Austenite

Friday, December 23, 2005

Eulogy for my father

This is the eulogy I had the privilege to read for my father on
Monday.


Things about Dad

Dad was born at home at Levine avenue in Tamworth, 3rd May 1944, the 10th child of Alexander and Janet.

With so many older brothers and sisters, he certainly wasn't short of parenting - perhaps that's why he became such a good parent himself.

After a little while, Dad was the second generation to attend Tamworth Public School, later followed by both sons. With such a long connection to the school it was a great pleasure for him to participate in the recent centenary celebrations and place a brick for his family.

After school, his first job was at the famous Treloar's department store in Peel Street, Tamworth.

Later, Dad was a Stock and station agent in Walgett, where he met and married Helen Roughley. During their 26 year marriage, Ken fathered two boys - James and Cameron.

Sime time later, he was in real estate procurement for McDonald's. In fact, he was the third person in Australia to work for McDonald's. Partly responsible for their success, you can blame him for all of the Golden arches across Australia.

During this time Ken and Helen lived in Kings Cross, and one night they were inconvenienced by a parade, when trying to come home after dinner - it turned out to be the first ever Mardi Gras.

After their time in Sydney, they returned to Tamworth, where Dad had a carrying business for a short while, then opened the Limelight Cafe, to critical acclaim. Soft serve ice cream, donuts and pre-packaged sandwiches were pretty revolutionary.

After the cafe, North-West Waterbeds and then another Cafe - this was a very very hard time for Dad and his family, but he did everything he could and worked every hour in the day to provide for them.

In between these times, Dad worked in real estate. This is where I first discovered his love for chocolate. In fact when he left one job they wrote and asked him to come back as they had ordered in a shipment of Mars Bars for him and were now overstocked.

In the end, Dad reached the difficult decision to leave his beloved Tamworth - it was a part of the McIntoshes as much as they were of Tamworth, and - as he was fond of saying - it was the first town in the southern hemisphere to have electric street
lighting, after all.

In Brisbane, Dad returned to Real estate, and this was probably the most difficult period in Dad's life. There was the Pilot's strike, the recession we had to have, and Marriage breakdown.

Eventually, Dad came to work for Life. Be in it, building several indoor sports centres for them, becoming a Sports centre administrator for the one at Runaway Bay, and then even a bowling alley.

Dad's last job was one that he liked very much. He worked in the call centre for Teacher's Union Health fund in Fortitude Valley, and he affectionately called himself a "call girl in the Valley."

But it wasn't work that made Dad the person he was. It was playing Canasta with the neighbours. It was tending his beloved buffalo grass runners. It was going to every P and C committee meeting, being Secretary and Treasurer when he could.

It was being at every Basketball game and athletics event, being ready to pick us up from things at any time of the day or night.

It was being a consummate handyman - there's no job that Dad couldn't do. Plumber, electrician, painter and roofer. Although dropping a 1000kg pastry making machine on his toe while wearing sandals did slow him down a bit.

It was spending all weekend making his hallmark Chinese stir fry - it'd put hairs on your chest for certain.

But the three things that _really_ defined Dad were History, politics and the ABC.
Australian history and Australian military history in particular, and I think it made him very proud that Cameron has joined the army and will be part of that military history.

In politics, Dad saw his Liberal party enjoy their first absolute majority in both houses in 30 years, and I think he chose to stay with us until Parliament rose for the summer and their legislative program had been passed.

Dad often said he would pay extra for a TV that would only receive the ABC. It pleased him immensely to know that I now have both a radio and a television that only receive the ABC.

Kind and quiet. Everywhere and in everything.

Cameron would like to remember the time when Dad and Cameron living together, and of all the things that dad could have been upset about, like backing car into steps, crashing the car, he was unflappable, because this affected only him and nothing was a problem. However, when a light fitting was broken while playing indoor cricket, this inconvenienced someone else and was cause for concern!

This is one of the ways that Dad touched everyone who came in contact with him - there was an aura of refined calm that people could sense.

Even when recovering from serious surgery, heavily sedated and in great pain, he couldn't bring himself to complain or utter a bad word about anyone. And he was always more worried about someone else.

In this way, Dad and Carmel were always destined for each other. Neither of them have ever asked for their own needs, even in the darkest of times.

Dad's marriage to Carmel is the most beautiful and most tragic part of Dad's story. Both had been through challenging periods in their life, before finding their soulmate. Married for less than two years before cancer struck, I believe this was the happiest time in Dad's life - the extended family they created made Dad the person he was always meant to be, and he loved them very much. It seemed that both were destined to finally enjoy their reward for a good life, well lived, in each other's company.

The resolve that dad showed, I think, shows how much he was determined to achieve in the time he had. He was thinking of others for the entire period, in typical fashion. And he would not leave until everything was in order.

For Carmel: determined to do absolutely everything he could possibly do to fight the disease - diet, microwave therapy, Japanese vaccines and every surgery and treatment known to western medicine. He made sure that their house is prepared for anything Carmel wanted, and he even arranged this ceremony and his memorial place so that no-one else would have to worry. Everything was in order.

Even after his passing, he organised a storm on Friday night to loosen the one plant that he and Carmel had considered removing. Always thinking of others.

For Cameron, it was important that Dad could spend a week together and properly say farewell, once Cameron was on Christmas leave from Townsville. Everything was in place.

For Cameron, he organised the Josh Groban song, which you will hear later, and which Cameron and I had never heard of, to be played on Video Hits (of all places) at the exact time that Cameron turned on the television on Saturday morning.

For me, he insisted I go ahead with the move to Adelaide for work, which has been the making of me. Now that I have returned to Brisbane, he made a superhuman effort to speak at my engagement party, so that he could give his blessing. This was a massive effort for him, but it meant that everything was in place.

And for me, he has organised this beautiful dry day, with much lower humidity than we have had recently, because he knows how much I hate the humidity.

For his brothers and sisters, he asked every one to visit in the last month, and they were all able to. This was an important chance, and it mean that, once again, everything was in place.

Over the last few months, I have been becoming aware of how much of my father is in me. I have been catching myself developing the same mannerisms, like smiling at Leonie the same way Dad smiles at Carmel. I've been looking at my hands, noticing how similar they are to Dad's hands. Wondering if my hands will ever do as much work
as Dad's hands.

But most of all, I've been reflecting on my thoughts, my own interests and habits, and how much Cameron and I have Dad to thank for them. It seems that as Dad got weaker and weaker, more and more of his spirit is showing in me. Finally, and only in the last few weeks, I felt resolved that I am an adult in my own right - and that I carry on many of my father's characteristics. I have been observing the same changes in Cameron. Finally, his work as a parent was complete, and everything was in place.

When all was in order, Dad could finally choose the time of his release. He chose the time of his passing, so that we could all be with him, all say our goodbyes, and all watch him slide into a happier place. Thinking of others to the very end.

So, to Dad;
Husband, Father, Friend.
Handyman, Historian, Politician,
Absolute gentleman.

Your work is complete, be proud of it.
Your friends are here, be proud of how many people you touched.
And your family is here, be proud of the job you have done.

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