Sunday, May 30, 2010

My Dad

The following is taken from the eulogy at my Dad's funeral earlier in the year.

Dad met Mum at a dance at the local mechanics institute hall in Kilmore when he was about 23 and she 18 in about 1960. They became engaged to be married on the 15th of September 1962 and were married in Kilmore on the 4th of May, 1963. They honeymooned around Adelaide and South Australia in the farm's new light blue Holden Ute and a caravan.

Soon after their first wedding anniversary in 1964 Chris was born, followed by Marita fourteen months later. Peter was born 4 years later in 1969 and then 8 years after that I arrived.

Dad loved being a father. Our childhood was filled with family holidays, cousins coming to visit for school holidays on the farm and Sundays after mass with the Zoch’s and the Ryan’s.
Dad was at his happiest when he had people around him. He was such a social person and loved nothing more than catching up on everyone’s news around a barbeque. He loved to whistle, which at times drove mum to distraction, and he had a song, or at least a line or 2 of a song for every occasion.

We have memories of car trips punctuated at regular intervals by dad cheerfully singing ‘Tiptoe through the tulips’, if he happened to see a tulip, ‘There’s a hole in the bucket dear Henry’ or the chorus of “Sadie the cleaning lady”. The return trip was usually spent trying to distract Dad from noticing any of the same sights on the way home in an attempt to reduce the singing.

Dad was a member of the Knights of the Southern Cross, St Patricks Parish Council and regularly played tennis at High Camp and Pyalong. In his younger days he also played footy for Tooborac. He was an active member of the Glenaroua CFA for 45 years.
Later after Peter started playing junior golf at Pyalong and also Dad decided to take up golf and was a member at Pyalong for many years. He loved golf; I think more for the social side of it than any serious golf side and especially looked forward to the annual Pyalong Avenel tournament that was held on his birthday on ANZAC day. Each year there was much debate between Dad and Mum about whether or not he should go or stay home, he usually went! Later in life he used to thoroughly enjoy 9 holes at Kilmore. He especially loved playing a round with Peter and Shaun and in fact played his last game of golf with them recently, just before his surgery. He was always interested in what we kids were doing and he and mum would always come along to encourage us at school and junior sports or other school activities. He was always quick to volunteer for working bees and other community projects. He was still helping out recently at his Grandchildren’s school working bees.

He was a humble man, not wanting to take charge or direct, preferring to just work with people and get the job done. He had a real knack for making new friends and making people feel comfortable and part of a group. He knew how to have fun and always had something cheeky to say followed by a little smirk to let you know he was pulling your leg.

Once after Dad showed a visitor around the farm who didn’t know a lot about farming, whoever it was asked how the sheep handled living on the steep hillsides, without missing a beat Dad answered quickly that they had to be regularly rotated from one side of the hill to the other side or the sheep’s legs would grow longer on one side and they would all look crooked, followed by that little smirk. Another favourite of his was when counting sheep running through an opening in front of inexperienced onlookers, usually kids, and they asked how he was counting them he would always say the best way was to count their legs and then divide the answer by 4. The visitors would look to us and we would nod approval of course.

As well as a song for every occasion he also had a saying for every situation. For example if one of us was grizzling about some minor issue he’d say ‘Pity what happened to ya”. We have vivid memories of following dad around when we were very young asking what was this and what was that, the standard answer he would give was “A wing wong for a gooses bridle.” If there was a lot of something it would have “heads on it like mice” and I don’t know how many times we would stop somewhere or he would have to go somewhere “to see a man about a dog” I could never understand why the dog hardly ever eventuated.

My Dad loved a good story. One of his favourites was “When I was your age I used to ride my pushbike down to Riley’s paddock carrying my ferret box and nets, then I’d ferret all day, then ride home again with 26 pairs of rabbits hooked on the bike frame”. I’m not sure how true that was, but I’m sure he believed it. Another story he told often was that the rabbits were so bad at times when he was young that you would have to chase the rabbits down the holes before you could set the nets.

Dad loved a trip to the Pyalong tip, and would often return with more than he took with him to dump. On one trip we brought home the entire middle section of a hills hoist, complete with huge concrete blob on the bottom just because he needed a tiny cog out of it to fix ours. I guess he was recycling before it was trendy.

Dad was a hard working man who worked the family farm with his brother John and their father Jack. We all pitched in at the busy times like shearing and hay carting time and we all have great memories of working together in sometimes hot and trying conditions to get the work done. When he was younger he was also a shearer working at most of the farms around the local area. He loved the social side of the shearing shed where all of the important news and current events were discussed and debated.

After continued poor seasons and low wool prices the decision to sell the farm was made in late 2000. It was probably one of the hardest decisions Dad and Mum and John and Sue ever had to make. The farm was sold in 2001, this allowed Dad and Mum to enjoy a wonderful retirement while still in good health. They moved to Kilmore and after a few improvements to set the house up how they liked it, their thoughts turned to travel and they purchased a caravan.

The years to follow were spent being happy wanderers, with one of the first trips they took retracing the route of their honeymoon, with updated facilities. Trips to Queensland and Tasmania among other places followed. In 2008 Dad and Mum ventured overseas. Dad was especially pleased to go to Tipperary in Ireland and see the places where the Leahy’s originally came from. Whilst getting ready to board the plane at Melbourne Airport, Chyken and I smuggled a little surprise into their luggage.

It was a stuffed toy, a beaver about a foot high. We thought perhaps we would get a postcard from him, or a photo of the beaver with Big Ben. Dad’s sense of fun is evident in the many hundreds of photos that were taken on their trip of the beaver at various locations. Dad and the beaver in an Irish Pub, Dad and the beaver at Edinburgh Castle, Dad and the beaver under the Eiffel Tower.

Our Dad lived for his family, not only for Mum and us 4 kids but also our partners, our children and his very large extended family. He was extremely proud of every one of us and kept up to date with the lives of his nieces and nephews as well. His pride at each of our 4 weddings was evident, especially when he walked his daughters down the aisle, and he made a big effort to welcome and involve our respective spouses in the Leahy family. He loved big family gatherings, he loved a good yarn and he loved a beer, good wine or a port at night with friends.

Dad had a very strong faith. He has been at every grandchild’s baptism and as they grew older also at their First Communion and Confirmation celebrations. His faith was a part of who he was and he was especially happy to see them receive their sacraments.

He wanted to be involved in his Grandchildren’s lives and to help achieve this at the start of each sporting season he made a point of getting all of the kids sports game draws and planning his weeks so that he attended as many of their games as possible. He loved watching the Grandkids play footy, soccer, netball, basketball, swimming and dancing. Every birthday was special and Dad and Mum made sure that on these days they paid the special person a visit if at all possible.

Towards the end of Dad’s illness he showed great courage. He had such a positive attitude and he was so strong. The past 2 months have shown us the true extent of Mum and Dad’s love for each other. Dad was totally devoted to Mum, and Mum to Dad. One of the nurses commented to Mum just before he passed away that he adored her. That is so true.

Dad, there are so many things we still needed to talk to you about and share with you. Luckily the list of things that you HAVE seen and achieved in your life, and the lessons you taught us far outweighs this.

Thankyou for being our dad.

See you in the soup!

1 comment:

  1. Oh Jo, reading this brings back so many memories of Glenaroua and your Dad! It's so great, sad but great!

    One of my most vivid memories was when your Dad said he was off to the Pyalong pub for a snort, I nearly choked on my pasta soaked in alcohol! (OK, maybe i'm confusing the 2 memories, I don't think your Dad was there when we were up to no good, lol)

    Luv ya work


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