Today, Australia Day January 26, 2016, would have been my Dad’s 85th birthday. He passed away nine months ago, and he is missed a great deal by us all. It’s hardest for Mum ~ they would have been married sixty years last October.
Above: Frank and Judy Byer’s wedding October 21, 1955
Dad was a very creative man, a painter, a poet, a cartoonist, a writer. He was a storyteller, a joke teller, a larger than life kind of person. Tall and imposing, he filled a room when he entered it. People often thought he’d been a football player of note (he hadn’t!) He had a distinctive deep voice. In another post, I want to focus on his paintings and poetry. It’s an amazing inheritance, very special to look at and read now he’s gone.
He always wanted to write about his life. Luckily, we have his spoken memoir (as well as Mum’s) which my sister Donna and her husband Jeff recorded. What brought him most pride, besides his large brood of six daughters, was his ability to be a provider for his family through his job as a salesman.
Today I wanted to pay tribute to other more intangible gifts which are Dad’s legacy. The value of these gifts I have realised more fully in these last nine months. His creative juices have flowed to his daughters, and to our children, his nine grandchildren. There are designers (fashion designers or room interior designers or house plan designers), seamstresses, jewellery makers, singers, dancers, painters, musicians, writers of fiction and non-fiction, knitters, mosaic makers, renovators and gardeners amongst us. That urge to make or produce something from your imagination (or perhaps aided by a pattern!) takes persistence and skill. Both Dad and Mum were creative people and encouraged an independence and devil-may-care attitude to, as we Aussies say, “have a go.”
As an indie writer, promotional and marketing skills are needed, some of which I learned through osmosis growing up with a salesman father. For example, to “cold call”( by phone) or email or visit a business, library, school, book shop, editor or publisher to talk about my book takes a bit of front or “spunk” which Frankie had in spades. He frequently called clients or members of his selling team. He was passionate about the quality of his product, was well-presented, organised and punctual (the last one I’m practising!)
Judy and Frank move into what would be their final home together, Kokoda Retirement Village, Ballina, July 2014. From left: Danielle, Judy, Peita, Fran, Flora, Danika, Donna and Frank.
Another gift he bestowed was public speaking. Dad could convey a message or impart information concisely, as well as entertain. He always had a joke or story which involved the listener immediately. So many times he’d begin a story and include an event or a topic or character trait connected to the person he was speaking to – I’d recognise it as the start of a joke – and he’d always reel the listener in! Speaking in public is a skill that I have inherited, and it’s stood me in good stead in my teaching career, volunteer work and my writer gigs. Dad was an integral part of organising his St Patrick’s College school reunions for the last fifteen years of his life; these reunions began in 1955. He was asked to give the key address to the whole school in 1999, which Channel 9 filmed – and it was on the evening news!
Happy Birthday and much love to Francis George Byer! We raise a toast to you, and remember the gifts you’ve bestowed on us. There’s a bit of you in each of us, and in that way, you’ll always be here.