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Faith, family and footy


David Wark OAM – Born: February 28 1943 | Died: November 11 2019

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The death of David Wark senior last month at the age of 76 was a great loss to his family, the Catholic community and the sporting organisations he served as a volunteer for many years.

The Sturt Football Club and the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) both acknowledged his ‘tremendous contribution’ in tributes to the respected sports administrator.

David’s association with the Double Blues goes back to his father Jack who grew up in Frederick Street across the road from the northern end of Unley Oval and claimed to have stepped on every blade of grass.

Jack died when David was only 15, leaving Maud, a devout Catholic, to raise her only son.

David was educated by the Dominican Sisters at Cabra before completing secondary school at Christian Brothers College in the city. His association with CBC and the Brothers continued into his adult life; he was involved for many years with the organising committee for the old scholars and was a member of the college board for eight years, including six as chair.

David married Margaret Heggarty, a talented athlete from Western Australia who he met at the Wonderland Ballroom in the early 60s, and they had a son and three daughters.

After working in property development, he carved a successful 25-year career with Southern Cross Care as the executive manager of retirement services at a time of considerable growth for the organisation.

His Catholic faith was a big part of his life. He joined the Knights of the Southern Cross, founders of Southern Cross Care, in 1986 and remained a member until his death. In 2002 he joined the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a lay institution of the Vatican State charged with supporting the Christian presence in the Holy Land.

David and Margaret were active members of the Glen Osmond parish before moving briefly to their holiday house on the South Coast where they volunteered for the Vinnies shop at Victor Harbor and made home visitations as members of the local Vinnies conference, of which David was president for a period. They subsequently moved to the Heritage Apartments at Southern Cross, in Myrtle Bank, realising the distance between family was too great.

David’s involvement with sports administration began when Sturt footballer Daryl Hicks (now a Catholic deacon) suggested over a game of tennis that the club needed someone with his business skills.

David was only in his early 30s when he joined the management committee and quickly formed a close bond with the legendary Jack Oatey who was a father figure to him and taught him a great deal about life.

In 1975 he began a 10-year stint as chairman of Sturt, also joining the SANFL’s management committee in 1977. He was a director of the SANFL from 1981 to 1984 – including becoming a vice-president of the league. He was awarded life membership of both Sturt Football Club and the SANFL.

David resigned from his football roles when his son David (who is now CEO of Vinnies) began playing for the Double Blues.

But his involvement in a voluntary capacity with sport didn’t end there.

He took on an administration role with touch football and then joined the board of Basketball SA at a time when the 36ers were on the rise and a new stadium was being built. His contribution over 15 years was acknowledged with life membership.

A justice of the peace for 50 years, David was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2018 in recognition of his many years as a volunteer and sports administrator.

At his funeral Mass, daughter Melissa recalled happy family gatherings at the Goolwa house which her parents bought 30 years ago and which David described as his ‘legacy’. She also spoke of his love of Christmas.

“One thing guaranteed to make Dad smile was Christmas,” she said.

“The joy and happiness he experienced with the fruits of the festive season like Christmas lights and carols were present in our childhood, and have magnified with his grandchildren. It is true to say that letting Dad know of the arrival of Father Christmas (at the pageant) on Saturday brought a warm smile to his face on one of his very last days.”


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