A tribute to...

Jack Moloney

Published: 30/6/2022

Manifold Heights' resident Jack Moloney died at the age of 89. At a service, hosted by Kings Funerals, his son Patrick Moloney recalled stories of his dad's rich life. "Every one of us has a photo or a memory of time spent hearing pop's pearls of wisdom or yarns of the old days, sitting on the back porch at Geelong where he would hold court," he told family and friends. With permission we share Patrick's moving tribute.

Joan and Jack Maloney on the day of their 50th wedding anniversary in 2004.
Joan and Jack Maloney on the day of their 50th wedding anniversary in 2004.

Dad was born in Ballarat in November 1932, the third child of Len and Mary Maloney. Len was born in Port Fairy and Mary was born in Yambuk, the eldest daughter of her family who ran Crowe's store. They were married here in St. Patrick's church, Port Fairy.

In those Ballarat days, Dad's family had a small dairy and mixed business for about seven years. During this period of his life though, he spent a lot of time with his own grandparents - nan and grandpa Crowe - thanks to a polio epidemic. Yambuk was seen as a safer place for young kids to be. Dad would relate tales of his time at Yambuk shadowing his grandfather who had mainly retired from store keeping.

Grandpa Crowe was much admired by dad. Many of Jack's sayings and indeed morals may well have originated here. Even though dad was still young, his grandpa taught him all sorts of methodologies around counting, adding, subtracting, handling money and probably how to play card games.

In 1940 the family moved to Hopetoun in northern Victoria to run the hotel. Dad's father Len had contracted tuberculosis and was advised to live in a warmer dryer climate. In dad's word "for a number of reasons " the five eldest children spent most of their time in education at boarding schools. Dad started at Villa Maria in Ballarat in grade six and finished at St. Pat's at the end of 1948.

Jack Maloney in his hometown of Port Fairy in 1949.
Jack Maloney in his hometown of Port Fairy in 1949.

I just want to reflect briefly:

  • Jack was born in 1932.
  • In 1938-39, at the age of six, he lived away from parents and siblings, albeit with grandparents, and the Great Depression occurs.
  • 1939/40 - World War II kicks in until 1945. During this time there are two years of dreadful drought in northern Victoria. According to Nana Maloney people existed on war rations, coupons, rabbits and carting water.
  • 1948 - Jack completes his education always at boarding school.

If I can think of one word to describe these first 16 years, it would have to be "hardship". Something, no doubt experienced by many people at the time.

Jack obtained his leaving certificate at the end of 1948, by which time his parents had moved back to the Vic hotel in Port Fairy. His father advised him one day that pub life was not so good for a family man. Len had made an appointment with the local bank manager for Jack to attend a job interview. Jack got that job and went on to work for the State Bank for 44 years. In his late teens in Port Fairy, he played football and tennis and raced his bike at the showgrounds - all the usual stuff.

About 1950 he was given the opportunity to partner Joan Thistlethwaite at her debutante ball. Soon they were going out together, got engaged, then married and the rest is history. From his notes: "We became engaged early in 1954 and married on November 27 that year in St. Patrick's Port Fairy, in the same church as my parents and grandparents. "

So starts a new game at the card table of life. Jack's opportunity for advancement in the bank was via relocation - you make an application for a higher position at a new branch, take the job and relocate. Much the same as his parents had done, they were now on the move. Taking up a new position at the Moonee Ponds branch, he and mum lived in a shared unit in Essendon. Here dad played footy again on the weekends with his big brother, Uncle Brian's club - Essendon YCW.

Just the other day I found an old footy record from the era, I'd seen a team photo before, but never the team list. It read; "Jack Maloney. Centre Half Back. Rugged and fearless player who believes in the 'play-on' game. Can take spectacular marks and is sure in ground play. In his second year here having played for Port Fairy in the Hampden League."

Two lines down the page: "Brian Maloney. Utility. Older brother of Jack. Fastest man in the team. Never beaten and beautiful exponent of the blind turn. Can also fly for a mark. In his 5th season and originally from Port Fairy."

Other teammates included Kevin Freeman, Jack Rennie, Paul Shannon, Kevin Hogan, Graham`Roughy' Edwards, to name a few. They ended up lifelong friends.

John ‘Jack’ Maloney married Joan Thistlethwaite on November 27, 1944, at St Patrick's church in Port Fairy.
John ‘Jack’ Maloney married Joan Thistlethwaite on November 27, 1944, at St Patrick's church in Port Fairy.

In October 1955, Mary was born and mum and dad needed their own house. Nana Maloney via the ANA sponsored them I think, and they moved into 37 Tarana Ave, Glenroy, around the corner from Uncle Brian and the beautiful Aunty Betty. Referencing dad's notes again: "A new, but pretty ordinary house." My memory of it is: No made road, no footpaths, no garden, frogs in the street drain and an out-house toilet. But we all have to start somewhere.

Family members continued to arrive over the next 10 to 15 years or so. At one stage, Nana Thistles was seeing new grandchildren on a monthly basis. Dad had mouths to feed, kids to clothe and educate, home to maintain. Mum was at home taking care of everything else, but thank God for Aunty Betty around the corner.

It's amazing how many kids two women can fit into a little blue Ford Prefect. The brothers' old footy playing mates became card night players, taking it in turns to host a night socializing and card games, us kids off to bed. According to Uncle Brian - Jack could count and memorise the cards as they were played and he put this skill to good use. Even though dad had a good job, he took on any other work he could get to help make ends meet. Cleaning the bank after hours, or pulling beers at the Carlton footy club members' rooms for some years.

Sunday though was God's day and he always had it off. He did however buy a cement mixer - hand powered - and laid the driveway and footpaths around our house. He also built us a big wooden cubby house in the back yard, his own garage and laid the concrete floor. He was pretty handy.

Some Sundays though, after Mass, we'd pile into dad's old Ford and head off to Oakleigh to see the Millers, or visit cousins around Melbourne. Occasionally we would take a trip to Ballarat, or have holidays back in Port Fairy at the nans.

Around 1970 - 1971 dad applied for and was appointed manager at Minyip near Horsham - mum's old family district. What a culture shock it was for us kids. Martin arrived soon after we shifted there and Dad now had a seven card trick to handle.

But he wanted to sell the house, get out of the Big Smoke and back into the country. He went from second-in-charge at Coburg with 20-plus staff to two personnel in a little wheat belt town. Nonetheless, it was a positive career move for him. Next was Merbein around 1975 - a bigger branch more staff and 555kms from head office.

Here's where most of us kids leave the nest - get jobs, partners, have kids of our own, or go off travelling. Martin is the only one at school by now. Another move followed coming towards the end of the decade, then 18 months at Kerang before the final transfer to Manifold Heights in Geelong.

Mum and dad had to buy a house in Geelong as the branch had no residence available. It didn't worry Jack either way I'd suggest because now he was with his favourite footy team in "Catland". Marty is still in school, there's a vegie garden to tend, and time to get in a little more golf. He got his handicap into single digits and kept the two score cards where he landed a hole in one.

In 1979, he received a letter from the General Manager of the State Bank congratulating him on 40 years of dedication and service. I think he was privately proud of himself, for he kept that letter, though I saw it for the first time only a few days ago.

Towards the end of 1975, Marty finished school and started his own career; and the Commonwealth Bank takes over the State Bank and Dad has a new boss. He came home for lunch one day and told mum, "I think my work is done.'' From that time on, it was about taking holidays - go here, go there - do all the things they had put aside until the time was right. I think it was the start of the best times of his life.

Undoubtedly, dad's personal sense of achievement was in the way his efforts in life had brought comfort and the knowledge that his responsibilities were well taken care of. He rarely spoke of his own prowess or capabilities much preferring to ask "How's things with you?" or "What's so-and-so up to?"

Mum and dad each came from large families, they had seven children of their own, many grandchildren and a good handful of great-grandchildren. For dad, his family gave him the greatest sense of pride.

Kate used to tease him saying, "But I'm your favourite, favourite right Pop?" But he shared his love with all of his grandchildren - all and several and individually were his favourite. Every one of us has a photo or a memory of time spent hearing pop's pearls of wisdom or yarns of the old days, sitting on the back porch at Geelong where he would hold court. Things like: "Have a firm handshake and look them in the eye, for the eyes are the window to the soul"; and "If you have nothing nice to say about someone then say nothing at all."

During his life Jack wore out hundreds of packs of cards - but cards were an analogy for life. Take up your hand, consider your options, and play to the best of your ability with the cards you've been given. Jack didn't blow his own trumpet even though he could have. Instead he lived by the morals that had been instilled in him from a young age and self-pride didn't come into it.

Personally he was driven by self-respect, respect for others - all others - honesty, truth, integrity, loyalty and fairness. He would never take advantage of anyone. Most of all he loved mum with all of his heart.

The last "Jack story" for today is how he ended every day, I know, because he told it to me many times.

In his later years with fading health, he clung to family with everything he had, as if to fight of the forces of his diminishing memory. Every day before going to sleep he would pray to God to protect his children and their children and their children again. Not as a family, but individually in his head, he would recite all of their names to himself. Then all of his own family and all of mum's family as well. As many of them as he could recall.

Then all of those who have gone before us, "for without them, none of us would be here," he'd say. Then came self-reflection.

His father taught him, "When you lay down at night can you honestly ask yourself, `Have I done my best today?' And if you are true to yourself and can say 'yes', you will sleep well."

Another cards philosophy was, "You can bluff other people but not yourself."

Now we have the chance to remember him the way he was. He played his own cards, kept some close to his chest, and applied himself to the best of his ability to foster his family and with mum's help, provide us with a good start in life.

We're all very conscious of our Chewy's (my brother Greg) absence here today, but we're confident knowing that Port Fairy is his spiritual home. And so it was for our dad.

It's our turn now to remember those who have gone before us - they will always be here in our memories.

Originally published as Son's moving tribute to Manifold Heights dad of seven

Share your own story or eulogy about a loved one, online in a safe environment for future generations. Please click below.

Share their story

Share your own story or eulogy about a loved one, online in a safe environment for future generations. Please click below.

Share their story