Oatley identity Rafael ‘Rafe’ Kowron remembers | County Leader of St George and Sutherland
Longtime Oatley resident Rafael ‘Rafe’ Kowron died aged 92 on April 11.
Mr. Kowron was known to many as a founding member of the Oatley Flora and Fauna Society, and his involvement with the Oatley Heritage Group and the Oatley RSL and Community Club.
For many years he ran an electronics and television repair service in Penshurst, but his legacy also includes his many other involvements with his wife Moyia in the life of the local community.
“Rafe’s parents, Stefan Skowronski, a Polish-born civil engineer, and his Chinese-born wife Jessie, met in Shanghai, where Stefan had been, to be safe from political unrest in Europe. “said Cliff Crane, a resident of Oatley.
“From there the couple then moved, around 1926, first to Java for a short time, then to New Zealand, where they changed their surname to Kowron, before finally arriving in Australia in 1929.
“The Kowrons lived in Bondi for a time when Rafe, the first of their three children, was born.
“In 1934, when Rafe was three or four years old, he had moved with his parents into a natural cave on a large, high block of rock outcrop which the Kowrons had purchased in Headland Road, North Curl Curl, overlooking the beach in sunken.
“Stefan had made the cave habitable according to the Council’s requirements while he and Jessie dug, blasted and hewn the rock to gradually, over about 14 years, build a unique stone house incorporating the cave.
“His parents initially sent Rafe to a Catholic school, but after bullying him because of his mixed-race appearance, he was transferred to a public school and eventually achieved excellent academic results.
“As a youngster Rafe thought he would like to be a chef or a magician and in his early years of apprenticeship he was employed at a Redfern Picture Theater – believed to be the New Lawson Theater across the road from Redfern station.
“Rafe completed a five-year apprenticeship in electrical trades with Stromberg-Carlson and completed a technical college course in electrical trades, then worked with Astor Radio Service where he gained experience in fields such as radar, maritime communications, two-way radio and police communication networks, then television from 1956 in black and white and then in color.
“In the late 1950s Rafe started his own repair and service business in Penshurst, retiring at 68 in 1998.
“Rafe and Moyia came to live in Oatley around 1955, first in Waterfall Road in a house that Rafe had helped build, then in 1960 moved to Kowron’s present house in Oatley Park Avenue.
“Rafe and Moyia will forever be remembered as the couple whose agitation to stop vandalism and the destruction of nearby bushland when they moved to Oatley, led to the formation of the highly regarded Oatley Flora and Fauna Conservation Society (OFF).
“They were part of the six-person Steering Committee established in 1955 to establish the basic framework of the Society and plan future activities.
“The Kowrons, parents and children, have remained active in their involvement with OFF for many years, and their contribution to OFF was widely recognized by longtime member Alan Fairley’s 2005 ‘Being Green’ – history of the first 50 years of OFF. .
“In 1972, Rafe and Moyia became life members of OFF.
“The Kowrons were active members of Oatley Heritage Group shortly after its inception in 1995, with Rafe serving 10 years as Vice Chairman and also sharing the Chairmanship for a short time.
“The Kowron family – parents and four children – have also been involved with the Oatley Amateur Swimming Club for decades, Moyia having been a life member. Rafe continued to swim regularly every Sunday until just a few weeks before his death, being prevented by extreme weather conditions.
“From 2001 to 2007, Rafe was a member of the board of directors of the Oatley RSL and Community Club; for several years he led the Oatley RSL Toastmasters and was also involved in the operations of the RSL Youth Club. He also contributed time helping with the installation and servicing of television equipment at the Club. For these efforts he was made a life member of the RSL and the Community Club.
“For many years Rafe has been involved in organizing, teaching and playing Contract Bridge in various places.
“Blessed with a beautiful singing voice, Rafe sang in the choir at St. Joseph’s Church (Oatley) and served as president of the (former) Hurstville Musical Society.
“Rafe will be greatly missed and will be remembered fondly.”