Ollie & Rudi

My family history research journeys are seldom linear. They often provide opportunity for side trips. Most recent, the culmination of almost a decade of stop-start-meandering. It got me thinking about family and friends who keep company with us on our life journey and at the same time are journeys in themselves.

Families we are born to, friends chosen: guided to each other by our higher selves.

Since I met the G.O. in 1990, he’s called me Ol’, short for Ollie. I mentioned this in Ollie & Vin, as part of the coincidence in the story of our house’s original owners. But that’s not the origin of the nickname I feel honoured to have.

My part in this journey began with the nickname. Then the ring. In all the years I knew him, the G.O. wore a gold ring on his left hand, married or not. I knew the ring was special though it was many years until the G.O. told me the story of it, and about Ollie & Rudi.

The G.O.’s part of the story began in a 1960’s world that lingers only as a memory. Life was simpler and slower. What are nowadays expensive respectable inner west suburbs of Sydney were modest working class outer western suburbs. Neighbours knew each other and talked. Kids played on the streets.

The G.O. was a wild child but not a terribly bad one. He was close to his family and good to them, befriended stray cats, dogs and people. Amongst whom were a neighbouring couple: Ollie & Rudi.

Their story began even further in the past. Online records detail some of it.

Olga and Rudolf-Alois Stroher arrived at Melbourne, Australia on 27 April 1948 after departing Bremerhaven, Germany two months earlier on the ship USAT General Black. Among 817, officially listed as:

International Refugee Organisation Group Resettlement to Australia
This passenger list contains individuals and families that migrated to Australia after World War II from various European Countries including Germany, Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, etc. Most passengers are World War II refugees or displaced persons.
Columns represent: Sequence number, surname, forename
683  STROHER  Olga 684  STROHER  Rudolf-Alois

The G.O. recollects Ollie & Rudi talked about day-to-day happenings rather than the past. Especially not the war, other than a few fragments. Olga had been a translator. Rudi had refused to join the German Army, and had a previous partner from whom he’d been separated by the war; searching for her to no avail prior to immigrating.

This part of their story is also part of Australia’s history.

The Fifth Fleet is the name that I have given to the ships which, chartered by the International Refugee Organization (IRO), brought about 164,100 Displaced Persons from Germany to Australia after World War II, between 1947 and 1951… More came by ship and air during 1952-54. There was a total movement of 182,159 people up to the end of 1951–more than the number of convicts sent to Australia in the first 80 years of our modern history.

It’s likely Ollie & Rudi’s first stop was Bonegilla Migrant Centre in rural north-eastern Victoria.

Between 1947 and 1971, over 300,000 migrants from more than 50 countries called Bonegilla their first “Aussie home”. They arrived by train to Bonegilla railway siding where they were met, in the early days, by army personnel who provided transport, security and catering services… Bonegilla was the largest and longest operating reception centre in the post-war era. It was a place where new arrivals lived while they were ‘processed’ and allocated jobs. It was also a ‘training centre’ where non-English speakers could begin to learn the language and about Australian ways. Its intention was to help people make the transition to a new life in a new country.

Later online electoral roll records show:

Name: Olga Stroher
Residence: 1958 – city, Lang, New South Wales, Australia
Name: Rudolph Alois Stroher
Residence: 1958 – city, Lang, New South Wales, Australia
[electoral division covering southern suburbs of Sydney]

Name: Olga Stroher
Residence: 1980 – city, Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia
Name: Rudolph Alois Stroher
Residence: 1980 – city, Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia
[electoral division located in west of Sydney & the Blue Mountains]

Between those years, in the late 1960’s Ollie & Rudi moved into the house next door to the G.O.’s family. The G.O. was a young teenager. They were middle-aged and had no children. Ollie later commented they had chosen between travelling the world and having children. In their travels they went to Indonesia where Rudi worked overseeing a factory owned by a friend.

Ollie & Rudi spent a year tidying up the property and turning the overgrown yard into a garden. They didn’t have a lawnmower, so the G.O. lent a hand and the friendship was forged. After that first year Ollie & Rudi went to work: Ollie in an office at Burwood, and Rudi in the leather garment manufacturing industry.

Before their retirement in the early 1980’s Ollie & Rudi moved to the Blue Mountains west of Sydney where they continued to be devoted to their garden, their dog Moystie & cat Mousie, and a tropical fish collection which from Ollie’s efforts became a thriving enterprise.

Ollie & Rudi kept mostly to themselves, had a few friends including the grown up wild but not terribly bad G.O. for whom they set aside a bedroom in their modest house, and considered the son they never had. Rudi once confiding that in the early days Ollie had perceived the G.O. neglected by his working parents and wanted to adopt… or kidnap him!

Ollie & Rudi remained close to the G.O., giving him the gold ring as a token of their affection. The G.O. continued to visit until one day Rudi rather than Ollie came to the door. That, and the look on his face conveyed wordlessly to the G.O. the terrible news. Ollie died on September 7th 1988, sitting at the table near the back step looking out at the garden. Rudi had been unable to bring himself to contact the G.O. to tell him.

Prior to Ollie’s death Rudi incredibly received communication from his previous partner, and the amazing news that he had a son. Both of them were thrilled, however Ollie died before they could fulfil plans to meet. So the other news Rudi had to tell the G.O. was that he was returning to Germany. Therefore on a subsequent visit, the G.O. wasn’t surprised to find the house changed and Rudi gone.

ringsBy 2005 when the G.O. and I started living together the gold ring given to him by Ollie & Rudi had worn thin. To preserve it I convinced him to let me take it to a jeweller and have a new ring made based on its design. The G.O. has Ollie & Rudi’s ring safely stored in my jewellery case, wearing the new ring -now his wedding ring- in its place as a legacy.

At the time I had the ring made, conversation around it sparked my interest, and I discovered by telephoning Pinegrove Memorial Park which Rudi had mentioned to the G.O. as being where Ollie was cremated, that Rudi had collected her ashes rather than having them interred.

This appeared to be the end of the story, yet something continued to niggle. From time to time I would Google search Rudi’s name in the hope of finding record of him in Germany.

Then, early in February my search for Rudolf-Alois Stroher came up with a result for Rudolph Alois Strother, and a search of the Ryerson Index provided a crucial (and as we’d thought he’d gone to Germany a somewhat unexpected) clue…

STROTHER Rudolph Alois Death notice 23MAR1998 Death [age] 80 late of Glenbrook, formerly of Czechoslovakia Sydney Morning Herald [newspaper] 24MAR1998

I checked again with Pinegrove Memorial Park, who had no details of Rudi. I searched online Australian Cemeteries Index. There were no matching records. I made a list of local cemeteries and memorial parks. Of them, on a gut feeling I telephoned Leura Memorial Gardens.

After querying the various spellings, the woman who answered my call confirmed Rudolph Alois Stroher’s ashes were in row 7 of their Rose Garden, but they had no record for Ollie. And, anticipating further inquiries, that the arranging funeral director had closed its business.

Suddenly, it seemed we were close. On the next Saturday events transpired for us to drive to the Blue Mountains to continue the search in person. Alas the outcome we anticipated wasn’t accomplished so easily. Within the Gardens there were few signs, lots of roses & rows which complicated the simple instructions to go to row 7 in the Rose Garden. The G.O. searched the whole complex without success. We left consoled knowing Rudi’s remains rested in pleasant grounds, we believe chosen because Ollie’s were scattered nearby at one of the scenic Blue Mountains places she so loved.

On Monday morning, once again I called Leura Memorial Gardens, and spoke to a different woman, Kath, who reiterated what we already knew, clarified “there are several rose gardens”, and offered to check and get back to me. Later in the day she emailed me a map… it confirmed we’d walked directly to the correct location adjacent to the bridge over the chain of ponds, somehow missing Rudi’s spot. Later she messaged me from her phone several photos of the site, including a close up of the plaque “In Memory of Rudolph Alois Stroher, 5.5.1917 – 23.3.1998, At Rest”.

We’ll make another trip to the Blue Mountains to properly pay our respects, and are very grateful for the assistance we received to finally also put our search to rest.

Rudy x 4


With the advent of the internet and various ancestry and genealogy websites, depending on the depth of research you want to undertake, web searches can offer up information previously only obtainable via considerable effort, investigation and cost. Should you endeavour to undertake this type of research be prepared to get side tracked and spend endless time clicking on links and sources leading you to snippets of various information which do not necessarily exactly correlate necessitating the approximation and cobbling together of a story. And even if you think the trail has gone cold, keep searching and asking questions. I’ve found people are happy to help. With more material coming to light be prepared for revisions, updates and sometimes conflicting & varying information, spelling and versions. Don’t give up.

28 thoughts on “Ollie & Rudi

  1. Isn’t it nice when you get the kind of help you got from Kath whereas some find it too much trouble to answer the most basic questions.I’m glad the G.O.has found the resting place for his friend.
    You’re right about going off at tangents too.I followed the line of a brother or sister of one of my great grandparents and found they’d moved to America.Because their records are quite good I suddenly found myself following distant relatives who had marries and spread throughout Cook County, Chicago. And yet here am I struggling with frustration with a record from Ireland and one from Gibralter in order to take an important line further.
    Julia’s family mainly came from Yorkshire which must have held the best records in the UK and I can take her line back to the 1200’s.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx


    1. Thank you. It’s one of the reasons I post detailed stories about our family history snippets… it may help someone else who types in the same search term. I think if Rudi had died in Germany, I wouldn’t have found anything at all. Maybe if someone if looking for him or Ollie, they’ll find us. A family history of sorts.


  2. What a heartwarming story. I relate so much to the walking around and not finding – but in my case the grave was the wrong one – yes, wrong one – that my mother had deposited my father’s ashes in! Ah well, he was good when forced into company, even if he didn’t want it. I love the story of the gold ring, too. The way rings look and feel when they are worn is always a story in itself. I had one memento of the grandparents I never met, a gold and garnet signet ring and lent it to a (then) serious boyfriend – he took the ring off to shower – and when he came back it was gone. Sic transit, etc. The boyfriend too!


    1. Thank you. I follow a professional family history researcher who advises records, memories, information are fraught with errors often at the hands of well meaning but misinformed-misguided people… which would cover off ashes in the wrong grave… oh no!
      How awful about your grandparents’ ring. When I was young I was given my mother’s engagement, wedding and eternity rings… somehow the engagement ring went missing… I wasn’t the only person living in the house but I was blamed for carelessness. Well over 40 years later it still irks me it is gone. So I can relate. The other 2 were given back to me when I was 16, and they now form part of my wedding ring.
      The G.O. offered me use of the original ring but it’s too precious!


  3. I love stories like this one. I’m so glad a kind soul gave the G.O. the opportunity to pay his respects to an old and dear friend.
    If you ever need help with the German language in your research let me know. I’ll be glad to help.


    1. The kindness of Kath made the ending of the story so much sweeter than had we simply managed to find the marker ourselves.
      Thank you for the kind offer. I wrote the story in such detail because I hope one day if someone else is searching for Ollie or Rudi, it may lead them to us and an exchange of information. I would like to know about his son, who I imagine would be in his 70’s, a similar age to my Dad.


  4. Lovely story, beautifully told… Ancestor chasing is so addictive and time consuming, I have to leave it to two of my siblings who are each addressing a different half of the family tree. Every so often, I get an update, full of exclamation marks and excitement. Odd to think of myself as one of the pioneers who made a new life in a far country, but in future generations if anyone looks back to see what Great great Auntie Kate did, that’s what I’ll be…


    1. Thank you 🙂 A great perspective to have… living family history. And your quilts will be a tangible legacy. Legacy is one of the reasons I write the stories, the other of course is to share them with the G.O. because no matter how interesting I find the strands… exclamation marks excitement… for anyone else they need some form to make sense of them.


    1. Thank you 🙂 The story is longer than I usually post but it does have a happy ending. I wrote and posted with the possibility of someone like me, searching, in the back of my mind. Just feeding the machine… which from a researcher’s point of view can only be beneficial.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What an amazing story, Dale. What perseverance you have had to trace this to its wonderful conclusion. But my favourite line in your post: ‘Families we are born to, friends chosen: guided to each other by our higher selves.’ It must be true, there are too many synchronicities in life for it not to be! xx


    1. Thank you 🙂 I really enjoy the detective work of family history research, but feared I wasn’t going to be able to resolve this one. I’d love to fill in some gaps, maybe the post will guide someone to me…


  6. This story moved me. It’s beautiful how much Ollie & Rudi meant to your husband. It is touching that their memory lives on through him. I’m so glad you were able to find Rudi. Thanks for sharing this story.


    1. Thank you 🙂 The connection between the G.O. and Ollie & Rudi is special to me too… I get a bit teary thinking about their loss. But we talk about them often, and their memory lives on.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙂 Made not born is an excellent way to describe it. I think many of us have wonderful connections and relationships via extended families.


  7. That’s a fascinating story, I really enjoyed reading it, and I’m so pleased you now know where to go in Leura for your next trip. Which you WILL write about. The rings story is a lovely addition to it too.


    1. Thank you. Details of excursion to Leura yet to be determined and it’s a bonus if something we do generates something to blog about! I find rings facscinating, often there’s a story to them.


  8. That is such a lovely story. It has so many facets, and I love the resonances of the ring and your nickname of Ollie. I also love the concept of those migrant ships being the Fifth Fleet. Our world would be a much poorer regions place with out everyone who has come here to Australia.
    For some reason I ended up with 3 special rings from both of my grandmothers. If I had ever married I would have worn my Nana’s wedding ring, and the other two were too small for my not-so-dainty fingers. Luckily I have three nieces, so I gave them each a ring on the day of my Dad’s funeral. It seemed like the perfect time to pass them on.


    1. Thank you. The flow-on benefit of family history research is the surrounding history. Previously I’d read about briefly migrant camps but it wasn’t significant to me then. I also think the Fifth Fleet is a great term. After the war, the migrants like the English convicts came with virtually nothing, many not even with English language. I admire them and are thankful for our multi-cultural heritage.
      How lovely you had the rings and passed them on as special mementos for your nieces. Ring are a great connector between the generations. Just weeks before she died my grandmother as she’d had a stroke and was unable to talk pointed to her wedding ring and my mother’s which I was wearing as her way to let us know she wanted me to have it…


  9. That’s a beautiful story. It speaks volumes for your relationship that you had a replica made of that ring and that you did so much work to track down where Rudi was interred.


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