Posted by: jkirkby8712 | December 2, 2010

Tribute to a ‘generous man’

A quick trip down to Ballarat today, for a funeral. Wall Smith was 87, and the father of my brother’s first wife  – I think Ian still looked upon Wal as a bit of a second father. A rather nice service at the Doveton Park Funeral Centre in Ballaat North, followed by the burial service over in the Ballarat New Cemetery. Despite a long downpour of rain during the later part of the drive down from Sunbury,  the weather in Ballarat was perfect during the period of the funeral, which made us all rather lucky, particularly at the cemetery stage!  [I shall return anon>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>]

It was an interesting, even sometimes eventual drive down to Ballarat this morning – much of the first part of the trip was covered in isolated patches of thick fog, and I was grateful for daylight, as I have never enjoyed driving at night in foggy conditions – remembered various wintry Monday nights when I worked at the Shire of Gisborne, north of Sunbury, and the occasional late night drive after a Council or Committee meeting in rather unnerving fog conditions One of the girls  who used to work with me, named Belinda, also came from Sunbury, and I recall she was even more apprehensive of the fog than I was – on a couple of occasions, we arranged for her to closely follow me, so at she at least had something in front to guide her, while your writer here, was often just hoping for the best, that he was still on the correct side of the road, or simply on the rod!!

Anyway, back to today – conditions much better than those nights. However on the second half of the trip, the rain started again, and at about 20 minutes out of Ballarat, it was coming down by the proverbial bucketful. This did not auger well for this morning’s funeral!!  However the ‘gods’ were with us, and the rain had basically stopped by the time I reached Ballarat just before 9am, and the sun would be shining for the next few hours!!  Just for ‘old Wally’.  That in fact was whose funeral I was attending  – Wally [Walter Godfrey] Smith, born in 1923 [two years after my own father], and died at the age of 87, on 26 November. I’m not sure [and I didn’t press the issue] why I didn’t find out until late yesterday afternoon, and then only by accident, then my sister’s husband ‘grabbed me’ on Facebook.  Had I not logged on at that moment, I would not be here now [in Ballarat], would not have had the opportunity to pay tribute to Wally, nor [as important as everything else], would I have had the opportunity to meet my younger brother who I’d not seen since the end of June 2006.  I believe I would have been ‘a little upset’ had that occurred.

The connection with Wally  –  he was Ian’s  [the brother I am referring to] first wife’s father, and I think in many ways, Ian looked upon Wal as a second father to himself, certainly he had a lot of time and respect for him, and had kept in touch over the since his marriage to Jenny [one of Wal’s daughters] had fallen apart.  And while I had only seen Wal on a couple of occasions over those years, he was always someone you would be happy to call in upon. In fact as I mentioned earlier, I’d intended to do that before I went up to Brisbane in October  – but ‘didn’t get around’ to doing so!

Ian was one of the first people I met, upon arrival at the Funeral parlour in Doveton Street North – he had driven basically 24 hours straight through from Brisbane [most of it in rain and unpleasant weather conditions], and had stayed overnight at Wal’s home, with Jenny’s sister, Sue, who had been caring full time for her father over recent years as his health deteriorated. For this funeral, I had mistakenly assumed it would be a small and short affair, instead, the numbers of mourners was quite large for this man described by all as ‘generous in spirit, generous in time, and generous in character to family and friends, in fact anyone who did the right thing by him. As one of the tributes to him stated, he was the kind of man that you would visit, and upon leaving, would feel as though you had taken part of him with you, a wonderful complement.

Amongst the  large number present, were of course all of my sister’s family [the Skilbecks], Jenny, Sue and their two brothers, whom I didn’t really know, and Ian’s two sons by Jenny – sadly, since the marriage breakup between their mother and Ian, the relationship with his sons had not been the way you would like, and not necessarily any fault of Ian’s. So he met two of his grandchildren today for the first time, and was barely aware of their existence before today apart from the advice passed on by our sister!  So one can only hope, that arising out of the death of this wonderful old man, that some degree of ‘reconciliation’ of this family can eventually take place. At least today, there was communication.

In the meantime, I think that both Jenny [and Sue], and Ian, were separately happy to see myself turn up today – and so was I, particularly in view of how close it came to not happened. I must admit, I was always fond of Jenny as a sister-in-law, and I think for a while, got on reasonably well with her at a distance [one state away] after her marriage breakup.  But eventually, everyone drifted apart, but it was a good feeling today to be welcomed at Wal’s funeral with feeling of warmness. I think Ian thought so too  – not only met his grandchildren, but ‘even got a hug from Jenny’!

As for Wal, a man who had lived a long life, had many different jobs, served in the Australian Army during  World War 2 [so today’s service included an RSL component as had occurred at Dad’s funeral, back in 1969], never made fame or fortune, but certainly was much loved by all who became part of his life, even for a brief period of time. A man who spent half of his working with one hand, after he lost it in an industrial accident, yet never allowed that to stop him from living the rest of his life ; a man who lost his beloved wife, I assume when the four children were still reasonably young [I never met her], and who as his son said, remained faithful to her, until the end of his own life.

Wal was a fan of the music and singing of Paul Potts, and Susan Boyle, so this morning’s service included Nessum Dorma [by Potts],  I Dreamed A Dream [by Susan Boyle], and ended with Time To Say Goodbye, sung by Paul Potts. It also included a Photographic Celebration of Wally’s life, on a screen, which I noticed Ian, whom I was sitting with,  had difficulty in watching  – this whole service had quite an affect on my ex-Army brother. Meanwhile, by now, Ballarat was bathed in brilliant warm sunshine, and it remained that way, as we joined the brief service at the graveside in the Ballarat  New Cemetery, across the road. Certainly, the ground was very soft and wet underfoot in the cemetery grounds, but for that time, the weather remained perfect [later in the afternoon, back in Melbourne, we would be ‘enjoying’  thunderstorms and drenching rain again.]

I only stayed briefly for the ‘wake’ & refreshments following the two services – long enough to take Ian back across the road to the Crematorium part of the cemetery, where we visited the joint memorial to our Mum & Dad.  Jean [sister] and her daughter & boyfriend joined us for that brief moment of tribute to our own parents, at the site of the resting place of their ashes, one from 1969, the other from 1990.

For myself, it was departure time, back down the highway to Melbourne, where I basically had to go right into the city to get across to my workplace. That drive was in fine weather [just] though a number of ‘large trucks’ seemed to be ‘haunting’ for most of the trip which didn’t allow for much relaxation on the drive.  In many ways, I regretted not deciding to spend the day in Ballarat rather than rushing back the way I did, but having made the commitment to get back to the office by early afternoon, I felt obliged to do.  Should have committed myself differently.

My short stay in the office this afternoon, saw your writer feeling rather tired, and there was no rest this evening either, as it was the final meeting night of the radio station committee  –  a meeting  that I must admit, consisted entirely of an informal ‘gathering’ for a meal at the local Bowling Club restaurant, our usual annual haunt for that purpose. Those who know me, will be aware that I generally make conversation only when it’s needed – and as a consequence, when I night like this evening occurs and after the events of the day, I find that after 2 hours I have virtually been talking non-stop, well, my voice simply ‘cracks it’  and I can’t continue. So it was not a late night!!


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