The best way to describe Dad was that he ‘marched to the beat of a different drummer’. He was born on the 21st January, 1923 in Toowoomba and the Darling Downs forever stayed in his blood. As a family we jokingly say 1923 as he had three different birth certificates. He was either 88, 89 or 90 depending upon which one you believe! The different dates probably had something to do with a young man wanting to get into the army, with stars in his eyes and adventure on his mind.
Serving in World War II must have been an intense, overwhelming experience for a young man. It must have been a dynamic, alive, heroic time for him and his ‘mates’. Our family has absolute respect for a man who fought to keep his country safe. Dad was a story-teller who recounted his time in the army with detailed accounts of his experiences with his ‘mates’. His family know his stories well….even sometimes able to recount the stories, word for word due to the number of times we heard them. Only occasionally would we say that we had heard this story before….simply because we knew they were important to him.
He was a ‘larger than life character’, physically strong and enduring who was a great cyclist and footballer. One story about his cycling is etched on my memory. He rode from Toowoomba to Brisbane on a wooden rimmed bike, down the range with no brakes (so the story goes) and survived. I don’t think I would be doing this in my car let alone on my fancy touring bike today – that is without brakes! In 1939 the Toowoomba Valleys combined football team were the ‘winner of the all trophies’. He played for both Toowoomba and Warwick and was known for his love of football and his tackling ability.
He was a complex man, sensitive but always wanted the best for his family. One thing is certain, Dad had impeccable taste in marrying Peggy and celebrating 64 years of marriage. Even the Queen sent congratulations to them on their 60th Anniversary. I think she was also impressed! Mum and dad complemented each other as only they know. Together, they had five children, three boys and two girls. They were all animated and sporty kids. They were all strong-willed and probably a tad determined like their Dad. Now there are 11 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and even great-great grandchildren. The legacy lives on.
He was heavily involved in managing rugby union teams including junior Brisbane and Queensland teams. He was always there to offer oranges at half-time, transporting young rugby players home after practice and being involved with the sport. He gave enormous time to his kids sport, and gave his time freely and generously. He was always there late at night to pick-up a weary sports-child. He was proud of his children and their achievements.
Dad worked in grocery stores and this also was something that held importance in his life. He had an incredible work ethic. He managed stores, organising people, making sure the customers were catered to. He was gregarious in his dealings with people and enjoyed chatting to people. He also worked for the shop assistants union, travelling across the state of Queensland to improve conditions for members. In retirement, he loved nothing more than comparing prices of different items in different stores and telling all his children about it.
He loved his pet dogs – Prince and Socks and his parrots. Dad would often sit in his favourite chair in the lounge room, chatting to his pet bird as it perched on his shoulder. The conversation and the discussion was animated and frenetic. His pet bird would only sit on Dad’s shoulder and converse ONLY with him. Only they knew what was said but the understanding between them was undeniable. He had a strong affinity with pets and many of our memories involve his interactions with them.
Dad would read the papers from cover to cover often before most people had awoken for the day. He continued to read the Warwick, Toowoomba and Brisbane papers showing his strong connection with his favourite cities. He was true to his nature to the last, even ‘strongly discussing his breakfast menu with the nurses last Sunday morning’. I am sure he is listening and he will be enjoying the conversation.
Dads wry humour continues on….as well as his newspaper collection as only his family know. We will miss your stories, we will miss your humour and we will miss your chats about the rugby and the stories from the newspapers which were priceless! Most of all we will all miss you!