Cheryl Leanne Barber-FankhauserPrint Page Print this page


Photographs supplied by Neil Follett

A monument commemorates Cheryl Barber- Fankhauser, a project firefighter who lost her life in a flash flood in the Buckland Valley in 2003.

Mountain Queen is laid to rest
By Neil Wilson

Pioneer firefighter Cheryl Barber-Fankhauser now lies at peace -- buried at the foot of a boulder from a river she adored and which swept her life away. The 43-year-old ``superwoman'' once told her husband Graeme that should she die unexpectedly, the Buckland River -- flowing through the state's northeast alps -- should be her resting place. Yesterday at her funeral he told how he had journeyed with her firefighting mates to the Upper Buckland where she died to load the rock she now lies under.

Ms Barber-Fankhauser was the only fatality in Victoria's long summer of bushfires when her fire truck was caught in a flash flood nine days ago. Yesterday her husband wondered aloud at how her life was ended by a furious rush of water from welcome rains. ``There's been many ironies, many things over the past week that make you reflect on what life's about,'' he said.

The 500 mourners who had gathered in the mountain valley hamlet of Wandiligong, outside Bright, shared his pain and disbelief at the loss of a mate they knew as ``Mofff ''. ``We will never understand why we lived 50 days having the potential for disaster then lost Cheryl in saving us from that disaster,'' said the Uniting Church's Reverend Pam Wyley. With the church overflowing, many stood or sat outside in the gentle autumn sun surrounded by fire-blackened mountains. ``Lift up your eyes to the hills,'' Ms Wyley said as she began Psalm 121.

The running shoes placed on her casket had pounded over those hills as she revelled in long-distance running and cycling. A tribute from her mother Jan and sister Kerrin told how Ms Barber-Fankhauser was ``Bright Queen of the Mountain'' three years in a row, winning the gruelling race up three mountains in three days.

She gave up working in the local shire offices years ago to return to seasonal outdoors work and care for her beloved animals and pets. A tribute from friend and cycling partner Lynne Penny told of Ms Barber-Fankhauser's distress over the death and injury to so many birds and animals during the bushfire crisis.

Ms Barber-Fankhauser worked 40 days in the fire zone, with just three days off. She was among the crew that saved the historic Mt Buffalo Chalet. Ms Barber-Fankhauser applied for a summer job as a project firefighter with the Department of Sustainability and Environment eight years ago at the age 35. Fellow firefighters yesterday recalled how she won a position intended for a male aged 18 to 35. They said she led the men up the hills during training drills.

Environment Minister John Thwaites and DSE chiefs were among the mourners yesterday. Many of the 23 women who have since become firefighters in the region lined the church's steep grass driveway as Cheryl Barber-Fankhauser's casket was placed in a hearse for her final ride to the Bright cemetery.
Article from the Herald Sun,  March 2003.


Address:Mountbatten Avenue, Bright Memorial Arboretum, Bright, 3741
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -36.726865
Long: 146.970971
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
View Google Map


Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:People
Actual Event Start Date:26-February-2003
Actual Event End Date:26-February-2003


Front Inscription

In Memory Of

Project Firefighter
Department Of Sustainability
And Environment

Who Lost Her Life In A Flash Flood
In The Buckland Valley

    26. 2. 2003

Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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