A WALLA farmer has told how his father died in his arms on Friday after he fell into a grain auger on the Rand property they farmed together.
Jason Schilg said he became worried last Friday afternoon when his father Leon hadn’t returned after several hours at Rand where he had been picking up a load of grain destined for customers in Melbourne.
“It was a job dad has done 1000 times before,” Mr Schilg said.
“It was just a normal day. We were doing jobs on the farm at Walla when dad said he was going to load the truck.
“It should take a couple of hours
or so to drive to Rand, load the truck
and return to Walla where he would have fuelled up before heading for Melbourne.
“When he was not back, I went to look for him.”
Mr Schilg found his father, still alive, where he had fallen.
“We reckon he was so tough and determined that he would have stayed awake until someone found him,” he said.
“He didn’t speak. He groaned and squeezed my hand.
“I called 000 but he died in my arms before the ambulance arrived from Corowa.
“I have to say it would have been the longest 45 minutes of my life, waiting for that ambulance.
“But I was really glad to have found him while he was awake, he knew I was there.”
Leon Schilg, 61, had farmed throughout the Jindera, Walla and Rand districts for 45 years, leaving school at 16 to join his late father Keith on the family property, Rosedale at Jindera.
His wife of 40 years, Sandra, said her husband had little time for interests other than farming but he “could turn his hand to anything”.
“He was excellent at fixing machinery, at welding and he renovated our first home at
Table Top,” she said.
“He’d never pay anyone to do anything because he said he’d do it.”
Grain was his passion.
“He was big on the computer, it almost drove me mad. He was forever on conference calls about the grain market,” she said.
Mrs Schilg said since Friday the family had been overwhelmed by support from people throughout the region.
“The generosity of
people, the food and phone calls, they have not stopped,” she said.
Mr Schilg said his father obtained a licence to drive a semi-trailer at the age of 55, when the pair had expanded their grain-growing operations to the farm at Rand and additional leased ground.
While his family joked that he was going through a mid-life
crisis, Leon Schilg tackled the grain marketing and delivery business with the same gusto he had addressed every part of their rural business.
“Each trip away brought a new and different yarn,” Mrs Schilg said.
“He would arrive home with pockets and boots filled with wheat, leaving trails for me to find.”
“Dad worked hard all his life, he never stopped,” Mr Schilg said.
“He would never give up and he always used to say ‘you will learn something new every day; don’t be afraid to get advice and listen to others’.”
Leon Schilg’s mother, Doris, 86, said her son had told her only in the past week or two that he spent so much time on the road he slept better in the truck cabin than anywhere else.
Jason Schilg said, “In the past fortnight he’d been to Melbourne almost
every day and he had been due to make a delivery there on Friday”.
“We sold our grain directly to dairy farmers in Gippsland and in the Kiewa Valley.”
Sandra Schilg said when Jason had finished school, he had delighted his father when he returned home to work on their property, Hill & Dale at Walla.
“His dad always said he could do what he wanted but you could tell at an early age Jason was interested,” she said.
“He wanted to do everything on the farm, he was even putting crops in, in the sandpit.
“When we decided to buy the truck, we employed people to help Jason on the farm with the stripping and sowing, while Leon concentrated on the marketing and delivery.
“He was strong-willed and determined, a perfectionist and you couldn’t change him.”
Mrs Schilg said one of her husband’s proudest achievements was to walk the Kokoda Track in 2008 with several good friends including daughter-in-law Shelley’s father, Ian Burrowes.
He had been among the fittest in the group.
“He’d go for long walks around Jindera and one night he tried to jog home from one of his walks and did his achilles tendon,” Mrs Schilg said.
“He had to have several cortisone injections to overcome the pain just before leaving to make the trek but he was determined.
“It took them nine days to walk the 96km track.”
Leon Schilg is survived by his mother Doris,
wife Sandra, son Jason and his wife
Shelley, daughter Nicole Beckett and her husband Peter, and five grandchildren, Campbell, Breanna, Larissa, Natasha and Lily.
Funeral details are still to be announced.
Leon Schilg pictured during the canola harvest on the family’s Rand property in 2005.
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