eulogy: gerald william mcgowan 1936-2021

Gerald, my father, was born in North Sydney in 1936, into a period of human history on the verge of amazing expansion.

He attended Saint Aloysius Primary School in Milson’s Point and then went to Saint Joseph’s College Hunters Hill. Here he came under the influence of legendary Rugby Union coach, Brother Henry, who taught students to play football well and to equally live well. He was also a rower. Dad was one for a blend of personal will power and social harmony: a good team player who also encouraged others to play their part well.

Whether or not he knew it at the time, but we believe he did, at about the age of 19, he met his soul mate: Mum, and all of a sudden they were raising six children.

Our family’s 21 year stay in Campbelltown was bookended from Catherine, our oldest sister’s, start in first class and Maryanne, our youngest sister’s middle years in high school. It was tough educating a big family like this, and Dad often worked at least two jobs. You think about the logistics of maintaining a family of eight and that included an annual holiday for us all. But he and Mum managed it. We were very lucky children.

Dad was a good communicator, some may say charming, and so he enjoyed his chosen occupation as a salesman, mostly in insurance and then in real estate. While working at Lend Lease, he held an office record of selling seventeen houses on the one weekend. This was in the early 1970s, when Lend Lease ran ads on the TV on Friday nights and people poured out to Campbelltown to buy their new homes over the weekend.

One of Dad’s part time jobs was starting and running a small security service. He got on well with the local police. In fact, he got on so well, that one night, when no police turned up for their shift, the local sergeant called him and asked him to ‘look after Campbelltown’ until somebody could be called in.

Dad also sought to make a social contribution. For a while, he was the Secretary of the Campbelltown Branch of the CYO (Catholic Youth Organisation) which later led to the formation of the Campbelltown Collegians Football Club. At that time, he came down here to Wollongong to negotiate with Wollongong Collegians to use the name. He was also one of founders of the Campbelltown Catholic Club, an idea that came up one weekend during a working bee where parents were building an extension to the primary school and thought they could do with a place of their own to meet and have a drink.

Not one for living at high altitude, either geographically or socially, and after helping educate us all, he and Mum chose to move down the coast, where they ran a few small businesses. They worked well as a team. Dad later wound down, doing more security work, as he enjoyed life here. He loved his jogging, walking and swimming, especially in the ocean pool in winter.

In the last few years, he stayed close to home, only broken by the occasional short trip or cruise. Three years ago, on a cruise to Tasmania, he did cause us some concern when we couldn’t find him after dinner. We worried he’d gone onto the deck and fallen overboard. We called the ship’s security officer and the search was on. We’re talking about a seventeen storey ship! But Mum later found him in his room, with him sitting there saying, as she opened the door: ‘I was wondering where you were.’

So Dad enjoyed his last years, going out for walks and coffees with family and friends, welcoming us around for a tea and a yarn, and if we weren’t there, he’d be cooing and expressing his affection to Mum, right up until the night before, as he would say, he choofed off, but we know that life has no beginning and no end, that our relationships are eternal, while they may change form, they remain with us forever, as Gerald will forever be in our hearts.

Eulogy given on 31 May 2021 at St Columbkille’s Church, Corrimal

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