My dad Jack passed away last week. He was 90 years of age and regular readers of YOURLifeChoices enews will remember the mention of his milestone birthday in January and of our trip to Birdsville with Dad a few years ago.
The loss of Dad is emblematic of the loss of a generation which was admirable in so many ways. He was born in 1923 in Broken Hill, one of seven children of Harold and Ruby Richards. Harold was station manager at Mt Leonard cattle station near Birdsville and Dad was homeschooled by his mother until 1933, when Ruby could no longer endure the hardship of the outback and took the girls to Sydney to be educated. Dad and his brothers Peter and Terry were sent to board at the Birdsville Pub while attending the school during the day with just seven other pupils.
At age 13 Ruby sent Jack to work at Dirranbandi cattle station in Queensland. He did not realise that all his wages were being sent to his mother until, some time later, he decided to leave and was told he did not even have the money for a train fare. The manager reluctantly gave him the fare to Brisbane, but Dad decided to jump off a few stops down the track at a town called Thallon.
Here he met two drovers who took him to Barcaldine Downs sheep station near Longreach. He worked at Barcaldine until he enlisted in the Royal Australian Airforce in 1942, and when sent for jungle training exercise in Wonga Park in Victoria, he met the girl of his dreams, my mum Betty.
After the war Betty and Jack settled in Ringwood and Dad retrained to become a carpenter. He was involved in many buildings still standing, including Maroondah Hospital, the Ringwood Town Hall, the Melbourne Grammar music centre among others. But none so fine as our family home, the house that Jack built in Ringwood north.
Dad was a wonderful father; loving, supportive and non-judgmental. He taught me so much and gave both my brother Ken and I educational opportunities far beyond those he had been offered. He delighted in our achievements and overlooked our shortcomings. He revered his wife and was always happiest when she was nearby. He adored his four grandchildren – Monica, SJ, Lucy and Mark – without reservation. He has left our family with a strong foundation of how to love and give without expecting anything in return.
Goodbye Dad, you and your generation are a very hard act to follow.