[Oe List ...] [Dialogue] Death of Robert Shropshire

J and J Barker jkjmbarker at bigpond.com
Thu May 31 23:37:00 PDT 2012


Robert is remembered with deep affection and gratitude by the Mowanjum community and all of us who were there as staff in the Derby Religious House in the early 70's. His presence in an Aboriginal community in the remote North West Kimberley region of Australia caused far more attention than he was comfortable with. The press were on to his presence - at first positive when a great photo appeared on the front page of "The Northern Times" of him with the senior elder Micky Bunguni in front of a new sign "Mowanjum Community - Mission to the World" together with the wedgeblade. But later the same paper led a scare campaign with banner headlines "Black Power comes to Derby!" Robert's response was to laugh at the notion that he of all people should be considered a dangerous threat - after all "I am only a cool school teacher". Some of our fond memories of Robert are:

* such an empowering and imaginative teacher especially of teenagers * introducing Aboriginal people to music they had never heard before *  his delight in embellishing the story of the great sheep drive (5,000 of them) including the fact that they all got lost at the first attempt! * his coolness towards our tight structures * both his eruptive anger at being treated "differently" and his gratitude when people were straight with him * being followed around by giggling school girls * the love of kids who called out "Shropshire, come here" * his infectious laughter especially at the incongruence of situations we were faced with * his zany sense of humour and apt comments when the going was tough * introducing "right on" into the Indigenous vocabulary * his liberating presence as a proud black man * singing along with the elder Wattie Ngerdu's favourite song "Free men live in responsibility"  (Wattie could sing but Robert???) - we could go on. People of Mowanjum will mourn his passing  - and are sure to retell great Robert Shropshire stories.

We also cherish our opportunity to have caught up with him in the nineties in Chicago and have his distinctive chuckle again etched into our memories - and yes, the Great Sheep Drive was told once again!

We resonate with Evelyn Philbrook where she says "I somehow feel he is some where laughing with the Mystery expecting great things from us all to carry out God's unfinished work."

Goodbye to a true spirit colleague.

Jonathan and Janeen Barker

On 31/05/2012, at 9:45 AM, George Holcombe wrote:

> Conna Wilkerson told me that Robert died Tuesday night at his mother's home in Chicago.  A service will be held for him on Saturday.
> Wanda and I will never forget Robert.  When he arrived at Mowanjum, he was the star of the show, everyone thought he was the greatest.  Years later Robert and I had a great time playing music at the summer programs.  I'm sure others of us have memories of Robert, too.
> George Holcombe
> 14900 Yellowleaf Tr.
> Austin, TX 78728
> Mobile 512/252-2756
> geowanda1 at me.com
> Hope appeareth, but it is not your Hope—you do not have anything to do with it. It just appeareth. It comes as a stranger, as an alien—it just appeareth! You do not even know why you hope. How in the world could you hope when there is absolutely nothing to justify any hope?    ~Joseph W. Mathews
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