A tribute to...

James Fenwick

Published: 10/11/2022

11 October 1934 - 16 November 2021

Eulogy delivered by Michael Fenwick, Martin Fenwick and Cheryl Budd at Grace Lutheran Church Clontarf on Thursday, 25th November 2021.

James Fenwick was born in the Lady Bowen Hospital, Brisbane on the 11th October 1934, the first child of Sydney Charles Hall Fenwick and Lamington Marsh Alice (nee Webb). Perhaps that's why Dad, his sisters and most of the next generation were only given one name! Dad had two younger sisters, Billie and Marsha.

His very early years were spent with the extended family in Highgate Hill before a series of moves including into a tent and bush lean to at a well boring site at Durong near Kingaroy where he started school. Dad recalled clearly even in the last few months the moves and eight schools (including Dutton Park twice and Crown St School in Sydney when his father was stationed at the RAAF base at Richmond for a short time) that he attended in the two years before settling in at Margate and attending Humpybong State School from June 1942 in Grade 2.

Dad recalled travelling to Dutton Park school by himself on the tram as a five year old. While at Dutton Park (the second time I think) he also played the triangle in the school concert. His triangle playing prowess was a source of many family laughs over the years, and his great grandson, Arlo played the triangle for him in a video clip only hours before his death.

After the family came to Margate for a holiday, they decided to stay, and so from June 1942 until last week, Dad was a very proud Redcliffe resident. He joined the Humpybong scouts in 1947, travelling to north QLD for a jamboree in the Christmas holidays of 1947-1948. Dad took piano lessons at St Joseph's Convent for five years until 1948, recalling some rulers across the knuckles fairly frequently.

Dad finished Grade 7 at Humpybong in 1948 and started work in Sisman's grocery shop in McCulloch Ave, Margate, on a wage of 2 pounds 2 shillings a week. While on that wage, Dad bought and paid off a piano. Dad's family lived in a number of houses in Margate and Redcliffe till in 1950 they moved into a house in Chatham St where they stayed for more than a decade.

From his Margate grocery shop job, Dad worked at another grocery store in Brisbane before coming back to the Peninsula to work in a joinery making windows and doors. Dad left that job with the promise of a carpentry apprenticeship. While waiting for this to happen, he found out from a friend about a job going at the Courier Mail office in Queen St, in the Library. He went to work there in June 1950 and stayed 44 years before retiring in September 1994.

Dad's first job there involved filing papers and he then moved into the darkroom. His boss there used to take pictures at the horse races on Saturdays where he photographed the 'turn into the straight'. Dad would meet him at the track with an old camera and he had his first picture published from there.

After a couple of years, his job moved again to the Pictorial Dept, mixing chemicals. In 1953, Dad was called up for National Service in the RAAF, spending 6 months at Amberley. Dad enjoyed his time there, having the opportunity to fly in a Lincoln Bomber several times while working in the photo section of the 82 Bomber wing. Dad returned to the Courier Mail and shortly after was offered a cadetship as a press photographer. Dad could still recall his first front page photo in 1955.

Dad's big break in the paper was in 1959, when Princess Alexandra was the royal visitor. There was a reception for her at Cloudland Ballroom and Dad took a picture of her nursing a koala. It was published as a full page 1 and was used in the London papers too.

Princess Alexandra cuddles a koala at a state reception in her honour at Cloudland in August 1959.
Princess Alexandra cuddles a koala at a state reception in her honour at Cloudland in August 1959.

Over his years at The Courier Mail, he covered and met many royal visitors, superstars in sport and the arts and politicians as well as many ordinary folk caught in extraordinary circumstances. Dad had many trips away around Queensland and also to Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya (where he spent his 50th birthday), Seoul for the 1988 Olympics, Auckland for the Commonwealth Games in 1990 and Somalia with the Australian Peacekeeping Force in 1992. Dad was heavily involved in the planning and coverage of Brisbane's Commonwealth Games too.

Dad won many national and international awards over the years, including the Walkley Award for best news picture in 1965. In September 1964, he was sent to cover the sinking of the Kaptain Neilson off Tangalooma. From Moreton Island, Dad hitched a ride in a helicopter which hovered above the upturned ship and took the opportunity to jump onto the hull for a better shot. The picture which won the award is very unique, as is how Dad managed to get it! Dad assisted many young photographers to improve their shots over many years.

Mum and Dad met at the Scarborough State School ball in 1952. Dad asked Mum for the last dance of the night and when they left, Mum and her friend saw Dad riding his bike home. They didn't know each other's names, but I think they both knew that was it from that time on. They would then see each other on the train as Dad was going to work and Mum to school. Dad would also ride past Mum's home on Oxley Ave and stop to chat over the fence. Mum found out that he played hockey, so she joined the hockey club too, and at the club, they made friends for life. This was a very happy time for them both. Most of the men's team married most of the women's team, so there were many 21st birthdays, engagements and weddings of these friends, with Mum and Dad marrying in September 1957.

They settled in Redcliffe, building their first house at 36 Chatham St the following year. Since that time, they have only lived in four places, finally landing at The Village at Rothwell in February 2011. Both Dad and Mum have loved it there, with a wonderful supportive community. Dad enjoyed playing pool and rediscovered a talent for it. They also played mahjong and enjoyed happy hours and social events. Dad was happy tending the bar on his roster and enjoyed their street barbeques where he was often the cook.

With Michael born in 1959 and Cheryl in 1961, we all fitted well in Chatham St, but when Martin joined the family in 1970, more space was needed. Enter builder and friend, Reg Wakefield who built their Tracey Street house, which Martin and Donna bought when Mum and Dad downsized. Dad and Mum bought a caravan during 1971 which went to Brunswick for the first time in 1972. We came home and lived in it for 7 months (and three cyclones) while Reg built the new house.

We often went to Canberra and Sydney during Christmas holidays to visit various members of Dad's family. In 1970, Reg Wakefield suggested to Dad that we should drop into Brunswick Heads on our way home and stay in their spare tent…that was January 1971 and the beginning of the whole family's love affair with Brunswick Heads which continues today. Dad and Mum just gave up their site last Christmas after 50 years, when caravan existence became a bit much, although they had planned to still visit this year. The many years of fishing, crabbing and spending time with family and the Brunswick family were a great joy to Dad and Mum.

Dad always made our trips - whether day picnic trips or longer ones - interesting. Dad and Mum had a big adventure on their own in 1974 when Dad took some long service leave and they travelled through Europe and South America for six weeks, leaving us in Grandma Enchelmaier's excellent care.

After we grew up, Dad and Mum enjoyed lots of travelling. Mum met Dad after the Seoul Olympics and Auckland Comm Games to do some travelling and they also enjoyed many cruises around Australia, the Pacific and Japan and three trips to the USA, the last being for grandson Darcy and Michelle's wedding in 2016.

Domestically, they did the "Grey Nomad" caravan thing after Dad retired and saw most of Australia on several extended trips with their old friends. One place they both particularly loved was Bitter Springs at Mataranka where they both have very fond memories. Their last trip there was with Toni and Eric Watson after meeting them randomly in a town nearby. They had regular shorter caravan holidays for a number of years with their friends, as well as their regular 6 -8 weeks at Massey Greene Caravan Park, Brunswick Heads.

While Dad was a loving and caring father to Michael, Cheryl and Martin (and many of their teenage friends) and later loving father-in-law to Sandra, Larry and Donna, he was also an absolutely wonderful Pa to Rhona, Alyssa, Kyle and Darcy, Damien and Nick and Thomas and Grace, and later partners Joe, Michelle, Tara and Abbie. He was besotted with his four great grandsons too - Elliot, Isaac, Liam and Arlo, and they brought him great joy. All of his descendants loved him immensely and valued him as a wonderful role model.

Dad and Mum were blessed to meet and spend time with Liam earlier this year when he and Darcy and Michelle finally made it out for a visit from the USA. Dad was the perfect big brother of Billie and Marsha for their whole lives and is a much loved uncle and great uncle to their families. Our thoughts are particularly with Marsha and her family and Darcy and Michelle who can only watch today from the USA, and who would have given anything to be able to attend in person.

Dad was a gentle, peaceful and patient man. He was the same kind of person to everyone, whether one of us kids, a friend, colleague at work or the subject of a story he was trying to get. They say that the best thing a man can do for his family is to love their mother, and he most certainly did that in spades. Everyone was treated with respect and dignity. What you saw was what you got with Dad, and he was a willing servant, always helping others in any way possible. He loved woodwork and created some beautiful pieces for his and our homes. He also loved his garden, especially the prolific veges, orchids and roses.

Dad wasn't connected to a church growing up but after getting to know Mum and seeing the importance she placed on her faith, he became involved in the church as well, being baptised a week before their marriage. Since that time, Dad's faith grew as did his involvement which included many, many years on Church and Kindergarten committees and great involvement in the beginning of both Grace kindergarten and primary school. Dad was also the resident photographer at all the Grace places for many years, always having his camera on hand and capturing many pieces of history before cameras on phones - or even many cameras - existed. At this point, we would like to sincerely thank Grace Lutheran Primary School for their remarkably generous offer to organise and provide the refreshments after the funeral today. We were blown away by your kindness and thank you more than we could ever express.

Dad was a member of the Apex Club in Redcliffe, serving as President for a term. Dad and Mum also delivered Meals on Wheels for several years after he retired.

Dad was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour in early August after noticing some issues with dexterity. Following his decision not to have treatment which would have been dangerous and ineffective, he went home and enjoyed the time which remained. He had no pain and remained cognizant of everything around him till the last day. Mobility was his greatest issue and he spent the last two weeks in Palliative Care at Redcliffe Hospital. He enjoyed some of Mamma's spaghetti marinara (many of you will know that as arguably his favourite meal of the last 40 years) for lunch on Saturday 14th, but then through that night Dad took a turn for the worse and ultimately slept through till his passing in the very early hours of Tuesday 16 November. When asked at the end of his ACAT assessment on the previous Thursday what he would most want, Dad replied "ä rapid expiration". He knew his end was near, he knew where he was going and he is now there, resting in the arms of Jesus.

Our family would like to sincerely thank the wonderful staff of Redcliffe Palliative Care ward for their attention to Dad's needs, their love and genuine care during his stay there, and the dignity they allowed Dad to maintain. Their care for Mum and us was also greatly appreciated as we navigated new territory. We would also like to thank Dr Stephen Bryce and the nurses at the Moreton Medical practice who not only attended to Dad's leg and arm dressings throughout the past three or so months but cared for and loved him and enquired about him after his admission to hospital. Dr Stephen set us on the right course when Dad first went to see him and his care throughout was a blessing. Our thanks also Julie and Kate from Karuna Hospice Services whose assistance in the early days after diagnosis and visits were invaluable and appreciated.

Thank you for your attendance today, either here at the church or online. Regardless of where you are, we feel your love and care and know that you are remembering Dad as you knew him and supporting us as we get used to life in a new paradigm. As Mum put it the other day though, he is just in the next room and we know that we will be reunited one day. Until then we will all miss Dad unbelievably and know that our life will not be the same.

Rest in peace, beautiful precious Dad.

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