Geoffrey Philip Smith, eternally loyal, supportive, principled and decent.
I would like to tell you about the greatest man I have ever known. He died suddenly when he was 56, in 1996. I have to start with a huge caveat. I am not half the man my dad was. He was one of the most clearly principled person I have ever known, and one of the smartest too.
Dad was a Fitter and Turner with the NSW Railways for 40 years. He started his apprenticeship on steam engines and Westinghouse brakes in 1956 at 16. At his funeral St Joseph’s Catholic Church Rockdale was packed with Muslims, Croats, Yugoslavs, Greeks, Macedonians – the list of blokes who’d normally blue each other but who would settle down together with my dad’s help was massive. A couple of months after dad died there was an incident with a knife at dad’s old work at Mortdale, dad’s brother Peter who also worked there said all the blokes said that would never have happened if Geoff was still alive.
So what made him special? Principles. I could tell you in advance pretty much every decision dad would make. The big ones were always made on principles and morals. And he was rock solid. Lots of blokes used to be like that. Dad was a union man, a tradesman and a craftsman. He never once let me down, not once. If he said he was going to do something he did it. That’s why I get crook about Australia right now. Haven’t we got someone better to be the boss than the dubious piece of work we’ve put in there?
Whilst I am in a bit of a nostalgic mood, could I please leave you with the eulogy I hope went some way to recognising dad’s life. Amazing how much better that’s made me feel to spend a bit of time celebrating the life of a good man.
Eulogy at Geoffrey Phillip Smith’s Funeral
Saint Joseph’s Church, Rockdale, 29 March, 1996
Given by Michael Philip Smith
Thank you all for coming to today’s celebration of Dad’s life. A special thank you to Dad’s work-mates whom I know have made a special effort to be here today. Your presence in such large numbers is a testament to the sort of man Dad was. Dad was very proud of his trade, and his service to the railways – I know your presence here today would have made him very happy.
I’m proud to say that I am Geoffrey Philip Smith’s son.
I’m also tremendously proud to say that over the past 5 years or so, I’ve grown up to the stage where Dad and I have become great mates. It seems the more years I put under my belt, the smarter Dad become. My Dad was the kindest, gentlest, most compassionate person I’ve ever known. All my life, I’ve never heard him say a single mean or unkind thing – I don’t think he had those types of thoughts.
Everything Dad did or said was designed to unite people. He was the type of person who would seek to pour oil on troubled waters – to pacify and bring people together.
The important things in Dad’s life are well represented here in this church today. Relationships are what meant the most to Dad.
His relationship with people – his family, friends, workmates – and his relationship with God. Dad didn’t have much interest in earthly things. Kathy and I have had to attend to Dad’s house this week, cleaning and what have you. What strikes you most about the house is the absence of possessions. They simply didn’t mean anything to Dad. What the house is full of is memorabilia about people. Photographs, notes from Kathy and me as kids, papers, pamphlets from people’s weddings – this is the stuff that mattered to dad.
You didn’t have to look too far to see that possessions didn’t count much for Dad. I remember 3 years ago, at my marriage to Linda, Dad drove to our home in Victoria in his 25 year old Holden Kingswood – with the floor rusted out – if you knew Dad, you’ll know the car. The old engine finally gave up the ghost and blew out about 6 miles out of Benalla. Dad walked the 6 miles into town on his badly arthritic feet, clad in thongs. To cut a long story short, Dad arranged for a $2,000 complete new engine to be fitted to the car for the drive back to Sydney. A few months later when he realised that he could no longer safely drive that car because of his arthritis, he sold it for $200. Money and things didn’t count.
Dad didn’t seek position, power, influence. He wasn’t lustful, nor jealous. He never sought to promote himself or seek glory. I can’t think of a better way of summing up Dad than the words of my Aunt Anne, who said earlier this week “Geoff never sought greatness, only goodness. In my view, like all the goals het set for himself, he achieved it. Dad was a great father. He taught Kathy and me by his great example, and by gentle coaching and mentoring.
What I learned most from Dad, was that at the centre of his being was a set of firm, immutable values. Dad had a strong resonant core, which permeated his whole being and gave him a set of guiding principles for every situation.
Life dealt Dad some rotten blows. In his later years, he suffered dreadful arthritis that I know caused him considerable pain – not that he ever complained about it. And of course there were personal blows to Dad during his life. But he was always unflustered.
He was never vengeful. He vented no unpleasant thoughts. I believe the reason he was always able to bounce back was the set of principles that guided his life. If he was ever slightly off-course, his values and principles would cut in like an auto-pilot and immediately guide him in the right direction. And at the centre of those values were God and his family.
Dad clearly meant a lot to his family. He was one of eleven children. Kathy and I have been tremendously comforted by the support of the family, and I’m very proud to say that I am a member of the Smith clan. The practical and emotional support this last week has been overwhelming. And that applies to our mum’s side of the family equally.
One of Dad’s siblings wrote a tremendously comforting note to Kathy and me during the week. It could equally well have been written by any of them, so I won’t single the writer out – I’d like it to stand as a tribute from dad’s brothers and sisters:
"Geoff was not a sophisticate, what you saw was what you got
There was no pretentions with Geoff. He was a simple, honest man.
Full of loving and caring, slow to anger (I never saw him really angry)
quick to forgive, and eternally loyal and supportive. When he was in
pain – physical or emotional – he never complained or burdened
anyone else with his problems. More than a brother, he was a mate".
We all have our own treasured memories of Geoff and we will all miss him.
For Geoff himself I hold no fear. I believe he was told yesterday, “Well done, thou faithful servant. Enter the place I have prepared for you”.
He will no longer feel pain, just joy. He is with his maker, his father, brothers and sisters and friends, yet I am sure he will continue to care and look out for us all.
Dad always asked that the song “I’ll walk with God” be played at his funeral. I believe he walked with God every day of his life.