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Thursday, December 06, 2007

A working class hero is farewelled...

My friend Patricia Corowa - who has been mentioned on this blog before - yesterday went to the State Funeral for Bernie Banton (pictured above with his wife, Karen). Here is the Vale to Bernie posted last week on The Eagle's Nest. Patricia has given a beautiful report on the State Funeral and has kindly given permission for it to be published. Thank you, Patricia.

Dear Family and Friends:

Just want to let you all know:

I went with a Maori friend... John Ake... to the State Funeral of Bernie Banton AM, at Acer Arena at Olympic Park yesterday... in the teeming rain...

It was a good send off to an ordinary working man... who did extraordinary exploits... with a processional guard of honour of about 100 High School Students from Kings School... Parramatta... where Bernie and his brothers and sister were born... and where he grew up and worked in the James Hardie Factory nearby...

His Sons and Nephews were Poll Bearers... There was a 12-piece string orchestra... his Brother, Rev Bruce Banton (Full Gospel Ministry) officiated... with tributes from his Wife, Daughters-in-Law, Grand-daughter... and official Tributes (all there in person) from PM Kevin Rudd, NSW Premier Morris Iemma, and Greg Combet, MP for Charlton and Parliamentary Secretary assisting the Minister for Defence...

The Eulogy was given by his Sister, Grace... who now lives in Texas, USA... His son Dean read Psalm 121... and there were more tributes from his brother, Brian Banton and the closing address by Rev Bruce Banton... Hymns were It is well with my Soul... and The River... and as the cortege left the assembly... the John Rowles song If I only had time was sung by a male soloist

There was a Guard of Honour of NSW Unions with their banners as the cortege was brought out of the Acer Arena to the Hearse... still in the teeming rain... to go to a private family burial... and PM Kevin Rudd was there with Karen Banton, Bernie's widow, right up till then

As the service progressed... we heard... that Bernie was of Irish and Jewish descent... and that he and his family are Christians

In his closing address... Rev Bruce Banton related how Bernie's passions were FMH... Football, Meat Pies and Holdens... and how towards the end of those 102 of a possible 153 of his last days on this earth... Bernie called him to have communion with him in hospital... so that he could forgive... as set out in the disciples' prayer (of Matthew 6:9-13... and the admonition of Jesus to them of verses 14 and 15... that if we do not forgive those who have wronged us... our Heavenly Father will not forgive us our wrongs)... and be ready to meet his Maker...

As they took communion in that hospital room... the remembrance bread representing the body of Christ... was a meat pie... So wonderful... I wept!

I thanked God for Salvation... amongst that crowd of witnesses... who were there to mourn the passing... and to celebrate the life of an Australian hero

He did what it was in his heart to do... even unto death