Let me start off this blog by sharing sad news, my Father died on the 15th of May. Given the amount of things we had going on, my Wife had gone back to full-time work, my mother-in-law had a heart attack, our twins are doing final year in High School and our eldest daughter had just bounced back from the Gold Coast, there has been little time to talk, reflect and just Be. This is what happens when you have seven kids and a large extended family.
This flight leg from Sydney to Dubai gave me time to myself and a phone that could not be contacted. Not the best way to talk things out, being by myself, but I could pause and reflect and remember.
But let me circle back to Dad in a bit. Let’s talk about Fallibility first.
In the workplace, as in all life, Fallibility must be acknowledged. The very concept of Zero Harm, Zero Mistakes, Zero bloody anything is an anathema to life and living. Zero slogans in themselves demand perfection. Try writing that into your ISO45003 Psychosocial Safety Policy. Perfectionism is a diagnosed mental health condition.
We live As-If things will go according to plan. We all know that sometimes they do. But not always. People when they make a mistake, under a zero mantra/banner/policy, then brutalisation will take place. The person made a mistake and they are wrong, cut and dried, conversation finished, game over. The by-products and trade-offs of Zero are never pleasant, informative or forgiving.
Now back to Dad. Dad was a fallible man. He did some monumentally dumb things. We, as a family forgave him, because we too are fallible. We had laughter and tears and challenging times, most families do. But never could we demand the perfect father. The perfect father doesn’t exist, the perfect son doesn’t exist. Perfection is pretty dumb at the end of the day, almost Quixotic.
Now let me share the Eulogy I wrote for Dad. I called on everything I had learnt from Social Psychology of Risk. I allowed myself to be vulnerable, open, grieving, yearning, at one with the absurd (thanks Hayden). I rang my mate Rob Long, wanting advice, he said to keep it to three points, that I already knew what to write.
I am so glad to be in the presence of so many people who loved Bill, as we celebrate his life. Days like this is a reminder we should do this more often.
Bill was born on the 19th of September 1936 in Colac to Frank and Peggy, a little brother to Richard. Bill was baptised Bill, not William as was widely believed, which much consternation when it came to legal documents in later year! Also Bill had no middle names, very strange for his faith and the times.
All reports are that Bill was very social as a child, but much preferred lunch, sports, and motor cars to formalised learning.
Dad has very bad asthma as a child but in his teenage years and an active lifestyle overcame this.
Bill was educated at St Marys Catholic school and Colac high Schools and made the career move to leave at 3rd Form to start picking peas. Very soon Bill was at odds as to what was worse, picking peas or being in the classroom. It must have been a draw as Bill moved on to start a Motor Mechanic’s Apprenticeship at Parker Brothers Holden.
Bill was active in rowing for his school, a wicketkeeper for his local cricket team, darts player, billiards/8 ball, golfing and supporting his beloved Richmond Football Club.
Dad’s pride and joy in motor vehicles was one of his early cars, a Silver1936 Jaguar, which would cut a dashing figure in rural Colac in the 1950’s.
So successful was this car that he actually met Helen at the weekly Saturday Night Dance at the Victoria Hall And she allowed Bill to drive her home. After coming to the dance with another bloke! Dad had done it, he had snared Miss Colac!
One thing led to another and Bill and Helen were married on the 15th of August 1959. 9 months later their first child was born, Helen Elizabeth. Bill weighed in heavily on the naming of his children, Helen Elizabeth, known as Liz, because, he said, she was as beautiful as her mother. 11 months after came Victoria, another 4 years to Peter, 3 years to me and not quite a full year after came Kate. All of us were born in a 7 week period from Mid-April to the first week of June. Apparently, Wedding Anniversaries were a passionate affair!
Bill needing to provide for planned? Large family needed to gain employment in a company that would keep him in the lifestyle he wanted, not the lifestyle he had. So, in 1958 Bill started a long tenure with General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC)
Constant promotions in a large organisation meant constant moving around Victoria, Mitcham to Geelong, Geelong to Essendon, Essendon back to Geelong, and one final move in 1979, to Adelaide.
This was one of the hardest moves, as Liz and Vick stayed in Geelong, and Pete only stayed in Adelaide, as Mum said, “Our Peter’s gone a-droving now”
The Thornes settled in Bridgewater in the Adelaide Hills and found a place to settle for a longer period of time.
Bill continued to climb the corporate ladder becoming Manager of South Australian and Northern Territory for GMAC in 1982.
In most workplace, it is not all beers and skittles. In 1980’s GMAC, it was mostly Beers and Skittles. With a bit of accounting work to show that you were doing something. This lead to outrageous bets with long time co-conspirator, David Hamilton, to give up smoking cigarettes with the not so small sum of $1000.00 dollars as the prize, Bill of course won.
In 1983 Bill, in an unwarranted display for attention decided having a hernia, followed up in 1986 by triple bypass heart surgery thinking this would be a good way to fill in time.
Retirement from GMAC in 1995, Bill got bored very quickly, and with much encouragement from Helen, 12 months later started a boutique business consultancy which led to reacquaintance with the Holden family.
With much spare time on his hands travel beckoned, Hong Kong, British Isles, Europe, and of course travelling Australia to visit the Thorne diaspora.
Dad reacquainted himself with the love of Golf, joining the Hahndorf Golf Club and in the days of saving the course, found himself on a tractor mowing fairways. After Hahndorf closed, Bill joined the Blackwood Golf Club and played socially.
Dad finally finished work at the age 81. Time for a second go at retirement. The joy of me having 7 kids means a busy schedule for grandparents attending various school, social, sporting and Birthday functions while still squeezing in two rounds of golf a week.
The family found out that Bill had dementia around 2018. In 2019 Bill had an accident driving up Germantown Hill, no-one was hurt, but it was time for us to take his dementia and treatment to a more serious level.
We as a family urge anyone with doubts around their own family regarding dementia, to ring Dementia Australia for facts and information to help cope.
These are the mechanics that speak to what Bill did, but not so much as to what type of person Bill was. It is impossible to sum up the life of any person, everyone one here knew Bill differently, so I am going to attempt to tell you in two small anecdotes.
Fulchers in Australia.
Marina Keith, Zoe and James Fulcher arrived in Australia in the early 1980’s. Many a Pom had travelled here earlier looking for opportunity in a young country. The Fulchers didn’t have the mechanics of family and friends on hand. They needed , to quote CS Lewis, Philia. The love of Friends. Bill became the Older brother, and Uncle, a grandfather to them and their children. Grumps was his honoured title. ‘Parp, Parp’ as he pushed the horn on James’ t-shirt. Cherry tomatoes slotted into cheeks and squished with eyes bright and wide with joy. Then repeated request for another trip to the veggie patch for more tomatoes.
Marina said to me a couple of day ago, “We would never have survived in Australia without your families’ love and support.”
Thanks to the Fulchers for training Bill in Grandfatherhood.
The acceptance of my Stepson Nick.
When Tania and I got together we came into the relationship with children from previous partners. This never mattered to Bill. He showed Bella and Nick the same love he had showed all his grandchildren.
Bill and Nick forged a bond based around cars and mechanical things, always talked about cars, cars and more cars, they helped bring out the best in each other. Bill helped shape the man Nick would become, this never more evident than on Nick’s 21st Birthday. Nick, talking to a man who cannot remember his name, reciprocating the love Grandson to Grandfather. Thanks for the help with my boy, Dad.
Bill has 15 grandkids, and one 6 month old Great Grandchild Byron Peter. There are many stories of his love for them, these are but some.