Kevin Vincent "Curly" Campbell
A special Grandfather tribute written by his grandaughter, Kirsten.
Tales of boyhood shenanigans, tragic loss and a great love story were shared at the farewell for Kevin Costa, philanthropist and partner in the iconic Costa family fruit and vegetable business, who died this month age 78.
Hundreds of mourners gathered at St Mary's Basilica in Yarra St, Geelong, to pay tribute to Mr Costa who was remembered as the "strongest, wisest man."
Kevin Alexander Costa was born in Geelong on September 30, 1944, and died on 17 November, 2022. He and wife Lorraine had three sons, Brad, who delivered a beautiful tribute at the funeral, and Matthew and Richard who predeceased their father; their lives cut short by muscular dystrophy.
Kevin's life hinged on his family. His younger brother, Robert, described how Kevin was fiercely loyal to his siblings and served as protector and mentor on many occasions. He recalls an episode where Kevin saved the eight-year-old Robert from a bunch of bullies. 'From that day on they never came near me because they knew I had a big brother', he told mourners.
In his emotional eulogy Robert described a brother who was also a best mate; filled with an adventuring spirit, a gung-ho attitude, and an unstoppable zest for life.
Kevin's son, Brad, spoke of his father's passion for travel and family, describing how he carried his son up a mountain so he could 'share the same experience' which Brad had enjoyed. 'I am forever in awe for what he would do for my brothers', Brad told mourners. His father had 'a wise mind and a loving heart with great character and strong faith'. He describes his parents' marriage as 'the greatest love story'.
Father Kevin Dillon returned to St Mary's to be part of the service for a man who he had enjoyed a long and faith-filled relationship with as the previous parish priest. With the family's permission we share the family's moving eulogies.
Robert Costa's pays tribute to his brother. "He used to care for us so much, he was sort of our protector."
'When Lorraine and Brad asked me if I'd like to say a few words today I was naturally very privileged but a part of me wanted to say, Lord let this cup pass me by. When I talk about Kevin it's a special combination of a brother and also the best mate a guy could ever ask for.
As a brother my first memories go back to the bedroom in Moorabool St, which is now our office and that bedroom is now our CEO Lisa's office now.
There was only one bed there for Anthony, Kevin and myself, and because I was the little fella, of course, a fair bit younger, I was in the middle, which wasn't much fun.
The worst of it was that every morning they had this system going where they would lie on their tummies and I would have to sit on their rumps and scratch their backs and they'd keep me going until my little arms dropped off.
But then when we moved out to Humble St in 1960 Kevin and I shared a bedroom upstairs and because of the fall of the land it was about three storeys and so many times I'd be fast asleep, like two o'clock in the morning, and you'd get this tap tap tap on the window and I would try and ignore it, but it would be insistent. So you'd wake up and here's Kevin hanging off the drain pipe and I've got to let him in because he didn't want mum and dad to know what time he was getting home.
On a more serious note, Kevin was closer in age to Sandra and myself and he used to care for us so much and he was sort of our protector.
So many times I'd remember he came along to the school (St Mary's) and he'd pick us up on his bike. And he had this bike, its name was Hector. We weren't allowed to call it a bike, we had to refer to it by its name, Hector.
And Sandra would be on the cross bar and I'd be on the carrier on the back and he'd ride us all along Myers St out to East Geelong to home.
And when we talk about Myers St - a lot of you younger ones wouldn't know this - but there's a strip of Myers St between Bellerine and Swanston streets which was very much akin to Northern Ireland because you had the Catholics up this end with St Mary's, and down the other end were the Proddies at Swanston St Primary, and you never ever walked past the other side on your own.
I made that mistake once - and I don't know why - I was about eight at the time and I was walking home by myself. Anyway, they spotted me from across the road and they caught me at the - there's a vacant lot opposite the jail further down - and they caught me there.
I got home with a black eye and my clothes torn and everything, and mum went nuts and when Kevin came home he wanted to know what had happened.
So the next day we go back to Swanston St Primary after school and Kevin asked me to point out who the culprits were. So I did that, so Kevin then proceeded to give them an education they'd never get in the classroom and from that day on they never came near me because they knew I had a big brother.
But more seriously, I think of a couple of things. When our sister Sandra's first marriage was in real trouble and she was trying to be brave about it, Kevin was the first one to really sense that she was not only in deep trouble but she was desperately lonely and feeling isolated.
So, he grabbed me and we went out there and Kevin spoke with her then husband and he sorted it out and we packed her up and moved her out that day and got her set up and Sandra's never forgotten that, that he took that initiative.
And I myself, remember when my first marriage fell apart and I was getting plenty of advice and instructions from family members and friends - and plenty of advice from within the church. It was a tough time. I remember going to see Kevin and we were standing out the front of his and Lorraine's house in Neiley St, and Kevin said to me, ''Put everything else aside. What's really important to you? What matters most? Once you decide on that I'll back you one hundred per cent whatever it is." And he did. That's something I've never forgotten.
But if I think of Kevin as a mate; Kevin and I had a lot of adventures together over the time and a couple that come to mind.
We used to go shooting up in NSW and I'd been up a couple of times with some of the guys at work and Kevin wanted to come along and he didn't have a rifle and I organised him a rifle. It was a 243 Ruger. A really nice, but smaller, rifle but still a high powered rifle and he had a five-shot magazine.
I gave this thing to Kevin and I gave him the bullets and so we go out there and the first day he sees a kangaroo and he lines it up and nothing happens and so he starts going crook and he says, 'This bloody thing doesn't work, it's no good'.
So I said, 'Give us a look at it', and I pulled the magazine out, and he's loaded the bullets in back to front. And serious, when I point this out to him, he said, 'Thank goodness, you saw that, I could have shot myself in the head.' Now, that was one thing teaching him how to shoot the thing. Getting him to stop was a whole other thing; he wanted to shoot everything.
I don't know if Vince is with us today, but he was with us one time. We used to stay in the shearers' quarters, the old tin shearers' quarters. The outhouse, the dunny, was about fifty yards out in the paddock. Anyway, Vince has gone out to the outhouse.
Kevin said to me, 'You reckon he's sitting down by now? I didn't know what he was talking about, but all of sudden he's picked up the rifle and he's pumped two shots into the outhouse.
Well, I can't repeat the noises that were coming from Vince, but I can tell you when he came out - if it was up to Vince - we might have been having this funeral fifty years ago.
On another trip we went up to Cape York and this is Kevin all over. You know Kevin with his driving. We had this four-wheel-drive Land Cruiser, short-wheel-base, and one particular day we set off about 7 o'clock in the morning.
We're heading up north and we're scooting along. I'm forever begging him to slow down and you're going around the gravel roads on the bends. You don't know what the heck is coming around the bend, and the road sort of goes along and it goes down a dip across the river, across a wooden bridge and he's belting down the bridge.
As it turns out, this was a wooden bridge with metal straps across it to hold all the planks down, and there's this almighty bang and the next thing we're vertical. We're looking straight down at the bridge and next thing we've flopped down hard again. What had happened is he was going that hard that the hook on the winch had caught this steel plate and that's what jammed us up. So not only were we nearly killed, but the winch is now out of action and we've lost the hook.
That just sets you up for the real dilemma. Once Kevin started driving he didn't want to stop. He just wanted to drive and drive and drive. It's dark and I'm getting really tired.
One o'clock the next morning and we're still going, winding along. It's no longer a gravel road, just a rotten little dirt track. You had to wind your way up over the hills and around.
We come across a linesman's hut which is just like a little wooden carport thing.
I said, 'We're stopping here; I'm done.'
So he said, 'Righto, I'll back it up over here.' I said, 'Don't back it up here, it's not Bourke St, we're in the middle of nowhere.' But of course, he had to back it up and he's backed it off the track and here are the back wheels just spinning in nowhere, just hanging and of course the winch is gone, so how do we get out of here?
So we had some chain and cable and I managed to get a few strands of wire through one link and I got Kevin to hang onto with a pair of multigrips and I managed to get enough tension to pull a bit of cable out of the winch so it had three cables and I put that around a tree and we winched it out and he said, "I'll just turn it around so it's in the right place for the morning." So he jumped in and he drives it off the other side, so now we've got the front wheels hanging in the air. I was so angry. We had to pull the cable under the car and find a tree and winch it back up. As soon as we did that, I just rushed over and grabbed the keys out of the ignition and stuck them in my pocket. That'll give you some idea about Kevin. If you do a trip with Kevin, you will never forget it.
Probably one other thing I'll just touch on is politics. As anybody who has had the pleasure of getting into a discussion on politics with Kevin knows, he has some very, very black and white opinions. There are not many shades of grey with Kev, but one thing you know - when you're being taught a lesson - is you'll get that finger pointing at you, like this, and you know you need to pay attention to him.
That's the mixture; the combination of the guy that we've all come to love so dearly over such a long time.
I was with a friend just a few days ago and I was feeling really morose and sorry for myself saying, "Gee, you know, he had so many years left in his tank and we're going to miss so much," and the friend said to me, "Yeah, you've lost some years, but perhaps you can look at it this way; you have decades of wonderful memories that nobody can ever take away from you. On that note I'll close.'
Brad Costa's tribute to his dad: "He made us laugh, he made us learn and he would scare the hell out of us with his driving."
'The last time I stood up here in this church, wearing this suit, was the happiest day of my life as I married Amy, my beautiful wife.
Today we gather with much different emotions, yet still this should be a great celebration. A celebration of a life lived to the fullest.
Kevin Alexander Costa - dad - was born on 30th September, 1944, in a small private hospital in Ormond Rd, Geelong.
He was a wonderful, adoring husband to mum and an amazing, inspirational father to Matthew, Richard and me. A loyal, devoted brother and friend, a fun-loving uncle and much, much more.
So how do I encompass such a full life in a few minutes?
I've struggled with this and the answer is, I can't. There are too many stories, too many anecdotes, too many memories, to even scratch the surface.
But I've enjoyed sharing so much of these with so many of you in the last couple of weeks and I look forward to sharing many more of these in the future, and we've just heard a few good ones from Rob.
But I will try to share what my father meant to me. He is one of the greatest influences on my life. On my interests, my beliefs, my sense of humour, my quest for knowledge, my work ethic and so much more. Along with mum, the other great influence who would keep us both in check.
I remember growing up what a hard worker dad was, often working 16 hours a day, often six or seven days a week, but he always made time for us kids and we enjoyed going to work with dad on weekends or school holidays. He made it fun for us and we never felt we missed out on time with him.
He truly earnt his success and provided well for his family.
Dad always had an inquisitive mind and a thirst for knowledge. He loved reading and he had a passion for the history of the USA and the First and Second World Wars. He was particularly determined to solve the JFK murder. And according to dad, it wasn't Lee Harvey Oswald. But I won't mention the CIA less there be some microphones around.
He also had a great understanding of physics, engineering, maths and architecture, designing the family home and his haven in 1985. He always loved coming home, up that driveway, through that beautiful garden that mum created. Coming home.
He had an adventurous spirit and enjoyed travelling throughout Australia and across the globe. He was very generous with our family and treated us all to amazing travel experiences. He delighted in creating special moments that surprised us, memories that will last a lifetime. One particular trip he mentioned at my wedding, was the time we travelled to the USA and drove from LA to Chicago and back again along Route 66. The most special memories I have, sharing time as father and son, were on that trip. I was very fortunate and forever grateful.
If you knew dad, you knew he was quite a raconteur. He never let the truth get in the way of a good story. But what great stories. From the mischief he and his brothers would get up to as kids that he would often talk about, to the journals he would write about his travels that colourfully described his experiences. Now some of us have laughed recently about how dad would write that he was back at the hotel relaxing and Lorraine would be out shopping. Well, we know he used to embellish that a bit, mum.
Proud of his education, dad started on his way by walking up the hill to the Moorabool Street kindergarten in 1948. He then went onto St Mary's Primary, St Joseph's Secondary where he boarded with Anthony, and St Mary's Tech before going onto train as a PMG technician, now Telstra, in Ballarat and Melbourne, before rejoining the family business.
After retirement, dad was able to formally pursue his passion for history and went to Deakin University in 1997 and later Melbourne University to obtain his degree, Honours and Masters, in American history.
In fact, in his retirement I believe he was busier than ever. As well as his studies he selflessly gave so much of his time to charity and community work. A great philanthropist, he devoted much time to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Make a Wish foundation, Anam Cara, Rice Village, Gateway and much more.
As well as St Joseph's Foundation, where he was a founding member, he spent 10 years as chairman and remained on the committee until his passing.
During his working years he also found time to serve two terms on the Newtown City Council before turning down an opportunity to be Mayor to focus on the business.
And there are countless times working at school fetes making fairy floss or, of course, selling fruit and veggies.
Dad was a great friend. He cherished his friendships and loved spending time with mates and would do anything for them. In recent years he had quite the busy schedule of numerous coffee groups, Tuesday lunch at Pizza Land, Fridays with Tony watching Godfather, Sopranos and premierships.
And what we dubbed Festa Italiana, which was just a dinner with close friends, Tony and Trevor, whenever mum was out of town. I was privileged to be invited into this circle along with Tony's son. Tim. At all these gatherings, the problems of the world were solved, mafia movies discussed, and the Geelong Football Club endlessly analysed.
In any discussion, dad would no doubt have a strong opinion and if you disagreed he was happy to explain why you were wrong. What a good mate.
I'd actually like to share an extract from an email sent by one of dad's friends in America who, on hearing of dad's passing, wrote: "While he is no longer among us, his memory and his spirit will always be present in our heart and soul. We always knew when Kevin was in the room because he truly was a force of nature. He represented to all of us what was good. kind, decent and fair and his strengths were front and centre, not only in his physical presence, but in his character as well and for this reason we will miss him dearly."
They are great words, and sentiments that are shared by family and friends alike.
Mostly I just remember dad being a great dad. He would do anything for my brothers and I. He went to great lengths to see that Matthew and Richard lived full and exciting lives, with as little discomfort from their condition as possible.
I am forever in awe for what he would do for my brothers. One example is the time he carried Matthew up Ayers Rock on his back so he could share the same experience from the top of Ayers Rock as I did.
He retired early in 1995, selflessly, at the age of 51, to be able to spend more time with Richard.
He made us laugh, he made us learn and he would scare the hell out of us with his driving; only for us to say, do it again, dad.
And more importantly, he gave us the love of the Geelong footy club. Days at the footy with a thermos of coffee and a box of treats packed by mum are treasured memories.
One more premiership this year dad. No more bulldogs fans, sorry mum.
I always remember dad being the strongest and wisest man. He could seemingly lift anything and he was always there with wise advice or a comforting word. And his generosity overwhelms me.
Dad was a loving cherished husband to mum. I think of them as the greatest love story, so I'll now share in mum's words a bit about their relationship.'
Lorraine Costa's eulogy (read by her son Brad): "Those in love dance to the same tune and we surely did."
We first met in 1966 when I was working at Coles New World supermarket in Belmont where I would come across Kevin delivering fruit and vegetables and collecting empty fruit boxes.
His older brother, Adrian, came to the supermarket to pick up fruit and vegetable orders for the new wholesale department at Costa's growing business. One day, Adrian asked me to come and work for Costa's at their Moorabool St Covent Garden fruit shop and their wholesale operation located behind the shop, and I thought, why not, so I did.
I got to see and work with Kevin when it was his turn to work on the weekends in rotation with his brothers. Hence it wasn't long before our early friendship from Coles New World days blossomed into romance.
We became engaged in 1968 and we were married on Easter Monday, 30 March, 1970.
Over the next six years we welcomed three beautiful sons into our family: Matthew, Bradley and Richard.
In 1976, we received heartbreaking news. Matthew and Richard were diagnosed with the progressively debilitating condition, muscular dystrophy.
This devastating news brought an enormous life change for us all. Kevin - a most wonderful, selfless, loving, supportive husband and father, with strong faith - took great care of our family as we faced new and challenging responsibilities.
We got on with life, making it as normal as we could, knowing that despite the many challenges thrown at us we would deal with these and we did.
Matthew passed away in March, 1992, and Richard in March, 2004. A devastating loss for our family, especially for Brad losing his two adored brothers.
Kevin and I were most fortunate to be married for 52 wonderful years. A life filled with an incredible extended family and dear friends, we shared a passion for travel, football, great road trips, theatre and much, much more.
And he would tell everyone how lucky we were all to be living in a country like Australia; Tasmania being his most favourite and most visited state.
Goodbye to my best friend, the love of my life. Those in love dance to the same tune and we surely did.'
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