Jack and Clare O’Dea were Leonie’s Uncle and Aunt who sadly passed away on 20 January 2018 (Jack) and 29 January 2018 (Clare).
Uncle Jack had been admitted to Gumeracha Hospital a week before we arrived in Gumeracha end of November 2017. We visited Jack often in the Gumeracha Hospital, but his health was worsening. We were packed up and ready to head off to Western Australia early January but it was clear Jack was getting worse so we decided to stay. Unfortunately he passed away 10 days later on Saturday 20 January. He was 89 and spent most of his life in the Gumeracha district, farming sheep and growing the best apples in partnership with Leonie’s father Jim. An erudite, kind, caring and witty man who always had time for a chat and left you smiling.
Sadly, Jack’s wife Clare suffered a stroke two days after his passing, and unfortunately passed away on the morning of his funeral. They were married for 57 years and could not be separated. It’s been a tough time for the O’Dea clan. Jack and Clare were stalwarts of the local community and the local Gumeracha Football Club and will be sadly missed.
Jack’s three sons John, Peter and Vincent delivered eulogies their parents would have been proud of. Their eulogies are below, firstly for Jack, then for Clare.
Eulogies for Jack O’Dea – Delivered at St Matthew’s Catholic Church, Birdwood on 29 January 2018
Jack O’Dea – Eulogy by Peter O’Dea
Hi – my name is Peter, the second son of Jack. I will provide an overview of Dad’s life, and describe why he was such a special Dad. My brothers John and Vincent will then speak describing aspects of Dad’s life and why he meant so much to them.
Firstly, I would like to note the sad passing of our dear mother Clare this morning. Jack and Clare were loving parents and devoted to each other during their 57 years of marriage. We were very fortunate to have a Mum and Dad like them.
An overview of Jack’s life:
Dad was born on 27 March 1928 at the Gumeracha District Soldiers Memorial Hospital. He was the second son of James and Johanna O’Dea. His older brother Jim was born in 1926.
My grandfather who was a returned soldier from World War I had recently taken up the home farm at Retreat Valley, Gumeracha.
As a boy Dad helped on the farm. To earn pocket money, he trapped rabbits for skins.
Dad attended primary school at Gumeracha where he was a good student obtaining a high grade in the Grade 7 test, which determined whether students went onto secondary education. He then attended Rostrevor College as a boarder where he received a good education, including studying book keeping, which was a valuable skill when he took over running of the family farm with Uncle Jim.
Following completion of secondary schooling, Dad commenced working on the family farm. This was during the Second World War when there were labour shortages and Dad would have provided great assistance on-farm.
The farm comprised apples, pears, cross bred sheep and a small dairy. For those familiar with the farm you will know that it is very hilly. Dad used to say that we would have had twice the land if it was flattened out. It is acknowledged farmers operating mixed farms in the hills were some of the hardest working farmers.
It was not all work and no play for Jack. He was a keen sportsman playing cricket and football for Gumeracha. Following a football injury and trip to the Gumeracha Hospital he met up with a new nurse called Clare Abbott who was to become the love of his life, his wife, and mother to John, Peter and Vincent.
Jack and Clare retired to their home at Beavis Court, Gumeracha along with their sheep dog Clancy in the year 2000. They enjoyed a great retirement being actively involved in community, church and sporting activities. Their garden, including a large vegetable garden, was a source of pride and pleasure for them.
I would like to share my impressions of Jack:
He was a very humble and modest man. Sorry Dad you can’t change the subject today when we start talking about you and your achievements.
Dad was very independent and did not like putting other people out. When he got very sick he apologised for putting his sons out when they assisted him. I pointed out that his sons (no names given) may have possibly caused him grief and inconvenience with their drunken antics in their younger days. So much in fact that some, if not all, of his sons still owed him a lot.
Jack was a man of word and very honest. When I was growing up I remember Dad ringing up the Elders stock agent following receival of a truck load of sheep to point out that there were four more sheep then he had paid for. This left a lasting impression on me.
Dad always encouraged his three boys to study and acquire skills for our careers. He was also very proud of what his grand daughters and grandson have achieved.
Jack was always very welcoming to other people. In particular, my wife Heather would like to thank him for always making her feel very welcome in the family.
Dad was a very astute and intelligent man. While he was good natured, he had a low tolerance for bullshit or sloppiness. During Jack’s last days, the family was in his hospital room watching the tennis. I remarked that one of the tennis players was acting in a magmanimous or generous manner towards their opponent. Dad who had previously been asleep yelled out, “it is magnanimous not magmanimous” in an exasperated voice suggesting money spent on my education at the Birdwood High School was wasted.
Dad loved a good time and a beer with family and friends. One of my fondest memories as a young man was having a beer with Dad after helping on the farm with shearing and dipping.
Thank you, Dad, for everything!
Jack O’Dea – Eulogy by John O’Dea
Hello, my name is John O’Dea. I was named after my father Jack O’Dea. His given name was John, but was known by all as Jack or by his contemporary’s as Pocker. I knew him as Dad.
Dad loved his sport. He especially loved Football and he especially loved the local football, especially football at Gumeracha. He did play a little Cricket for Gumeracha, but I think his bat may have been red on the edges and clean in the middle, his passion was Football. Like all good footballers, Dad started in the B grade and stayed there for a few years to hone his skills, eventually moving onto the big time and making the A’s. Topping out at 6 foot he was a ruck man, 6 foot being the average ruckman height in the fifties. Dad may not have been the most skilled player on the oval but he played hard and as his few fellow players who are left would attest to had great bumping skills. Opposition players who thought they were better or tougher would try to line dad up and would inevitably end flat out on the ground.
Dad played in the golden era of the Gumeracha Football Club, between 1949 and 1959 the Gumeracha A Grade played in 8 grand finals and won 4 of these.
All 3 sons played junior football. Dad and Mum would be there, not just there but helping out. Mum ended up doing the jumpers. Something she did for nearly thirty years and dad started doing goal umpiring moving from junior colts, senior colts, B grade, A grade up to his 60’s when he moved on to his long career at time keeping to his 80’s. Last year I had to fill in time keeping for the A’s. When I told Dad he got out his old stop clock and told me I had better have it as he probably would not need it again.
Dad served on the committee for many years, was the inter league delegate, and was made a life member in 1982. His real passion was watching the football. He would even go and watch Peter play super rules for Fitzroy, which even Peter admits is as exciting as watching someone else’s B grade.
In his later years with Mum driving they would come down to the oval on home games, where Kevin on the gate would have a space reserved for them on the fence. Last season Dad was unable to come to the Football, so on a lot of Sunday afternoons I would drop off the Hills Football League (HFL) Football Budget and we would discuss who was in the best players for the day and how the new players were going.
Dad was a quiet, gentle and respectful man who never raised his voice. Unless the dog had just scattered the sheep or his angelic first born son when he was young of course had just been a little bastard.
Jack O’Dea had a long and happy life surrounded by family and friends and familiar surroundings of the local community. He was a father that I will be forever proud of and love.
Jack O’Dea – Eulogy by Vincent O’Dea
Just to introduce myself – my name is Vincent and I am son number 3 and the most handsome of the 3 boys. I was born 7 years after my oldest brother John and 6 years after my middle brother Peter. So instead of being a mistake as some people including my brothers have suggested I would consider myself as a pleasant surprise when I arrived.
This morning I am going to talk about some of my father’s interests.
As you heard previously Australian Rules football was Dad’s favourite sport and he was heavily involved in the Gumeracha Football Club and Hills Football for many years. As a kid I remember once playing at Birdwood and having left my boots at home. Dad told me to play in my sneakers that I was wearing but I insisted that he drive home and get my footy boots. He wasn’t too happy but ended up driving home, getting my boots and arrived back half way through the first quarter where I quickly changed over my sneakers to my boots. At the end of the game I had touched the ball twice and hadn’t had a kick. Stats that he quickly brought to my attention after the game. I never ever forgot my boots again. After I married and moved to Kanmantoo I played against Gumeracha for Callington. I didn’t know whether Dad being a Gumeracha life member would disown me or not but apparently he was ok with it, as long as Gumeracha won.
One of Dad’s great interests was his veggie garden. Each day he would spend a couple of hours tending to his veggies growing a full range of various different vegetables including such child friendly delights like parsnips, cabbages and cauliflowers which Mum always made sure we ate and didn’t feed to the dog. Dad was never very keen on carrots so to return the favour I always made sure there were plenty of carrots on his plate whenever he was around at our house for a meal.
Even after we had all left home and it was just him and Mum, Dad continued to maintain a veggie garden big enough to feed the red army.
One of Dad’s favourite things was watching quiz shows. Tony Barber was always a week night regular on our TV. As a kid I was convinced that Sale of the Century was always repeats because before Tony had half finished the question Dad had fired off the answer. It turned out that they weren’t repeats at all but that Dad had a fantastic knowledge of general and world issues. I tried to get him to apply to go on Sale of the Century but instead he was happy to use his abilities to clean up on the local quiz nights. Dad loved crosswords and puzzles. He also liked good port so it was always easy to buy him a birthday present. I think for the last 20 years we just bought him a bottle of Galway Pipe and crossword puzzle book. When Dad was in the nursing home at Gumeracha Hospital the TV would go on for Letters and Numbers and then The Chase.
To sum up my memory of my father is that he was a gentle generous person who loved his community and would have loved to have had a talk with everyone here today.
Eulogies for Clare O’Dea – Delivered at St Matthew’s Catholic Church, Birdwood on 5 February 2018
Clare O’Dea – Eulogy by Vincent O’Dea
Good morning my name is Vincent, I am the third son of Clare. I am going to talk about my mother Clare’s life, and this will be followed by my elder brothers John and Peter.
Clare was born on 22 July 1930 at Booleroo Centre Hospital in the Flinders Ranges to William Charley and Annie Florence Abbott who named her Nancy Clare Abbott. Her father wanted her to be named Nancy and her mother wanted her to be known as Clare so I guess her mother won out. Clare was the third daughter born to her parents and the first to survive. In 1932 Mum’s brother Peter was born and then in 1937 Mum’s sister Eileen was added to the family.
Mums father Charlie was a returned soldier from World War I and the family ran a mixed farm on a soldier settler block located in the shadow of Mount Remarkable between Melrose and Wilmington in the Flinders Ranges. If you visited the farm when Mum was a child you would have seen a neat modest farm house, various steel and thatched roof sheds, chooks, sheep, a small piggery, wheat fields and horses of various shapes and sizes including draught horses that back then really did supply the horsepower needed on the farm.
Mum’s schooling started with 2 years of Correspondence school in 1936 and then she attended nearby Gregory School until 1942. Mum rode to and from school on her horse named Shirley. Gregory School was an isolated single room school located on a back road several Kilometres from the farmhouse. She was then sent off to Cabra College for 3 years as a boarder which she greatly enjoyed. In 1948 after finishing school, Mum started training as a registered nurse at the old RAH. Following her 3 years of training she spent a couple of years at the Queen Vic.
Mum decided that she wanted to see a bit of the world and in late 1953 set off to Europe. Mum spent the next couple of years travelling Europe and Scandinavia with her friends. Until recently I didn’t realise how much time she had spent travelling or that a fair portion of this travel was done hitch hiking around the British Isles. In early 1957 Mum returned to Australia via Fiji and started to look around for work.
She soon took up a position as a registered nurse at the Gumeracha Hospital where she met a local farmer by the name of Jack O’Dea who had gone to the hospital to get treatment for a football injury. Love obviously bloomed because they married in 1960 and remained married for 57 years. Mum and Dad raised 3 boys at Retreat Valley on a mixed sheep grazing / orchard farm that was run in partnership with Jim and Eileen O’Dea. At Gumeracha Mum made many close friends and embraced the community.
Mum was into self improvement and liked doing short courses on various subjects. She showed a real aptitude for book binding and book repairs and carried out a lot of volunteer work at the local Institute Library. Through the skills that she gained, she started working as a teachers aid at Williamstown Primary and then for a number of years at Birdwood High.
In 2000 the farm was sold off and Mum and Dad retired to their new home at Beavis Court, Gumeracha. Far from slowing down this gave Mum a really good opportunity to pursue her hobbies, catch up with her friends and continue her involvement in the local community. Mum enjoyed hobbies like stamp collecting, gardening, sewing and card making. I think she enjoyed the card making as much for its social aspect as it was a good excuse to catch up with her friends on a regular basis.
I would like to share my impressions of Clare:
Mum was very independent and strong willed. If she made up her mind about something, then that something inevitably happened. I remember turning 18 and Mum telling me that I was going to be a blood donor. This was news to me. It wasn’t something that I had given much consideration previously and probably wouldn’t have done by myself. She dragged me along to the old Pirie St Centre and I was a bit nervous like most first time donors. After the ordeal she told me that she didn’t care what I did or in life but that I would be turning up to give blood every 3 months – or else. She even told my wife Natasha that she was to remind me to go every 3 months. 30 years later and having seen my father Jack receive transfusions every 6 weeks for a number of years now I am glad that she was strong willed.
Mum just like her father could be rather direct in her conversations and not one for sugar coating issues. This is a skill that she put to good use at the football club when people didn’t pull their weight or when one of her sons failed to deliver on what they had promised to do.
As well as being direct, Mum was a very loyal person. She maintained life long friendships with friends that she met at school, nursing, her overseas travels and in the Gumeracha community. Family was very important to her including her husband Jack, sons, Brother in Law Jim, nieces and favourite nephew Mick and even though they didn’t always agree 100% she had a very special bond with her younger sister Eileen.
Clare O’Dea – Eulogy by John O’Dea
My name is John O’Dea. I am the first son of Jack and Clare O’Dea. It seems like only last Monday I was up here making a similar speech.
Mum was involved in many different activities and would involve her sons into these and other pursuits whether we wanted to or not. Taking us to swimming classes in the summer holidays – good. Taking us to football training and matches – very good. One year coaching junior tennis and telling me I had to be captain of the team – not so sure. Involvement in stamp club – not bad. Altar boy for years at this very same church – I did not mind. Making sure I got my driver licence – very good. Then deciding that I should spend my weekend doing a car maintenance course – should have seen it coming. Ballet classes started up in the Gumeracha Primary School after hours in the activity room, so Mum told myself and Peter that if we wanted to play football we had to attend because the exercises were good for our football game. You can guess how many other boys there were in the class. Mum may have been wise in her assumptions because both Peter and myself went on to play football for over 30 years.
When we were young, myself especially would push the envelope and Mum would bring out the wooden spoon and crack it across my legs to straighten us out. As I got older the spoon would break and I would start to laugh but this did not dampen the steam coming out of her ears. Later Vincent made Mum a wooden spoon in Tech studies with a heavier specification. Lucky we were gone by then.
Mum had a funny sense of humour. Sometimes I think she would go out of her way to embarrass her boys. I would try to return the favour when I could. I collected egg cups, so Mum would go to the antique fare and find the most ugly and kitsch cup she could find and give it as a present. Stop it Mum.
I owe my hand skills and love of detail and drive to Mum. Mum would say if you want to make something, you don’t want kid’s tools, use your father’s, he won’t mind. Crafts, here’s how to do it, see if you can do better. Wine making from all of the fruit available on the farm, brewing supplies why not? Take that brewed wine to High School to share around, probably No. Renovate the bathroom, sure what do you need? Renovate the sitting room and fire place, why not? Renovate the kitchen even better.
Mum did not have any daughters and she was not going to raise sons without home skills. She would show me how to and say go do it yourself, how to sew a button on, simple sewing, sock darning, shirt ironing and cooking. Saturday night Mum would tell Peter and myself she was not cooking, so if we wanted to eat we had to make it ourselves. This was great, we would get out the pot, defrost some mince, cut up some vegetables and throw in any cans or spices we could find in the cupboard and cook it up for all to eat.
Mum loved Dad. She was especially proud of her three sons and she loved her daughter in laws and her grandchildren. She will be sadly missed by all who knew her.
Clare O’Dea – Eulogy by Peter O’Dea
Hi – I am Peter, the middle son of Clare and Jack O’Dea. I have great honour today talking about Clare’s life and why she was such a special person.
Mum was devoted to Dad supporting him in the latter part of his life when he required regular blood transfusions for his medical condition. She provided constant support to Dad during the last 2 months of his life at Gumeracha Hospital visiting him every day, endeavouring to make him comfortable, and ensuring his favourite shirts were washed. It was hard for Mum seeing Dad so sick, but Mum was always positive and encouraging.
Mum had a great love of reading and books, which she has passed onto her sons. She played an important role as a volunteer in establishing a library at Gumeracha Primary School, volunteered extensively at Birdwood High School Library, and had over 30 years involvement as a volunteer at Gumeracha Library. She undertook Library Studies and was employed as a School Services Officer at Oakbank Area School and Williamstown Primary School. Bob Brooksby, a former Principal of Gumeracha Primary School who had a long involvement with the Gumeracha Library, passed on a note of thanks from all Library Workers and Teachers who worked with Clare.
Mum loved her handicrafts, including card making, tapestry, needlework and sewing. There are many examples of Mum’s talent such as the Birdwood CWL sign in front of this lectern. Meeting up with friends from her craft groups provided Mum with an outlet when Dad was sick in hospital. I know that before Mum got sick that she had been looking forward to resuming these activities this year.
Clare was a direct and honest person who believed that you should say what you mean and mean what you say. Some people may have mistaken her honesty for bluntness, but Mum always thought it was important that people knew where they stood. This included bringing to her son’s attention their sins, shortcomings, omissions and oversights. In my case, this was usually prefaced by ‘Pete I have a few home truths that you need to hear’.
Mum had enthusiasm and sense of purpose for everything that she did be it family life, work, studies, community, sporting, church or hobbies. Long before the concept of a work life balance was fashionable, Mum somehow was able to make time for all aspects of her life. Dad always supported Mum in her activities, including doing a lot of the cooking. I never considered Mum or Dad to be old. Mixing with a wide range of people of different ages and undertaking activities that they loved kept them both young at heart.
Family occasions such as Christmas and birthdays were very important to Mum, and she was very happy that Dad could attend the family Christmas this year. Mum was very proud of her sons, her daughters in law and her grandchildren. She used to make hand made cards for us with personalised and encouraging messages.
Mum had a quick wit and enjoyed a joke. One of the nurses at Gumeracha Hospital who knew mum well would indulge in good natured banter with Mum to keep up her spirits up whilst she was visiting Dad. On several occasions Mum replied by reminding the nurse that she herself had worked in the Hospital … and by the way she could remember giving him his first bath after assisting with his birth as a midwife. The nurse had no comeback to this comment.
Mum, thank you for being such a good mother. I will greatly miss both you and Dad but are very happy that you are together again.