“WE will never see his likes again.”
Fremantle History Society president Anne Brake neatly summed up the thoughts of many after the death last Wednesday of Rusty Christensen.
The 89-year-old was a walking encyclopaedia on Fremantle and East Fremantle history, having grown up in Marmion Street and attended the Catholic primary school in King Street.
“Rusty’s Fremantle provenance was impeccable,” Ms Brake wrote as part of a eulogy read out at his funeral on Thursday, which turned out to be a who’s who of Fremantle.
“Fremantle history owes him a great debt.
“His memory was extraordinary, his love of sharing infections and his humour and wit always ready,” Ms Brake wrote.
Mr Christensen led an extraordinary and varied life.
His old man was a lumper on the wharf who worked his way up to the committee of management when John Curtin was secretary, while as a young bloke he made his own mark on the local jazz scene as an entertaining saxophonist.
He recently revealed to the Herald he’d almost had a career as a race caller at the trots. Pulled in as a last-minute replacement for one of the regular callers at Richmond, he so impressed the ABC hierarchy he was asked to come back and have another crack.
Unfortunately for Mr Christensen, when he turned up, regular caller George Grljusich was so jealous of a potential rival that he simply locked the caller’s box and wouldn’t let him in. A lover, not a fighter, he gave up that dream.
But it’s as the founder of the WA Bush Poets and Yarn Spinners Association that Mr Christensen is best remembered.
The association was launched on Australia Day 1996 at the inaugural Australia Day Bush Poetry Showcase, which is now well-entrenched as an annual event at Wireless Hill Park.
Mr Christensen is survived by his wife Judy and children Judith, Russell, Lee and Kandy.
by STEVE GRANT