Eulogy for Neil Richard Clements

(Born 31st May 1934, died 9th January 2010)



 

Neil's brother John will talk about his childhood so I am going to talk about my father's adult life, which began with teacher's College in Bendigo. He then did three months national service at Puckapunyal. The only thing we know about his time there was that he didn't like it and they served up too much rice.

 

The Brothers

 

Neil's first teaching appointment was at The Brothers, near Omeo. He taught 7-8 students, an easy introduction into teaching. He played cricket and football, winning a best and fairest award for Benambra. It was through football that he met life long friends Max Pendergast and Reg Tomkins. Max could not be here today due to illness. Reg and his wife Norma introduced Neil to Doris. They went out for three months and then married in 1957. Both were aged 22.

 

Mia Mia

 

Not long after, they moved to Mia Mia, 56 kilometres south of Bendigo. He ran a one teacher school with around 28 pupils. So he had a bit more work to do. He played football for Tooborac and also played cricket. While at Mia Mia Geoff was born in 1959 followed by myself in 1961.

 

Bendigo

 

Neil moved his growing family into a new house in Bendigo in about 1962. He taught at a large multi-class school for the first time. Kay was born in 1962. Neil played football for Provincial and cricket, winning the PCC batting average with an average of 58.4 in 1966.

 

Newry

 

Around 1967 he moved to Newry in East Gippsland. He taught at Boisdale Consolidated School. He stopped playing football and cricket and took up golf while continuing to play tennis, his tennis team were B Grade Premiers in 1967 - 68. He was involved in the administration of the Newry Golf club for a number of years. I think he was the handicapper for a while. Neil coached children's tennis and badminton. He was lay preacher in the Maffra area.

 

Frankston/Baxter

 

Seeking promotion, he moved to Baxter in 1972 to take up a teacher/principal position. We had to wait for the retiring principal to leave the school residence so we stayed in a caravan at his sister Kathleen's house in nearby Frankston for three months. He taught me that year, which may have had something to do with him stopping teaching and just being a school principal when he moved us to Heyfield the following year.

 

Heyfield

 

Heyfield is just down the road from Newry. I am told by Crawford Mouat, Neil's vice principal for seven years, that Neil made it his policy to know every child at Heyfield Primary School.


Golf started to dominate his sporting life, but he also played tennis and badminton. He played in Heyfield's C grade badminton premiership winning team in 1979. He also coached children's tennis and badminton. I am have heard from one of those he coached, Wendy Moaut, that he encouraged all children to participate and never raised his voice.


His desire to travel and see
Australia and the world started with long service leave enabling a three month trip around Australia in 1975. The trip concentrated on the natural wonders of Australia like Ayer's Rock, which we did climb. I'll always remember dad stopping for a smoke before we reached the top, with Geoff and I keen to carry on. He took his family on a month long trip to New Zealand in 1976.

Neil had a many hobbies and interests while living in Heyfield. He saw the need for better communication in Heyfield so he started a town newsletter, which continues to this day. He was an active Lion's club member for most of his years at Heyfield. A new arts centre was built for the school and he used its kiln to make pottery. He took leather work classes and made belts and other items. He became interested in rock collecting, leading to trips to Agate Creek and Buchan, where we blunted a pick axe hacking chunks off boulders of agatised fossilised jasper. He polished the rocks and turned some of it into broaches and other jewellery.  


Wangaratta


After nine years as a principal, Neil tired of administration work and wanted to return to teaching. So at the end of 1981 he bought a house in Wangaratta and started teaching at Appin Park Primary School the following year. He joined Jubilee golf club and continued to coach children's sport.


Around 1988, on advice from Dr Price, he gave up smoking.


In 1989 he retired at age 55. He wanted to see the world. He toured the
US twice. He especially wanted to see Niagara Falls and the national parks.  He went on a tour of Europe, where he particularly enjoyed the Edinburgh military Tattoo and a Greek Island tour because of it biblical references. He travelled to New Zealand a second time. While walking there with Geoff, Neil said he had a sore neck and didn't feel well. When he returned home a week later it was discovered that he had blocked arteries and needed a heart bypass operation. A week after the operation he was up and about and taking Geoff for a walk around the block at home.

Neil frequently travelled to
Queensland to escape Wangaratta's winters. And why wouldn't you.  

To fill in his time between trips he started going to garage sales and second-hand book stores to collect books for his brother John who still sells them at a market in Toowoomba. Neil also spent a lot of his time in the garden growing vegetables and orchids, which he had done in all the places he had lived. He was very involved in the church, being treasurer of the
Appin Park Uniting Church for 15 years and an elder for a few years.

He went to the Sydney Olympics. Kay informs me that the most exciting moment for him was when he saw Cathy Freeman ran in one of her heats. He enjoyed going to musicals like Cats and the Phantom of the Opera.
In 2003 a harmful skin cancer growth was found on his neck, and he had surgery to cut it out. He then had to endure radiotherapy. The surgery unfortunately cut away some shoulder muscle, so Neil could no longer play golf, but he continued to walk and ride his bike.

We noticed his memory beginning to fade a few years ago, but it didn't seem anything to worry about, we just put it down to aging. But, in October last year, he was diagnosed with low level dementia. Then a series of operations ending with one to remove a tumour from his bladder worsened his dementia. His family could no longer safely look after him. So he moved into a dementia ward at Illoura nursing home in January this year.

 

Nursing Home

 

Neil didn't seem to mind the nursing home as he had a lot of nurses and volunteers to fuss over him and he had plenty of room to wander. The staff told us that he was a lovely man, who was very considerate of others and always apologising when things beyond his control went wrong.  A week before he died he stopped eating and drinking, probably from a combination of dementia, cancer and other illness.

 

He lived a full, principled life and loved travelling and sport. He was community minded, always there to lend a hand. He loved his family and was loved by them.

 

Goodbye Dad.