How I will remember him

By Alec Hand

I have been asked to speak briefly on my friendship with Brian with particular reference to our membership of The Rotary Club of Geelong. I regard this as a privilege and an honor.


Cicero wrote in friendship we find nothing false or insincere; everything is straightforward and springs from the heart”.

For me this epitomizes Brian's friendship --transparent, uncomplicated and straight from the heart.


Judged by any standard, Brian was a distinguished, long serving member of The Rotary Club of Geelong, a past president and a Paul Harris Fellow

(Rotary award for outstanding service). He joined our Rotary club in December 1976 and thus his active membership exceeded 40 years.


In 1983/84 Brian was the club's director of fellowship and membership services and he and his committee played a key role in the successful assimilation of a record intake of 28 new members.


He was our club's president in 1992/93 when Rotary International’s theme for the year was “Real Happiness is Helping Others” –  a perfect fit for Brian! This was a productive year of achievement and co-operation with local community organizations.


Again, that year the club's major fund raising effort was to raffle a restored 1969 mg sports car. It is fair to say the selling skills of our members varied widely but, not surprisingly, Brian was a star performer.

As club President he had to draw the winning ticket at a public gathering, and you can imagine his surprise when he drew out one of the tickets he had purchased! Brian's immediate reaction was to draw another ticket but club members present insisted that he accepts the car and he did.


In Brian’s year as club president Mary Lewis was inducted as the club’s first female member; other new members included Tim Farley and Ray Abikhair, originator of the  Geelong Gaol project which was to become by far the longest and most successful service project our club has ever undertaken.


The original Old Geelong Gaol Committee was formed in 1995 and Brian was a member. He was chairman of this committee in 1999/2000 and remained actively involved in this project until it wound up in 2019. His special and sustained contribution was his work in  looking after group visits, particularly by schools,and while it may be true that at times he never let the truth get in the way of a good story, over the years thousands of students and visitors from far and wide enjoyed his presentations about the gaol and early Geelong history.


The key results of this 24 year club service project speak for themselves:

·       rental payments to the City of Greater Geelong exceeded  $650,000  ( approximately $853,200 in today's money).

·       more than $1,520,000 raised for club service projects (approximately$1,835,000 in today's money).

·       more than 30,000 voluntary hours of service provided by club members.


There are many other aspects of Brian's Rotary service that could be mentioned including his involvement with Barry Bell and others in travelling to Cape York to build a community centre for an indigenous group. His and Jenny's deep involvement in catering arrangements for the 1997 Rotary District Conference Dinner held at the gaol. for several years members of Brian’s extended family provided musical items at club events.


Apart from his significant contribution to our club, Brian was a great friend to all and here I can speak with personal experience. Along with Max Eastwood and former member Gary Bent and their wives, Gwen and I made several extended vehicle trips in the Australian outback  –  all organised by Brian and Jenny.


I can vividly recall one such trip which, among many other memorable things, revealed Brian's impish sense of humour. All of the travelling group had 4 wheel drive vehicles except us. We reached Oodnadatta but then very heavy and unexpected rain set in and the dirt roads quickly became a sea of slippery mud. Brian decided next morning that we would need to backtrack to Coober Pedy.


We set off but before long our car was in real trouble and the only way we made it to our destination was by being towed by Brian and Jenny– quite a hairy experience! We checked in at the Coober Pedy police station and the sergeant, noticing our car (by then unhooked from the  4 wheel drive), asked Brian how it had been able to make it to Coober Pedy given the adverse road conditions .Without hesitation or the glimmer of a smile Brian assured the sergeant that my vehicle had performed faultlessly without bothering to tell the sergeant we were towed most of the way!


Brian, fully supported by his soulmate Jenny, was a natural leader, a successful businessman, a dedicated, hardworking Rotarian and a true friend to all who knew him. To share Brian and Jenny’s friendship has been a great joy and privilege for Gwen and me.


Let me try and sum up my feelings:

·       Brian had a well balanced approach to life he worked hard and achieved much.

·       He enjoyed the success he deserved but never forgot his origins and continued to work for others.

·       He looked for the best in people and he led by quiet example. 

·       He found pleasure in the achievements of family members and friends.

·       He rode the bumps and disappointments of life without fuss or complaint.

Brian made the most of his time on earth and he leaves behind a great legacy:

·       a supportive and closely knit family

·       a fine record of community service and achievement.

·       but, perhaps greatest of all, he leaves behind each one of us the better for having known him.

Farewell loyal friend..