by Helen Beringen
To Rosemary Lange, it looked almost like a blue waterfall coming towards the vineyard where she was waiting for her husband Kevin to appear from among the hundreds of blue shirt-clad walkers.
Kevin’s key supporter for almost 56 years of married life, Rosemary stood with her walker to witness the wash of blue t-shirts wind its way down the walking trail from Redeemer Lutheran School in Nuriootpa right past the Lange’s vineyards in South Australia’s Barossa Valley.
It was May this year, and the vineyard was three kilometres into the 26-km trek of the Australian Lutheran World Service education fundraiser for refugee children, Walk My Way. Then she spotted Kevin.
‘As she looked up, she said it was like a waterfall as we were all wearing the blue Walk My Way shirts’, recalls vigneron Kevin. ‘I managed to give her a kiss – made all the others jealous!’
The 83-year-old continues: ‘My wife is a bit of an inspiration to me. She’s had cancer and had both hips and both knees replaced, and she is still out here supporting me in whatever I want to do.’
Mobility issues and past illness hadn’t stopped Rosemary from cheering on Kevin, the oldest of 650 walkers to complete the full 26-kilometre walk, a fundraising effort helping more than 7300 refugee children in East Africa go to school for a year. (Across all walks around Australia in 2021, LCANZ members and friends have so far raised more than $340,000 – enough to help send more than 13,000 children to school.)
Accompanied by his 16-year-old grandson Halen, Kevin raised $800, even though a week out from the event he had not sought sponsors.
‘On the Wednesday before the walk, I was checking my email and up popped a donation’, Kevin says. By the end of that day, there were about $200 to $300 in donations.
‘When we got to the halfway mark of the walk, I kept getting text messages from my wife saying we had collected several hundred more in donations.
‘For that, I’ve got to thank the people who opened up their hearts and their wallets, as that was not my original intention. We were just going to do it and put a couple of children through school.’
And even months after the event, donations haven’t stopped, with an additional $100 donated by a member of Kevin’s vine pruning team. That brings Kevin’s fundraising total enough to support more than 34 students!
‘When I spoke with our Cambodian pruners to say I was going to talk to The Lutheran about the walk and raising money for refugee children in Africa, I received another $100 donation’, Kevin says. ‘I realised then that she had been in a refugee camp for about five years herself, so she wanted to donate. It just goes to show again that small seeds do grow into big trees.’
Kevin still can’t quite believe the wonderful experience that came out of the event. Plans for a group walk in 2020 had been cancelled due to COVID-19 and were replaced by fundraising walk efforts by individuals, and Kevin hadn’t really trained for it this time around. And only a few weeks before the event, Kevin had asked Halen whether he’d like to join him.
Both are members of St Petri Nuriootpa (Kevin’s a sixth-generation member, Barossa born and bred, while Halen is the seventh generation of Langes to worship there). One of Kevin’s ancestors arrived in Port Adelaide in 1846 after 90 days at sea on the George Washington.
‘We think we have it tough at the moment, but it’s nothing compared with what our pioneers had to do’, he says.
Ever since then, a branch of the family has lived in the Barossa. They remain connected to the land, where Kevin still works his 18 acre-block (7.2 hectares) and caretakes another 12 acres (4.8ha), assisted by his Cambodian friends during pruning season.
He and Rosemary had semi-retired in 2013 and have been blessed with three children, their grandson Halen, and four granddaughters.
Over the years, Kevin’s been involved in many local groups but is still involved in the Tanunda Liedertafel.This all-male choir was founded by Barossa pioneers as far back as 1850 and includes about 44 members from across the Barossa region.
Over his 83 years, Kevin has been guided by a verse from Ephesians 2:10 which reminds us that God has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.
‘We can forget that when we go out and live our life, but he’s already made preparations for what he wants us to do’, he says. ‘We can always do what is within our abilities. Give of yourself the best way you possibly can.’