I wish ...

I wish to thank everyone so very much for their kind prayers, thoughts and wishes for me at this time of grieving.

(Dad's coffin was draped in the Australian flag, with his WWII medals, the famous Slouch hat of the Aussie soldier and a beautiful arrangement of fresh flowers reminiscent of the gorgeous sweet peas, snapdragons, hollyhocks and other English flowers which he loved to grow.)

It was hard for me and my sisters to say good bye to my Dad, despite having him for so long (he was fifteen days shy of his 98th birthday when he passed away).  But say good bye, we did, in a beautiful ceremony at the Springvale Botanical Cemetery.  My very dear friend, Lisa, who is celebrant (she officiated at the wedding of my eldest son) kindly agreed to act as funeral celebrant plus Dad was given a military farewell by the RSL (Returned Servicemen's League).

For those of you who may be interested, I have included Dad's eulogy below (which I wrote and gave on behalf of myself and my two sisters, Jenny and Sharon).  Please feel free to scroll past it, to look at the lovely flowers) which were given to me in Dad's honour by so many wonderful friends.

Eulogy for Roy Willard
(28.08.1919 - 13.08.2017)
Our father was a very private man, who very rarely talked about his own life – in fact, to get him to talk about himself was rather like pulling teeth!  Instead, he was a man who was happiest when he was surrounded by his family, his wife, his daughters, his sons-in-law and his five grandchildren and could listen to their stories about what was happening in their lives.

Dad was also a very quiet, unassuming man – who never wanted to be the centre of attention – so much so, that apparently, when he turned up to his first reunion of the 2/10th Field Company, after living in Sydney for several years, his fellow veterans were so surprised to see him as they were convinced he must be dead!  Now, this would have been around 1959 – so you can see if you look at the order of service that they were wrong by about sixty years – give or take!

Our grandmother and Dad arrived in Australia in 1926, landfall first being in Perth and then onto Melbourne.  Somehow, and this is not quite clear to us how, they then went to Spalding, South Australia, where our grandmother worked as a housekeeper on some of the large properties in the area.  Dad remembered these times fondly, telling stories of going to the little country school via “horsepooling” as he would be picked up along the way by two schoolmates on their horse.

Obviously, Dad did well at this little country school as when, a few years later when he and his mother had moved to Thornbury, Melbourne, Dad was Dux of Preston South Primary School in 1932.

Over the next decade Dad’s life continued to be centred in the Collingwood and Thornbury areas as he continued his schooling at Collingwood Tech, where he was drawn to mathematical and engineering-type studies before leaving at fifteen to work at KM Windows for Mr Kerr and Mr Murphy. Dad then worked for the company for forty-seven years all told (with a slight hiatus called WWII), taking up further engineering studies whilst living in Sydney in the early 1950s to become qualified as a civil engineer and staying with the company as it moved through various transitions as Cyclone Windows and then was taken over by Boral – you can still buy roller parts for these windows now, which are rather cumbersomely called the Boral KM Cyclone window!)

When Dad and Mum moved back to Melbourne in early 1959, Dad worked in Cremorne and you can still see the old KM warehouses and offices on the righthand side, just before the Nylex clock, as you head towards Punt Road on the Monash freeway – I was doing some freelance work at Jacaranda Publishing last year and to my delight, their offices were directly opposite Dad’s old workplace, although they are being slated for a large apartment complex now.

Thornbury was the centre of Dad’s family and social life through the local church, where he met our mother at the youth group. Mum was just fourteen and Dad, seventeen, when they met and eat your heart out Romeo and Juliet – this was the true love story – enduring despite the Great Depression, world war, cruel imprisonment and later in life ill-health and dementia.  My father died last Sunday week, as devoted to my mother in 2017 as he had been when they first met eighty-one years ago.

My favourite story of their young courtship was the tale of how every Saturday, my mother would wash her long, jet-black hair and then have to sit on the back step to dry it in the sun.  Whilst Dad would be playing very bad tennis at the public courts which backed onto Mum’s home, and I say, very bad tennis, as for some reason every shot would go over the fence and Dad would just have to hop over to get it back!

Mum’s youngest brother, our Uncle Ron, told me proudly the other day how even his birth helped the romance along.  Ron was born when Mum was about fifteen and Mum would often help our grandmother by taking Baby Ron out for a stroll in his pusher. These strolls inevitably would take her past my Dad’s home, often several times in one walk, and of course, Dad would just pop out to say hello. Ron also told me how he always thought of Dad as his older brother, as he was always there for him and fondly remembers the fun outings that he would take with Dad and Mum to exciting places like Luna Park.  These Luna Park outings continued even when Dad and Mum moved to Sydney for ten years, as they would just take him to the one in Sydney. 

My uncle was only a teenager when he found himself orphaned but counted himself lucky to have such a generous older sister and her husband, who would, from Sydney, send a money order to him every week, to help with his upbringing as Ron finished his schooling.  In fact, I can dimly remember Ron living with us for a short while in Kemp Ave, Mt Waverley, whilst he was doing some study at Monash University.

Despite never knowing his own father (who died when Dad was a baby), our Dad was a marvellous one.  Very much a father of the 1950s, ie he never changed a nappy in his life but he was always a constant, solid presence in our lives.  Our Dad was very well-read and well-informed – he knew everything and he was our Mr. Google before Google was even invented – if I wanted to know about anything at all, Dad would know the answer or else help me find out the answer. In fact, the one regret, I think that I have for Dad is that he never quite took to computers, as I think that he would have loved them – in fact, you will see a photo shortly of Dad been shown how to play chess on a smartphone by his grandson, Brenton.  How I would have loved to have seen a smart man with his smartphone!

Dad would always help us with our maths homework – although he didn’t like the “New Maths” that came in some time in the 1970s.  Being an engineer, he was always good with problem-solving.  My sister, Sharon, remembers him sitting with her for hours and hours drawing diagrams to help her with trigonometry.

Dad also had a secret life, by day he was a civil engineer but in his personal time he was a private chauffeur – to his three daughters that is! Dad was so devoted to his three girls that he would drive us wherever we needed to go at any time – swimming lessons, social functions, Brownies, Guides, netball games – you name it, Dad was on his way for us.

I can remember vividly, one Easter, driving up with Dad to Hall’s Gap to pick up my sister, Jenny, from a youth camp that she had been to.  Now, of course, this is long before any freeways and the highways were all single lane – so, it took us all day to get there and then, of course, we had to drive home in the dark.  But Dad thought nothing of doing this for his darling daughter. 

He would drive Mum into the city or to Queen Vic market or South Melbourne market so she could have a shopping day (pre-Chadstone shopping mall days) and Sharon and I could remember being dropped off at the “Girls and Boys” (our name for daycare) in Richmond, with Dad always, always, pointing out the Skipping Girl sign to us. All of this before he went off to do a full day’s work.

Jenny remembers that Dad always used to drop her off at Burwood Teacher’s College (now Deakin University) every morning – she never took the bus or had to walk – again before Dad went off to his own work and I remember that he would often drop me off at high school and later at Richmond station when I went to Melbourne State College – some of these trips must have overlapped, so goodness knows how Dad actually managed to get any of his own work done!

I did say that he would pick us up at any time of the day or night and I can remember having an elaborate system of phone signals (this is pre-mobile phones, of course) to let Dad know to come pick me up from the tram stop on Burwood highway at some ungodly hour of the night when I had stayed late at the pub in Carlton after uni (and he was such a cool Dad, he never, ever commented on whatever state of inebriation that I might be in at the time.)

So, as well as being Mr Google before Google was invented, Dad was Mr. Uber, too!  I think that my sisters and I worked out that Dad spent something like thirty-six years, all told, chauffeuring us around by the time Sharon left home.  Of course, it didn’t end there as Sharon recalls that when she was unable to drive for several weeks after the birth of her daughter, Jade, Dad would pick her, Brenton and Jade up from her home and drive them to Ashburton pool for her mother’s group and he would stay and join in – so the 1950s Dad became a 1990s Grandpa!

Dad, did, of course, have a life of his own!  He loved his garden, which he spent hours in every weekend, meticulously hand weeding the vast expanses of lawn, setting up a complicated series of channels in the back yard to water his plants using grey water during the mid-1960s drought and making his middle daughter, ME, go out every evening, for what seemed like hours, with a bucket with holes in the bottom to walk up and down the front lawn to keep it alive.  He grew the most gorgeous-smelling sweet peas which grew riotously up the side of the house in pretty shades of pink and lavender whilst he always, always, had a bed of poppies in the front garden – the significance of which I did not realise at that time but surely were in remembrance of his fallen cobbers.

Dad loved his sweets, always wanting to know what was for “pudding” each evening.  Sharon remembers Dad stewing fruit to eat with ice cream and she would always go over with puppy dog eyes to beg some of the cut fruit from him – which, of course, she would always be given. Among all his friends and carers in later life, it was well known that Dad could never say no to a nice vanilla slice!
When Dad moved into The Alexander late last year, a special bond was formed between my sister, Jenny, and Dad, as every Friday, Jenny would take part in the “walking” group with him, wheeling him up to buy his ice cream from Maccas!  Coincidentally, the last meal that Dad had was ice cream!  

Dad loved being at The Alexander (My sisters and I would like to thank all of the staff there for their wonderful care of Dad – he could not have been in better hands), he was always telling us how kind the carers were and how much he enjoyed the company of the other residents and he especially enjoyed the fact the he did really well at the Footy tipping – his secret was to always pick his favourite team, Collingwood, and to always pick a Victorian team over an interstate one – although he always had a dilemma when two Victorian teams played each other.  In earlier years, he did so enjoy going to the footy with Joe and three of his grandchildren – to a Tigers/Magpies game, of course, where he would always gently “hang” it on Joe if the Pies won.

Once in the nursing home, Dad looked forward each evening to Jenny’s phone call, always saying “Hi Jen” even before she had identified herself, as he knew that she would always be on the other end of the phone for him and even though he was deaf, and when Jenny tried to tell him funny stories about her cat, and they ended up talking about the mat or Pat or whatever, they would always have a laugh together – so Jenny, Sharon and I would like to thank you for the extra care that you took of Dad over the past few years.

Dad also enjoyed his time with the outreach programme at St Marks in Mt Waverley, loving the outings, the men’s group, the bingo, the quizzes (although he did joke that nobody did very well with the quizzes as they all suffered from poor memories these days), the music and the lunches.  He made a special friend, Ivan, who would always, always save a seat for him, even long after Dad was no longer well enough to attend regularly.
Now, I have mentioned that Dad loved his wife, Eleanor, and his three daughters very much but what I haven’t told you is that Dad had a secret passion for two other, very different women. Luckily, both were unattainable.

Dad loved Nana Mouskouri to distraction, [here I had the AV guy play a snippet of The White Rose of Athens) with The White Rose of Athens being his favourite of her songs but interestingly enough, Dad also had a yen for ....  (and here I had him play some of Devil Gate Drive by Suzi Q)  Suzi Quattro and whilst he didn’t have to hide his interest in Nana (as it was perfectly acceptable for a middle-aged man to have Nana Mouskouri records) he sneakily disguised his love of Suzi Q by buying me her singles and encouraging me to play them in the lounge room (so he could listen), with Devil Gate Drive being his favourite Suzi Q song.  We all also remember religiously watching Countdown as a family every week – probably, now I think of it, so Dad could get a chance to see his beloved Suzi Q.
There are so many more memories of Dad that I could tell you, he did, after all have a very long life – nearly ninety-eight years – for which we are very grateful but I will finish with one last memory which so aptly sums up our Dad.

One day, about eighteen months ago, I was sitting, having a cup of tea with Dad in his Mt Waverley home.  Dad commented that he was sitting in Mum’s chair, as he couldn’t bear to sit in his own chair nearby and see hers sitting empty.  He then went on to say, “You know, Kaye, despite my “troubles” (he meant being a POW in Changi for three and a half years) and losing your mother a few years ago (I still miss her, he said) I have been a very lucky man.  I am content with my life.”  And that was indeed my Dad, a contented, lucky man.

Rest in Peace, darling Dad. You were always such a gentle soul and everybody who met you loved and respected you. You did not let your POW imprisonment in Changi as a young man define you but rather it made you stronger and you faced your peacetime life with no bitterness but a determination to make the most of the second chance at life you were given. Your love for your beloved Eleanor was infinite as it was for your daughters, your son-in-law and your grandchildren. You taught we three daughters, to be strong, independent women and gave each of us the opportunity to make our own way in the world successfully. For this we thank you so much. Go in peace and tranquillity, Soldier, your job is done and the life and society we Australians now enjoy is so much better for your sacrifice. Love you Dad, my sisters and I feel so privileged to have been your daughters.

Thank you so much everyone for the flowers... Dad would have loved them all!

... and lastly, this was a tribute made by a French FB friend I have made through my work on the Spirit of Anzac Prize.

So, thank you, thank you, thank you, my dear friends - I love each and every one of you and appreciate you all so much!


P.S. I hope to do some Stitching bloggy posts, soon but my next one will be the last one for The Alphabet Club - "Z".


marly said…
I enjoyed the story of this extraordinary man, your dad, and I'm sure he looked down and smiled at this tribute.
Dear Kaye, I am so sorry to hear of your sad loss. I did enjoy reading about your darling Dad. What a wonderful human being he was. The true heroes of life. Take care....sending you hugs xxx
Linda said…
What an awesome post and great story Kaye.

Barb said…
I read your lovely tribute to your dad. Your relationship with him reminds me of the wonderful one I had with my dad. We are both very lucky women to have had such amazing men in our lives. Bless you Kaye.
Vickie said…
What an amazing story Kaye. I enjoyed reading this. The flowers are very lovely.
Birdie said…
What an awesome and beautiful tribute post to your father. I lost my dad 2 years ago.....I still pick up the phone to call him. Blessed we are to have had amazing fathers. Sending you prayers of strength and love to you Kaye.
Ariadne said…
Such beautiful touching words!May he rest in peace!AriadnefromGreece!
RJ said…
Dear Kaye...your beautiful words about your Dad truly touched my heart. What a wonderful man and Dad he was. I especially enjoyed the love story of your parents. The finest men hardly talk about themselves but we all know how special they are. Your Dad touched the lives of so many and you are the best example of his love. God Bless you dear Kaye. RJ
deb said…
What a beautiful tribute to your father - thank you for sharing him with us for just a bit. Warm hugs and gentle thoughts and prayers for you (so very sorry I missed your earlier post).
Christine M said…
Such lovely words, Kaye. I loved hearing about your dad and his life. That's funny about Suzi Q! Hope to catch up soon. xxx
Stitching Noni said…
Kaye, I loved reading your post about your Dad. Such lovely memories of him. I couldn't help but giggle when I read about your Mum and Dad's courtship - how cute! He is now with your Mum and and they will both be looking down on you all from above :o) Hope you're all doing ok...
Hugs x
Lesley said…
Kaye,your Eulogy in memory of your dad was very moving and your love and pride of being his daughter shines through.
I hope each day brings a little more tranquillity for you.
Carol said…
Your father was quite a man, Kaye, and I'm sure you girls were just the apples of his eye :) How very lucky you all were to have a dad who was so active in your lives... May the memories comfort you going forward... Hugs to you!
Kay said…
This is a beautiful post, you were certainly blessed to have a remarkable dad. x
That's a wonderful eulogy to a wonderful man. You can feel the love and warmth coming through his deeds and your words. You should try to write down all the little stories about him while they are being shared so the children and grandchildren will always be able to read about him.
Beautiful flowers too, such perfect tributes for a man who loved his garden. At least you don't have to water each one with your leaky bucket!
Claudette497 said…
Please accept my condolences on the loss of your father - he sounds like a treasure.
Margaret said…
A wonderful eulogy. I know it must be so hard not to have him with you anymore. Lots of hugs.
Brigitte said…
This is such a great post, Kaye. I read the eulogy you wrote and it's a wonderful tribute to your late father, a wonderful man. You and your sisters must have the best of memories that will keep him alive in your hearts.
Wendy said…
A very beautiful tribute to your lovely dad...I'm so sorry for your loss...I lost my dad on January 2 of this year and it has changed my entire world...will say a prayer for peace and comfort for you during this time of loss and adjustment...again, my deepest condolences to you and your family.
Justine said…
What a beautiful tribute to your Dad. He had such an interesting life and his character and love for his family really shines in your words. Jo's idea to write all the stories down is a good one, I hope you are able to do this.
Julie said…
A very wonderful tribute to your dad Kaye, he's sounds like every young girls dream of how they would like a daddy to be. He must have been so proud of you all.
Much love xx
ricketyjo said…
Sorry to hear about your Dad, Kaye. What lovely words from you and beautiful flowers. Lots of love. xx
butterfly said…
What a great story .
Sorry to hear of your sad loss Kaye.
I miss my dad so much.
Hugs .

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