John was born in Adelaide in 1931, the elder of two sons, and grew up in Goodwood and the inner city, in Halifax and Gilles streets.
School years were spent at St Thomas Catholic Primary, Goodwood, and then Christian Brothers College, Wakefield St, after which he joined Shell Company on North Terrace, starting in the mail room and working his way up through various roles to become acting manager of the finance department.
In the late 1970s John was recruited by Fr Kevin McLennan and Archbishop James Gleeson to join the Church Office to work on the Archdiocesan Development Fund, which provided low interest loans to schools and churches. Although leaving Shell was a difficult decision, he enjoyed his work at Church Office, retiring after 20 years in 1997.
On retirement and until his death last year, John dedicated many volunteer hours to training and auditing parish treasurers across the Archdiocese.
He met his wife Barbara at a dance at the Australia Hall and they married in 1958 when John returned from a 10 month stint working for Shell in Darwin. They moved in to a newly built red-brick house at Lucas St in Richmond in 1958, and there raised six children.
After Barbara’s death in 2008 John stayed in the family home until 2017, when he moved to the Pines retirement village in North Plympton. He and Barbara had seven grandchildren and John lived to meet one of two great-grandchildren before his unexpected death.
On settling in Richmond, both John and Barbara soon became involved in the life of the local church, St Aloysius, and primary school, St Joseph’s, including sports days and fetes, school and church committees, and in coordinating church ceremonies, particularly around Christmas and Easter.
Barbara was organist until several weeks before her death and trained several young players to follow in her footsteps. Since the early 1970s, they were also founding members of the Strathmont Parents and Friends Association, an organisation advocating and supporting the intellectually disabled residents of the State run centre at Gilles Plains, where their son Michael was living.
As Adelaide’s priest numbers dwindled over the years, both John and Barbara willingly stepped up to take on more responsibility to support over-stretched priests and parish coordinators at Richmond, and both became stalwart figures in the life of the parish. This continued together and independently until their dying days.
In recent times John was also a weekly volunteer at Calvary Hospital, North Adelaide, visiting patients with Communion and preparing the chapel for Mass. He also joined the Pines Residents Committee as treasurer and in his short time there became a much-loved contributor to the social life of the village.
Sport, in particular cricket and football, was one of John’s great passions, deriving from his boyhood in the days of the Great Depression when it was a great consolation for many in the straitened times, and the dominant talking point in many settings.
He was an avid follower of Australia’s fortunes in Test match cricket as well as the South Adelaide Football Club in the SANFL, where his father was a club official. From childhood he was an active and skilful player of many sports, from backyard cricket and football, to district level cricketer and footballer (Adelaide and South Adelaide respectively), league football umpire (SANFL) and club champion lawn bowler (South Park and then Lockleys), and he instilled the love of ball games to his children and grandchildren through many hours of enthusiastic backyard play.
He also understood that sporting clubs need good administration and was long serving in many roles at South Park and Lockleys, including treasurer, secretary and president.
Aviation was also a key interest, originating in the days of World War II, watching searchlights practice in the night sky over Adelaide. On settling in Richmond, this interest was further kindled by the proximity of the recently built Adelaide Airport at West Beach, which gave many opportunities for plane-watching. The whole family became aviation enthusiasts and two of John’s sons became pilots in the Royal Australian Air Force and for Qantas.
John genuinely liked people, was open and hospitable, and had a keen sense of gentle fun, inherited from a long line of family characters, chatting and yarning in the crowded and smoke-filled sitting rooms of his childhood. He honestly enjoyed helping people. It made his life interesting and meaningful.
As he used to say many times in recounting activities in the parish and elsewhere, ‘never a dull moment!’
In a similar but not entirely identical vein, we could, about him, say the same.
In his homily at the funeral Mass, Fr Peter Zwaans said John was well known through the parish and throughout the Archdiocese for the work he did over so many years of service.
But he said it would do him an injustice to think that was why he was so well known.
“John was known for his kindness and his goodness,” Fr Zwaans said.
“Certainly his work was impeccable but it was done by a man of virtue.”Jump to next article