Dad's Eulogy Part 1

It's been a while since I've posted a blog. It seems that I have taken on a little too much right now but as tomorrow will be one year since the passing of my father, I thought it would be a good time to share some memories of him. I hope you can indulge me with this rather lengthy post. I wrote this eulogy for Dad's funeral and here is Part 1. Part 2 to follow tomorrow.

Dad’s Eulogy 30.5.2013

MURRAY IAN ROSENTHAL was born to Edna and Basil Rosenthal on July 5, 1945 in Brisbane QLD.

He was one of six children, older brothers Brian and Basil (both deceased), older sister Gloria (deceased), younger brother Paul, and younger sister Rozlyn, who has travelled from Brisbane to be here today.

Rozlyn has fond memories of her mischievous brother who she said was known to be a bit of a larrikin. They moved house a lot, every year or so, but Rozlyn especially remembers times when they lived in the suburb of Groverley. Murray was friends with a group of boys in the street and they would spend all day down the road, "in the bush", making bows and arrows to shoot at anything they could. They’d find lobbies (better known to us as yabbies) in the creek, and bring them home and boil them up. He was just a real "boy".

Murray was often put in charge of caring for his two younger siblings, especially during school holidays when their mother was at work. This did lead to a few unfortunate incidents. Once he dragged them both under the bed and cut off all their hair. On another occasion, they were playing Cowboys and Indians, with real weapons of course, and Murray hit Rozlyn over the head with a tomahawk when she was only about five years old.

An ambulance was often called to the school, most times specifically to collect Murray. One day he was doing some gardening in the school grounds with another boy, most likely to get out of schoolwork, and they were throwing pitchforks at each other. One went right through Murray’s foot. I remember him proudly showing the scar that still clearly showed the markings of a fork even years later.

Murray left school at the age of 14 to start an apprenticeship as a Painter and Decorator with his stepfather Eddie. His father Basil had also been a painter and of course the family tradition has continued today with my brother Steven taking up the same trade.

After work each day he would arrive home to find his mother had his dinner ready on the table, steak and 3 veg every night, never anything else. He always enjoyed his steak way past the "very well done, burnt and crucified" stage and this never changed. When he was finished he would drive across the other side of town, every night, to visit our mother Marie, his then girlfriend.

Murray met Marie when he was 17 and she was 14 at a drive-in picture theatre. They would be there just about every weekend, and as they had a friend in common, they would often chat to each other. Mum said they eventually "paired off", whatever that means. On one of their first dates Mum said that Dad took her out in a "tinnie" to go fishing. That could have ended badly. Dad just loved boats and fishing and I guess he thought everyone else did too. He probably thought wow, this will impress her. Incidentally the name Murray means "Man Of The Sea" which seems so appropriate.

When they met they loved to listen to The Beatles and other popular music of the 1960’s, although their taste in music change considerably over the years and it would be fair to say, it didn’t move in the same direction. Dad went through his Slim Dusty stage while Mum was listening to classical pieces. In recent years they found common ground as they both enjoyed Andre Rieu and songs from Les Miserables.

I asked my Grandmother, who is here today, what she remembered about their early courtship. She said that one day Mum announced that she was going to a party over in East Brisbane, which was on the other side of town. Grandma said "No you’re not" and Mum said "But I promised Murray!" Grandma said "Well, you’re going to have to unpromise Murray, because you’re not going." Apparently she stayed in her room and sulked for the rest of the evening.

On another occasion Mum and Dad were sitting in Dad’s car parked out the front of her house at around midnight. Grandma called out from the open kitchen window "I think it’s about time you came to bed Marie." The next day Mum and Dad were sitting in the lounge room and Grandma overheard Dad say "Did she say anything else when you came in?"

It seems that even my parents were once teenagers in love.

They married young. Dad was 20 and Mum was only 17 when they tied the knot on May 14, 1966 in a small church in Michelton in Brisbane. They drove to Sydney for their honeymoon and the car broke down - sounds romantic. They wanted to start a family straight away and Steven was born the following year. They bought some land and built their first home just before I was born in 1969. At around this time Dad saw a Bassett Hound puppy at a house he was painting and decided he had to have one. This was the start of their dog breeding and dog showing days. Mum and Dad spent every weekend indulging in what would become a shared passion of theirs. At one stage they had 49 dogs at one time. This may also explain my own lifelong love of dogs.

Make no mistake, dog shows were serious business and required some thoughtful dressing. In the early 1970’s Dad went shopping for some new clothes to be worn at one of the more important dog shows and turned up dressed in purple pants, floral shirt and white shoes. We still have the photos to prove it. We all remember in later years when Dad bought a handycam that was the size of a small car. He proudly slung it over his shoulder and was known to film the dogs while wearing his Drizabone coat and Akubra hat.

For many years Dad was pretty much always working and when he wasn’t at work on Sundays they would be at dog shows. There was always at least one kid around so they never really had time to be just on their own.

We moved a lot too, just like he had in his childhood. He was always restless. By the mid 1970’s they decided to move to Sydney for better opportunities to find work. Dad did however always remain a staunch Queenslander and loved to barrack for the Maroons in State of Origin matches.

After a 10 year gap, in 1979 Katherine was born, followed by another 10 year gap when Laura joined us in late 1988. There were 22 years between the oldest and the youngest child. For a long time Mum and Dad referred to Steven and I as "The Kids" and Kath and Laura as "The Girls".
Dad had four children and even though we share many common memories, we’ve discovered that he actually had quite a unique relationship with each one of us.

Steven had a particularly special relationship with his father. He got to see him almost every day as they worked together as painters for more than 20 years. Mum recalls that the first time he went to work with Dad as a little "helper" he was only about 4 years old.

Steven said that Dad was highly regarded by others in the building industry and was often described as a "top bloke". He was quiet and respectful - a hard worker. He worked quickly but always turned out work of a high quality that Steven said was rare in their field.

He went to work with his thermos of milky tea every day for what I remember him calling his "smoko". He never complained. He never took a day off. He worked hard all his life. Painting from the age of 14 until he got too sick to continue. Sadly he never got to enjoy any sort of retirement.

One of Dad’s greatest joys in his life was to be Grandad to Steven and Leanne’s three boys, Jared, Tom and Zac. Leanne describes him as a beautiful Grandfather who had a lovely way of joking and having fun with the boys that they really responded to. He was a key figure in their lives and they really looked forward to their Grandad coming to watch them play their various sports.

Steven had season tickets to the Penrith Panthers home games and they all loved to go and do that together.  Dad proudly told his Grandsons that he had once played football as a boy on the oval that the Brisbane Broncos had also played on. He took a great interest in the boys’ talents and he often said that Jared reminded him of a young Arthur Beetson.

The most special thing they all did together though was to indulge in Jelly and Icecream. This was their tradition that I’m sure the boys will remember fondly when they think of their Grandad in the years to come.

Steven made the comment this week, "He would have given you his last dollar". And sometimes over the years I reckon he did. That really was the essence of who he was. He always thought of everyone else, insisted on paying for everything and was always available to us. He was just so generous with his time. A phone call and he was there. Break-ups, house moves, renovations, driving us all to and from the airport when we were going on overseas trips. It didn’t matter what it was, he always insisted on coming to help.

Steven said Dad loved cooking everyone breakfast and described him as the master of bacon and eggs.

Murray enjoyed a special relationship with his niece Michelle who was also his Goddaughter. He was a father figure to Michelle and she remembers times as a kid when he let her sip his beer on the back porch and the cup of tea that he would make and leave next to her bed at 5am every morning when she would come to stay. In fact this was another tradition in our family. Dad would get up really early every morning and deliver us all a cup of milky tea next to our beds before he went to work. I would nearly always fall back to sleep and never drink the cold tea but he still made it every day.

Michelle also really loved it when Murray and our family would come to stay with them in Qld on family visits. I remember pulling up outside their house and Michelle would be hanging out of one of the front windows and the minute she laid eyes on him she would announce his arrival to all and sundry by squealing out in sheer delight, "It’s Uncle Murray!!"

I remember Dad being a particularly overprotective parent. We weren’t allowed to go anywhere near the water at the beach, we could not have friends that owned swimming pools and we absolutely could not eat fish without taking a tiny piece between our thumb and forefinger and mushing it up until it could not possibly be described as anything resembling a fish.

Another great passion of his was his pigeons. He had raced and showed pigeons as a youngster and he continued this for many years. He was always rebuilding the pigeon cage requiring lots of trips to the local tip. When I was about 9 or 10 it was my job to sit with Dad in the pigeon cage every Friday night and record details of the birds and their I.D numbers in a ledger that he would then take to the pigeon club. This was my job because of my excellent penmanship and spelling ability, although in the past few days I have discovered that he told both my sisters the very same thing!

He was a great animal lover. Apart from pigeons we had finches and budgies, chickens and roosters, goats and dogs and cats. For a while there he also raced greyhounds. He loved looking after all of our animals when we were away on trips. I was upset once when a kitten of mine went missing. Dad decided to drive around and do a search in my local suburb. He phoned me and said "Sandy, I think I’ve found your cat!" I was so happy and eagerly awaited his return with Oscar. Unfortunately he had found a ginger cat, not the tabby I had lost. He was always terribly worried that someone would witness him dumping a cat when he tried to return it.

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