Page 112 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 27 November 2012

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Commodore Paul Berger

MR HANSON (Molonglo) (4.48): I rise tonight to commemorate the recent passing of one of life’s true gentlemen, a great naval man and a great family man, Commodore Paul Berger LVO RAN (retired). Paul is survived by his wife Virginia, his sons Andrew and Simon, his grandchildren Tom, Hannah and Alice, and a great many friends. Brendan Smyth, Steve Doszpot and I attended Paul’s funeral on 19 November at the Duntroon Chapel. It was clear from the number of people who attended, many of them ex-Navy, that Paul was held in high regard by the community and his Navy mates.

Paul spent over 40 years in the Navy and his full record of service is too long to read on this occasion. But after joining the Royal Australian Navy at 13, his service included acts of service in Korea and Vietnam and command of two Royal Australian Navy ships, HMAS Torrens and HMAS Perth.

The motto for HMAS Torrens “Faith and fortitude” could well be a motto for Paul’s life. Paul’s life was dedicated to service—service to his country, to his community and to his family. His love of his wife, Virginia, his two boys and his grandchildren was central to his life and Paul was never prouder than when telling people about the latest accomplishments of either of his sons or his grandchildren.

Virginia and Paul made a fantastic couple together. The way he looked at her, spoke lovingly to her, and spoke so lovingly about her is rare after such a long marriage. It may have had something to do with the fact that, based on photos, when Paul first met Virginia she was a gorgeous young redhead full of personality and charm and, I note, 13 years younger than Paul.

Virginia is still a beautiful woman who has been a very wonderful companion to Paul, and his passing has been very hard for her. Paul’s absence will leave a huge gap in her life, but I trust that Virginia’s sorrow will ease as time passes.

Simon and Andrew gave a moving and at times amusing account of their father’s life at Paul’s funeral—of how he took three jobs as a child to support his family, tales of his astute planning, be it for financial matters and family holidays, and of his sense of honour. One anecdote that resonated for me and summed Paul up was when the Australian Army Parachute Training School was transferred to HMAS Albatross shortly after he assumed command. Paul thought that if it was happening on his base he should do it.

Paul was 52 at the time, around 20 years older than the next oldest person taking the course, which was physically and psychologically demanding. In the military, parachuting is about getting to the ground quickly, not scenically, but the boys still remember the severe bruising and the way he hobbled with pain to his back, his knees and his ankles. To quote his sons, when it came to giving a serious commitment, his word was his bond.

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