1 February 2016, Sydney Australia
I’ve been told that Mum and Dad met on a blind date arranged by Trish. Thanks to chemistry, and a little biology, I stand before you today to talk about my Dad.
Paul & Barbara’s marriage of 45 years was a special and unique one. Though they were opposites in many ways, it would be inadequate to describe them as being two halves of a whole. Yes, Mum and Dad complemented one another, but each encouraged and empowered the other to pursue their individual interests and friendships; and, those friendships flourished and those interests advanced, because of the time, effort, and love they gave in support to each other.
Dad embraced every project that Mum came up with. When she took up painting, he took a framing class. When she needed an easel, he built it. When she started selling clivias from the garden, he continued to cultivate, transplant, and pot them. When the Park Road Painters gathered regularly at home, Dad would provide lunch. At nights, when mum taught ticketwriting, Dad looked after me. After he settled me into bed, he would look after Mum -- having a late dinner ready for her when she got home. I grew up with the example that life within and outside the home was very much a team effort.
Dad never did anything half-heartedly. He gave his full attention to every task and was a valued contributor in every role he stepped into at work. Starting out as a clerk at the railways, he went on to office jobs at the Government Printing Office, Schweppes, and Aquilla Steel, before joining Mum in the business at Barbaras Sign Shop. He ran the screenprinting side of the business from our garage, so that he could be there for me when I got home from school.
Eventually, Barbara’s Sign Shop grew into commercial premises and employed a small but dedicated staff. As a boss, Paul led his young team with a light touch. He gave them the space and freedom they valued, but with enough discipline needed to stretch their creative potential & problem-solving and get printing projects completed on time and as expected. His duty of care wasn’t just a workplace responsibility, it was genuine concern. Team lunches became a daily ritual of bread rolls in the park and a healthy foundation for Paul’s mentorship. Over the years, staff became extended family and long-time clients became friends.
To his friends, Paul was fun and carefree—diving into the harbour at Watson’s Bay with no concern for the local bull-sharks; choosing to mark the place of his golf ball with a wad of notes instead of coins and then four grown men having to run around chasing bills as the wind got hold of them. Whether it was playing cards, playing golf, or going fishing, Paul was always cheerful and relaxed and made sure his friends felt welcome and relaxed too.
Dad showed his love and gratitude towards family, friends and neighbours through his acts of service. He painted rooms and deckings; he made chutneys and pizzas. If friends or neighbours were in need, he would be there to offer something helpful. Dad could often be seen in the early evenings, watering the front garden and having a friendly chat with someone else from Park Road. Those same friends and neighbours were tremendously supportive when Dad became ill.
If you didn’t see him watering the garden, you may have seen Paul walking the dogs. Dad was the beloved pack leader of all our pets—Wags, Minstrel and Ruby, and Harry & Jenna. He even fed and looked after two stray cats, Tom and Vegemite, until they left for safer houses once Minstrel came along. The dogs were always dear to Dad’s heart. As Minstrel got older and less mobile, Dad would drive him to a park for a sniff and a stroll—Minstrel in the back of the old Merc and Dad in his chauffer’s cap.
As my father, Dad showed me the virtue of a good story and a sense of humour. It didn’t matter how many times we’d heard a story, it got better with every telling, with bigger animations and more laughs. Like the time an owl flew into the living room, or the possum found nibbling the wheat pillow next to mum’s face as she slept. He was a gentle parent, and his time for me was abundant. He helped me with homework, he helped me write my first resignation letter, he showed me what quiet resolve and commitment to a task looked like. Dad never sought recognition, he was my example that doing something good for someone else had its own reward.
As Poppy, he was an enthusiastic grandfather to my sons Fraser and Lincoln. When the boys came to stay, he’d make sure there were ice creams in the freezer and poppers in the fridge. Dad was always ready with a joke, a tiger’s roar, and companionship for the playground. In Fraser’s words, life won’t be the same without his yolks.
To everyone that knew him, Paul was gentle and smiling, though he was a self-described simple man who didn’t need much to be happy. He enjoyed pottering around at home in the garden, doing maintenance, swimming at Woolwich Baths in the summer time, walking the dogs, having a punt at the TAB on a Saturday morning, a drink with his mates at the club, sailing with Howard, playing golf with Brian, watching the cricket with Alan, and the Tigers with John. Ever the optimist, the Tigers always had next year. He was content with our small family unit; and Mum and I, and Matt and the boys, are honoured & grateful to have been in it with him.