fellow passengers.  So we clowned around even more, and had fun at the same time.  When the train arrived, we all got on board and we were quite content that we had made them laugh, because at that time, there was not much to laugh about; times were very hard.

Winter also brought lots of fun for us.  Snowball fights were irresistible.  Oh, the jubilation when one hit the target.  But Peter did not take kindly to being a target and the retribution was swift with a handful of soft snow being rubbed into the face.  A cool surprise!  We have lived, and lived well.  Goodbye my Brother, I'll see you in the morning.

John remembers:

Being the youngest in the family while still in Germany, I always had a special place in my heart for Peter.  I looked up to him as my hero. Then in Australia we eventually worked together as bricklayers and gradually to my joy we were able to blend our faith in God.  I recall no negatives in our relationship and thus feel deeply the loss of a very dear brother.  Celia grew equally dear to me and this combined loss is felt deeply by us all.

Matthias (the baby of the family) says:

One of the highlights of my school holidays were the days spent at Peter’s and Celia’s place.

Later I was privileged to work with Peter and my father as a bricklayer.  Peter taught me that work need not be just a hard slog, but could be fun as well.  He managed to teach me the finer points of painting over the phone, which stood me in good stead for a 15year-long successful business career.

Peter’s innovative sandwich filling of beetroot and parsley remains my favorite to this day.  I will never forget the cayenne pepper challenge.  The more in the soup, the greater the agony, the more profuse the sweat!  We were both very brave I think!

I looked up to him as my older brother, but Peter always treated me as an equal.  I knew I could approach him with any question or problem, in spite of our age difference.  He did not judge, he was honest and I felt safe and supported.

My memories (as Peter’s ‘Little Shadow’) continue:

It was wartime during Peter’s early years and when the Russians approached Gӧrlitz, Mutti took us - 4 small children - and fled with many others to the West.  We were accommodated on a farm in Bavaria and we grew healthy and fat.  But after about 18 months we returned to Gӧrlitz, to await the return of our Father who was a prisoner of war in Russia.

When Peter turned 10 our family moved from Gӧrlitz to Falkenstein, a little township in East Germany.  It was during the 4 years of residing there that the bond between Peter and myself was cemented.  He was my “Big Brother” and I loved him and he was fun and always managed to think of exciting things to do.  Peter arranged a ‘signal’; if he left the living-room whistling, I was to follow soon after and then we would hatch out some mischief.  This invariably got us into trouble and my Mother’s swift punishment, if not avoided, left us consoling each other.

Our adventures led us to supplement our meager post-war diet with fruit of various kinds, gleaned when available.  I was small enough to slip through gaps in fences and help the ‘windfalls’ while Peter stood guard.  Or he would let me stand on his back so I could climb over the fence.  This activity stopped when one day Mutti found a hoard of pears under our bed.  She took Peter plus the pears to the owner of the orchard where he had to confess.  The kind, wise owner gave him a basketful of other pears which he said we could enjoy with a clear conscience.  But Peter returned home very subdued and we did not enjoy those pears.

One winter’s day we decided to have a bit of fun dropping snowballs from an upstairs window onto unsuspecting pedestrians who used a small lane at the back of the house.  One man took exception to this and made his way to the front to button-hole the culprit.  Peter, aware that he would be in serious trouble, hid in the furthest corner of the coal cellar while he sent ME out to face the man.  Fortunately, I must have looked innocent enough, for the man took pity on me.

However we did not always get into trouble, but spent beautiful, carefree days together.  In summer Peter would invariably drag me out of bed while everyone else was still fast asleep.  We would wash the accumulated dirty dishes from the day before and get the breakfast table ready to give Mutti a surprise.  Other times we would go into the forest and return with buckets full of blueberries, or bags of mushrooms.

Peter enjoyed doing things to make others happy, especially Mutti.  Once we pooled our meager supply of hard-earned money and Peter bought a dinner-set to give Mutti something beautiful.  Throughout his life, Peter could never tolerate cracked pottery, broken or superfluous things.  He was a minimalist even if it meant throwing a few things overboard or into the rubbish bin, much to the consternation of family members.

However giving others pleasure was an integral part of Peter’s make up.  As young children, we would pick bunches of meadow flowers and search out elderly people, to surprise them and bring happiness into their lives. 

At age 14 Peter’s childhood came to an abrupt halt.  In order for our family to get out of East Germany, my 3 older siblings were placed into ‘service’.  Peter became a farm labourer and was very unhappy.

Later our family reunited.  Peter was apprenticed to a well drilling company and he carried the scar of a missing fingertip due to that occupation.

In 1958 our family faced another life-changing event; we immigrated to Australia.  What challenges!  But Peter, aged 17, embraced these new experiences with enthusiasm; especially as girls found this handsome, young fellow fascinating.  Employment at the Sanitarium Health Food Company provided Peter with the means to get a motorbike - the pride of his life!  However after 3 progressively more serious accidents, he decided that 4 wheels would be safer.

Several years passed during which time Peter not only conquered the English language, but also the heart of an 18 year old lovely girl.  In due course Peter and Wendy married, but sadly the relationship did not last.  Separation and divorce followed, but not before Wendy found herself to be pregnant with twin girls.

It has only been recently that Peter allowed himself to get to know Esther and Helena and I know it brought peace to his heart; and I hope it brings comfort to the girls, and also to Wendy and Waldemar at this time.

The divorce brought a dark time for Peter, but gradually healing took place.  Then one day he asked me out for dinner; he wanted me to meet somebody.  And there sat an attractive lady, with a small, shy, coy little smile which Celia never lost.  And Peter was comforted.

Peter and Celia married in 1969 and established their home which was soon blessed by the arrival of a baby girl, Joanna.  Peter was SO proud!  Rebecca followed 2 years later and then Ben and Amos.  I think that then Peter’s quiver was full, or maybe he got scared of how he would provide for them.  He worked hard as a bricklayer with his Father and hated it.  He tried his hand at painting, but the fumes were not good for his health.  He went into farming; hard, backbreaking work.  And lastly became a postie which he loved.  Celia stood faithfully by his side with all the ups and downs which life throws at everyone.

It was June of this year when Peter asked me whether I would like to go to Lismore with him for a few days.  He wanted to re-visit his old postal haunts and maybe, we could get into mischief together?!  We didn’t.  But it was a precious 6 days and I didn’t know my brother could talk so much!  We tumbled from one reminisce into another and I was glad to observe that his quirky sense of humour had not forsaken him.

While there we ate humungous meals, Peter being the chief cook.  Whatever went into the pot had to come out of it and be eaten.  Actually Peter’s interest into culinary affairs goes back many years.  From approximately age 9, he more often than not, was in the kitchen before dinner; sniffing, stirring tasting.  On more than one occasion he actually saved the meal from becoming a burnt offering.  This interest followed him into the kitchen of his home and the statement that “too many cooks spoil the broth” left him unimpressed! 

In July I travelled to Adelaide and visited with Peter and Celia for another 6 days.  Precious memories!  Peter was again proud to show me the garden, the firewood neatly stacked, the bottle collection,  everything nice and orderly.  The three of us going for daily walks, beanies pulled over the ears to keep warm, having good laughs together.

Celia with her gentle strength and her shy, coy little smile, always made me and my family feel welcome.  It wasn’t supposed to have been the last visit, but it was.

On August 29, 2014 Peter and Celia were involved in a fatal car accident on the Eyre Highway, while traveling home to Adelaide. 

There are many hearts here that are hurting, but particularly my 4 nieces and nephews; Joanna, Rebecca, Ben, Amos.  Though your parents are gone, one beautiful thing remains.  I know their prayers for each of you ascended daily to God and are stored in the Throne-room of our Heavenly Father.  Take courage and trust yourselves into the loving arms of Jesus.  He says “My grace is sufficient for you”.  We can then look forward to meeting Celia and Peter again.  What a wonderful reunion that will be.


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