When friends talk of Peter Kernich, they don’t immediately describe him as virtuous. Rather, they begin with words like fair, fastidious, faithful, family and fun, and they’re only the F words. Kind, charitable, patient, careful, shy and generous are other words at the top of the list. All these words just scratch the surface when describing the person Pete was; until last Saturday.
Around about the last vintage, Pete and his wife Jan signed a contract to sell their Loxton North property. They purchased a place in town and planned some fun, travel and adventure in retirement. David King worked with Pete. He knew him very well. He argues that Pete was the best grower in the district, or if he wasn’t, his neighbour Nev Thompson might have just edged him into second spot. And speaking of faithful, the Kernichs had worked through the good times and the lean times; sticking with Orlando even after the company dropped their Chardonnay off contract.
At about the same time during vintage 2019, Pete was having trouble forming his words; it was hard for him to speak. He was self-conscious about it but not overly worried. As weeks passed, the symptoms became more pronounced; family and friends were increasingly concerned. More time elapsed and someone murmured Motor Neurone Disease. The diagnosis was confirmed. His outlook was uncertain, but Pete never grumbled; nor did Jan. They just got on with it; moved into town and continued planning their future as the MND began taking its terrible toll. With a few close friends, they planned a fundraiser to support more research into MND.
The disease pushed harder. It was unrelenting. Pete had long since lost the ability to speak, to swallow; it was a hard work just breathing at times. He communicated via his electronic tablet. Last Friday dawned and he was mobile but later in the day he was struggling; went to Loxton Hospital and passed away Saturday morning. The fundraiser will go ahead next Saturday, and Pete will be remembered as a gentle man, a man who gave more than he received; a man of true virtue. Farewell Pete.