Harold Joseph Davis was born on July 31st 1928 which made him 77 years old at the time of his death on Monday morning.
As it happens, seventy seven is the average lifespan for an Australian man, but Dad’s life was anything but average.
He was born and raised in Preston and apart from some traveling, spent his whole life in Melbourne. He had a pretty rough childhood with polio, his father dying when Dad was 12 and then leaving school at 14 to enter a printing apprenticeship. Dad went on to become a successful businessman with his brother Keith and the ongoing and relentless support of Mum and Keith’s wife Marian. Sadly, Marian and Keith are no longer here and we know dad will be well taken care of by them.
Mum and dad were married in October 1953 and had three children Diane, Tina and I. That grew with the inclusion of Steve & Sheila and between us all, we produced the exquisite Naomi, Daniel, Jasmine, Isaac, Sarah, Taj & Ylana. Together with the phenomenal Nana Rose and our beautiful Mick, we are a strong family. Combined that with cousins Karen, Gary, Trevor and Tracy and their lot, we are the formidable Davis clan.
Though there is one question that I raised with Dad on Sunday and although he laughed it still remains unanswered. During Dad’s illness I was going through some papers and turned up my birth certificate which is signed and sworn to be correct. Although for 50 years I have thought I was born in 1955 and my license and passport confirm that, I discovered that my birth certificate says I was born in June 1953…some 4 months before Mum and Dad were married.
It is funny, but I know it was a mistake because if there is one thing you can say about Dad it is that he lived a life of integrity. We cannot recall an instance of him swearing, telling a lie, doing anything dishonest (well hardly anything), or being anything but a wonderful human being.
Dad had a huge heart … yes it was dodgy, but it was huge and he actively contributed to his community for his whole life.
Dad was the President of AJAX football club for around twenty years. Not being able to play, he was the goal umpire. This was a very clever strategy. The sight of him hobbling from goal post to goal post was all it took to put the opposition off their game. Ultimately in recognition of his work for the club he was made a life member. He was enormously proud of this.
I started at Caulfield Grammar School in 1967 and that was probably the same year Dad started volunteering twice yearly working bees at the school farm at Yarra Junction or YJ as it is known. I left Caulfield Grammar 35 years ago, but Dad was still going to YJ working almost 40 years after he started, the most recent time being in February this year.
In fact, one of his last requests was to take the whole family there for a picnic and as many of you know, and have seen the sensational photos, we did that last Saturday. It was a typically raucous and fun Davis day out that will leave loving and lasting memories.
With Mum as his partner, he helped manage Heartbeat House, the Alfred Hospital’s city accommodation for regional heart patients and their families.
He was active at the Classic apartments where he and Mum lived, repairing things, helping other residents or just keeping people company.
But possibly one of the most exciting things Dad did, again in partnership with Mum, was to be a volunteer worker at this year’s Commonwealth Games. He was not well right up until the start of the games and it was never certain he would be there … but in true Dad obstinate style, he rallied and became a popular team member at Jeff’s Shed, zipping around on his buggy, the yellow Ferrari.
We have no doubt that by his examples of generosity to others, he laid the foundations for the willingness of his family to volunteer in our communities and we are eternally grateful for that.
OK, that’s the first five minutes. The next 30 will be taken up talking about Dad’s health. Thanks to all the “you better come to Melbourne, Dad’s in hospital” flights over the years, I have finally earned enough points for a holiday in Cairns.
Anyone who knows him will be amazed that he even made it this far. Dad had polio when he was a kid. He had two heart bypass operations, had both hips replaced, a stent, a minor stroke, ongoing cellulitis, and of course the one thing he couldn’t beat, lung cancer.
Let’s face it, health-wise he had a crap life. The good news is that anyone in the same health fund can expect a 10% drop in premiums now.
But there is no way Dad would even have made it this far without the devotion, dedication and love that Mum and he shared for the fifty three years of their married life, but especially in the last months.
Another of the qualities that everyone will remember about Dad is his fierce loyalty, whether it be to Mum, the family and his friends, Australian made products – you can be sure that at the funeral he would have been checking that the coffin was made locally – to his religion or chasing the lost cause as a Collingwood supporter. Right to the end he was cheering on the ‘Pies and was delighted that they were doing so well recently. Once Dad was involved in something he believed in, that was it, he was there forever.
Of course there is quirky Dad. He befriends everyone and anyone. Today would be talking to the funeral staff as though they were old mates even though he only just met them.
How can we forget his collection of greetings such as “hey there boychick” “she is the best girl in the boys class” “who’s my my favourite grand/son/daughter in … fill in the city” “Ooh Ooh”. We all had ones we loved.
And no doubt, Dad would have used one of them on almost everyone here. The number of people here is testament to his popularity, respect and circle of friends.
In early May he went into hospital…as it happened this was the last time. I had racked up a few more points by flying to Melbourne and although we hadn’t had a definitive diagnosis of cancer it was pretty obvious things weren’t looking good. We were organizing his will and power of attorney.
This needed to be signed by an official and since we were in a hospital we asked a random doctor to come in and be the witness. She walked into the room and Dad was off “Isn’t she gorgeous” (she wasn’t) “What’s a gorgeous thing like you doing in a hospital like this”. You know, the usual Harold thing.
Then it came to the part she had to sign and she balked…”I have to say that he is mentally competent, I can’t sign that” and after Dad had done his usual greeting you couldn’t bloody well blame her either.
We are missing a couple of people here today. Oldest grandchild Naomi is currently in England,
She sent a message
First thing I’d like to say is I’m so sorry I couldn’t be there today but I hope you all know that I’m thinking of you all and I’m there in spirit.
Pa was one of the most amazing men in my life and I got a lot of my strength, vitality and stubbornness (smile) from him. No matter what kind of battle his body was fighting throughout the years he would tell you he was as good as gold and every time I saw him he was always smiling.
I’m also pretty sure that he passed away smiling having had everyone he loved come and sit and hold his hand until he went. I’m also pretty sure he was smiling cause I heard he got to see his favorite AFL team play for the very last time too. Go the Pies!
I say goodbye to my grandfather and may he rest in peace. I’m sure Uncle Keith will be glad to see his brother again. Maybe they can start up that BBQ together again. With Aunty Marian supervising!
I send you all my love forever. The eldest grand daughter and best girl in the boys class
Grandchildren Jasmine and Taj were here over the weekend and the three of us had flown back to Queensland on Sunday, so Dad dying on Monday was pretty bloody inconsiderate of him. They send their love to everyone and are grateful for having a wonderful grandfather and especially treasure having the opportunity to say goodbye to him..
My wife Sheila is currently in the USA and sent this poem
Do not stand at my grave and weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye
Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
When I first met, Sheila, she lived in the USA. She was moving here to marry me and one of her girlfriends was the concierge at a big hotel in San Francisco. A couple from Melbourne, Australia came in and Holly said to them “My girlfriend is marrying a man from Melbourne” she rang Sheila to find out my parents’ names and when she said “Bunty and Harold Davis” it is no surprise to anyone here that the couple said “Oh we know them, tell your girlfriend she is marrying into the best family”.
It is the best family and we owe it to you Dad.