Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Remembering and Celebrating Dad

My Dad, Gordon Bayly, died last Monday morning, August 5, 2019.

Although I did not make it from the U.S. in time to see him before he passed, I am incredibly thankful for the five weeks I spent with him and Mum just two months ago; at a time when Dad's health really began deteriorating. We had a very meaningful time together, and I remember thinking as I was returning to the U.S. at the end of May, that if Dad were to “go tomorrow,” it would be okay; there was no unfinished business or nothing left unsaid. So I feel blessed in this awareness and reality.

Upon arrival in Port Macquarie on August 6, my Mum asked if I would write and deliver Dad's eulogy. The thought of the delivery part was, I admit, rather daunting. Accordingly, I extended an invitation to my family to join me in delivering Dad's eulogy at his funeral. My older brother Chris, my niece, Sami, and my nephews Ryan and Brendan (pictured with me below) accepted my invitation. From feedback I received afterwards, people found the eulogy informative, moving and meaningful. Fr. Joe D'Souza, who celebrated Dad's Requiem Mass, told me it was one of the best eulogies he had ever heard. I definitely appreciated hearing that.

Below is the text of Dad/Grandpa's eulogy, accompanied by photos from the family archives. It's followed by photos from my Dad's Requiem Mass that was held on Thursday, August 8 at St. Teresa of Kolkata Chapel, Emmaus Nursing Home, Port Macquarie.


Chris: On behalf of the family I’d like to thank you for being here this morning to remember and celebrate the life of Gordon James Bayly. I’m Gordon’s eldest son, Chris, and along with my brother Michael, sons Ryan and Brendan, and niece Sami, we’ll be delivering Dad’s eulogy.

Sami: Grandpa was born in Coonabarabran on April 21, 1937. The son of Aubrey and Isabel Bayly [right], Gordon’s early years were spent at “Flodden,” his maternal grandmother Emily Simmons’ farm in the Purlewaugh district of New South Wales.

Ryan: During the Second World War Grandpa lived with his mother’s sister Phyllis, first in Sydney [below] and then in the New South Wales town of Wellington. Grandpa and his aunt formed a close bond that lasted until Phyllis’ death in 1996. Grandpa’s father, Aub, sadly died much earlier. He was one of 268 people lost at sea when the Australian hospital ship Centaur was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine on May 14, 1943. Grandpa was just six years old when he lost his dad.

Michael: In the years after the war, Dad lived with his widowed mum and grandmother in the village of Tambar Springs, about 60 kilometres south-west of Gunnedah. His cousins, Joyce, Clare, and Trevor, along with their parents, also lived in Tambar – and from the photos of that time, it looks as though Dad and his equally larikkin-looking mates enjoyed a very carefree and happy childhood in this sleepy little country village.

Brendan: In 1949, Grandpa’s mum, Belle, remarried and relocated to Gunnedah. Grandpa’s step-dad, Bill Smith [pictured at right with Belle], was a farmer from the Curlewis area and a gifted horseman. He was also a very loving and caring father-figure to Grandpa, who by then was attending De LaSalle High School in Armidale.

Chris: Returning to Gunnedah to complete his schooling, Dad involved himself in – and excelled at – a number of interests, including brass band, model planes, T.Q. car racing, squash, basketball, golf, and a number of other sports. In 1954 he met the love of his life, Margaret Sparkes. Both were students at Gunnedah High School.

Ryan: Grandpa and Grandma were married in Gunnedah on November 7, 1959 and made their home at 23 Beulah St., next door to their enduring lifelong friends, John and Heather Sills. To look through the family photo albums from that time is to get a glimpse of a by-gone era, complete with men and women dressed to the nines while attending balls, weddings, and picnic races. At many of these events, Grandma and Grandpa liked nothing more than to dance the night away, something they both were very good at!

Above: Mum and Dad (at right) with their good friends Keith and Judy Moore at the 1962 Catholic Ball in Gunnedah.

Above: Dad (center) with his good friends Don Bruce (my Mum's cousin) and John Sills. Because of their close friendship (and no doubt their fresh-faced looks), an older friend, Mavis Grace, used to refer to the three young men as Huey, Dewey and Louie!

Above: Mum and Dad pictured at a social event in Gunnedah in the late 1960s.

Michael: Mum and Dad created a very loving and supportive home for my two brothers and I (right). Our home was also a bit of a magnet for the neighborhood kids, whom Dad always made feel welcome, including them in trips in the ute to collect rocks for the garden (below) and in lively table-tennis matches in “the back room.”

Brendan: Grandpa was always very good with numbers. His first job as a young man was with a Gunnedah accountant before he moved into the stock and station business. Grandpa’s specialty in this line of work was that of a grain merchant. He worked first with Farmers and Graziers and then as a partner with Gordon Barry & Co. That Grandpa and the founder of Gordon Barry and Co shared the same first name and a similar sounding last name was often a source of confusion. But Grandpa never considered replacing Gordon Barry’s name with his own, even after Mr. Barry’s passing, and Grandpa becoming the primary owner and operator. This speaks volumes of Grandpa’s humility and generosity. He didn’t need to be identified as being front-and-center, even when, more often than not, he was.

Chris: My brothers and I well remember as kids Dad working late into the night on the phone at his big roll-top desk, talking to farmers and carriers, and arranging the transportation of grain from farm to silo and mill. He was well-organized, with notes and figures meticulously handwritten in large ledgers (remember, this was well before the days of computers!) and he was always courteous and respectful to all with whom he did business. Indeed, many of his business associates, clients, and employees were (or soon became) steadfast friends – not only to Dad but to our family as well. My brothers and I remember, for instance, the many happy times we spent with the family of Ray and Gwen Riordan on their Kelvin property of “Fairview,” playing tennis, riding our mini-bikes, and hiking through the nearby Kelvin Hills.

Sami: Without doubt, Grandpa, over the decades, established himself as a greatly respected community figure and a much-valued friend and colleague to many. The words and phrases that have become synonymous with Grandpa include “great bloke,” “hard worker,” “dedicated community volunteer,” “respected business man,” and “avid tennis player.” He was also a skilled auctioneer and housie caller! He did the latter every Friday night for many years, first in the smoky St. Joseph parish hall and then in the smoke-free auditorium of the Gunnedah Servicemen’s Club.

Brendan: Grandpa was involved in a number of organizations, serving tirelessly on the board of the Gunnedah Tennis Club, St. Mary’s College, the Gunnedah Show Society, and Alkira Hostel. On these boards he often served as chairman or treasurer. He speedily got to and from all these meetings and his work in his purple souped-up Ford Fairmont, which was just as well-known around town as Grandpa was!

Ryan: Grandpa received many awards during his lifetime, though you would never have heard about them from him. He was far too humble to let others know of his many accomplishments. So you might be hearing for the first time that Grandpa was an Australia Day Citizen Award recipient, as well as a recipient of the Service Above Self Award from the Gunnedah Rotary Club. There were also many other accolades and awards over the years.

Chris: Dad started having health problems in his late 40’s and had his first bypass operation at 49. Over the years there were a number of other operations, a broken hip (playing tennis), and gout (which some of us inherited). But Dad kept in good spirits and didn’t complain – making the most of what he was able to do.

Michael: Dad valued his Catholic Christian faith and very much lived it through his actions. For my brothers and I, and for his six grandchildren whom he loved so much, Dad was a role model of integrity, compassion and selfless service to others.

Sami: Two generations of our family were blessed to experience and witness these qualities, and we know that they have inspired and guided us well as we have made (and continue to make) our own journeys into adulthood. In this way, our Dad and Grandpa very much lives on in us. And for that we are deeply grateful.

Michael: It was mentioned at the very beginning that Dad was born in 1937. That was also the year that his favorite adventure strip, Prince Valiant, was first published. “Prince Valiant wasn’t a superhero,” Dad told me a few years back, “but he was a hero.” . . . And when you stop to think about it, that’s also a pretty good description of our Dad.


Above: Standing at left with Mum and my brothers, Chris and Tim, and two family friends, Denise and Wendy – Thursday, August 8, 2019.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Australian Sojourn – April-May 2019
Happy Birthday, Dad (2018)
In Coogee, a Very Special Birthday Celebration
Happy Birthday, Dad – 2017 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009
Congratulations, Mum and Dad
Catholic Rainbow (Australian) Parents
A Visit to Gunnedah (2017)
A Visit to Gunnedah (2014)
Journey to Gunnedah (2011)

Related Off-site Link:
“He Wasn't a Superhero But He Was a Hero”A Prince Named Valiant (February 21, 2011).

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