THIS IS A STORY FOR CHRISTMAS. It is about a good man, now in his fading years, who was a Church leader, a composer and choir master and a talented watercolourist. The paintings accompanying this article are his.
He is Pastor Russell Kranz, father of PNG Attitude contributor, Peter. Last Christmas Day Pastor Kranz suffered a stroke. He is now in a nursing home with not much time left. But, when his time comes, he will leave behind a legacy of love and achievement.
The New Zealand born Russell Kranz’s primary life’s work was as a Seventh Day Adventist pastor and evangelist. For some years, he was in charge of communications for the church in Australasia and the South Pacific.
When Lindy Chamberlain’s infant, Azaria, was taken by a dingo in the vicinity of Ayer’s Rock on 17 August 1980, Russell was responsible for dealing with a sceptical media.
He fronted the journalists many times to proclaim the Chamberlains’ innocence and to defend the respectability of the church in the face of a braying cynicism and nonsensical stories of blood sacrifices and the like.
Russell (seen here with Peter) is an artist of great talent. He has painted hundreds of watercolours, favouring boats, old buildings, landscapes and harbours. He has featured in Australian Artist and his works hang in many well-known places.
At 87, though, the paralysed Russell lies in a nursing home bed unable to paint. He cannot even raise an arm.
But he still has his memories, and his recollection is sharp.
“He remembers London with bomb craters everywhere, and rationing,” says Peter. “He remembers visiting Iraq and Syria and Egypt in the 1960s, holidays with the family, silly jokes, trams in Newcastle, steam trains in Sydney, seeing the harbour bridge before the two bits joined together, taking me camping and introducing me to music.
“He remembers being arrested in Melbourne during the war for not being in uniform.”
Russell was a ministerial student in Melbourne at the time and exempt from military service. He was arrested for being of call-up age and not having the proper papers. His brother served in Papua New Guinea, at Buna.
He preached to many hundreds of people in Mt Hagen in the 1980s and, 20 years later in 2006, while in Kundiawa, Peter was mistaken for him by a man who remembered those sermons.
He served for some years as an evangelist in London. We were on holiday in the south-west of England and, after we arrived at our hotel, sought out the self-serve buffet. We all helped ourselves and sat down to eat. Dad was the last and returned to the table with a huge plate filled to overflowing. He sat down and said, "My it's amazing what big serves they give you here!"
Russell may even have topped that with one of his favourite sayings: "Sorry, that's coarse for the Pa."
On behalf of all our readers, we thank him for his story and his work, and wish him and the entire Kranz family a joyous Christmas.
And we're esepcially grateful to Peter and the family for sharing these fine paintings with us.