Kevin Vincent "Curly" Campbell
A special Grandfather tribute written by his grandaughter, Kirsten.
The colourful life of Peter "Sam" Flanders was cut short in Lorne last month when he died of a heart attack, but family and a multitude of friends hope to keep his "radiant" spirit alive.
A huge crowd spilled from the St Joseph's Football Netball clubrooms onto Drew Oval last week to remember a man of the people, Sam Flanders, 65.
Symbols of his life, a transistor radio, form guide and a pair of reading glasses, reminded mourners their mate was gone after his sudden passing at his favourite holiday spot.
Sam's son Willis knew his dad, a former teacher and an athletic ruckman in his day, would attract a big crowd but was overwhelmed by the number of mourners who came to pay their respects.
"We know Dad didn't want any boring church-going affair, so what better way to send Dad off with a bit of a celebration, some cold cans, and a sausage sizzle," he told the gathering.
A eulogy from Sam's mate Danny Lannen captured the essence of the man who made the world a happier place for so many.
With the family's permission, we share his heartfelt tribute.
And he rolls up for the Saturday morning ride looking magnificent in his full Lycra kit - with his black top with the white skeleton print. He has no pockets, but he has all of his important accessories. He's got his form guide stuffed down his top, and he's got his little transistor radio and earplugs so he won't miss the latest tips, scratchings and track updates. And on the busy road to Drysdale, or wherever, he is actually looking at his formguide on his handlebars as he rides.
At the reception he starts working the room and gets to know a few people, and then on recovery day he mans the barbie so he can get to know even more.
Where do you fit in? What's your story? How do you know 'em? He asks in his genuine and interested way, and by the end of the show he has drawn a crowd with his conversation and knows 99 per cent of the people, and a fair percentage of their back stories.
That's a mark of the man. He's a people person who loves making connections. He's one of the greatest networkers we'll ever know.
He always likes to keep us updated on them, and his love and pride is simply palpable.
At the same time, he's inquiring about our kids and what they're doing with such genuine interest. He cared.
During the past week and a bit we've been trying to reconcile with the notion that pictures of memory are all that we have now in the places that Mr Sam should be.
It grieves us beyond measure, and seems a little bit impossible that a light as powerful as his might be so suddenly extinguished.
But he gifted us all with a bit to remember, and hold onto.
We all knew him as a great character, and a person of great character, with that big smile and love of a laugh and a lark. He was warm, interested, caring, had plenty of quirky ways and more than a streak of rascal.
He was king of the aquatic club down at Lorne, enjoyed a selfie - particularly with anyone famous, and as his great mate Hydey observes, he was always good for an argument if you were up for it.
I always thought of him as a Mr Geelong - he knew everyone, and all of their stories.
"I'm going to miss you big fella." Willis Flanders pays tribute to his sports-loving dad Sam
Our lives came together in a couple of ways.
We palled up through mutual friends about the same time as he started teaching our kids at St Mary's.
He was Mr Sam to the kids in the classroom, so naturally Mr Sam stuck outside the classroom as well, and with mutual interests in racing and associated activities, he and Cindy became key partners in our little punters club, with Dave and Berna, Webby and Sue, Shane and Eileen, Marg and I.
It would be fair to say that Mr Sam was an enthusiastic participant.
About 20,000 text messages attested to that along the way, and he became unofficial club secretary of sorts, sharing updates, keeping everyone in the loop on takings and whose bet next, and compiling very humorous and detailed minutes from our catch-ups and social gatherings.
We shared some truly great times and trips - for races and other getaways - but the pinnacle for Mr Sam each year was Grand Annual Day at Warrnambool with the boys and gathering at the Tree of Knowledge.
Man, Mr Sam loved the Bool.
The messages would start coming through well in advance for that one - 'Only four weeks to go boys, here's the game plan'.
Trackside in his little trilby hat he was always entertaining company, yarning away with all and sundry, spinning stories and bumping into everyone he knew.
He'd park his big frame leaning with one hand on a tote machine and off he'd go building these bewildering multis, as the queue of punters built up patiently behind him.
There would be vigorous, full and frank debate on the merits of particular horses, riders, trainers and what should or shouldn't be going in the quaddie.
Sometimes that got a bit loud, and if we had three legs in he'd love to lob a grenade posing the always controversial question should we cash out boys? He'd have all the percentages calculated.
And his form guide - wowee - that was a serious work of art every time with all of its hieroglyphics, added notes and numbers and tips and selections.
Somehow it all made sense to him.
One of those guides should be in a glass case in the VRC museum.
Along the way Mr Sam also enjoyed our modest sharings in some modest horses - Fill The Fridge, Froffy, Viennese Star, Machali, Esto Fidelis, Reliable Warrior and our headliner Visao which actually ran in the Derby at Headquarters. It was - how shall we say - luckless on the day, but we had a great old time.
Mr Sam also had a share of late in the horse named Inner Spirit. The big fella sure had plenty of that.
And he treasured his long-running membership of Geelong Racing Club's Briseis Club coterie group, sharing passion for the game, long lunches and support for local charity causes.
Of course he was a man of many passions and pursuits.
Beyond the racetrack, or the Western, or the Diggers, he followed another principle passion - footy - with great enthusiasm, here at Joeys and in his regular seat at Kardinia with his beloved Cats and smuggled hip flask of scotch.
He rejoiced long and loud in the drought breaker of 07 and in all of the successes since.
Being a little bit thrifty, as well as a flask he sometimes liked to take a bit of lunch to the Cats home game, which might include a few hot dogs kept warm and juicy stored with hot water in a thermos.
One day he'd been having a bite during the excitement of the game and something happened - maybe Gary kicked another goal - and somehow the thermos got knocked over.
And the lid was off.
And the nice lady in front of him got a handbag full of sav soup to take home.
He orchestrated some quiet and hasty shifting of seats after that incident, and I'm pretty sure that's my favourite ever Mr Sam story.
There were so many tales with Mr Sam, escapades and escapades, from early days working in pubs to epic camping trips with his mates.
His Lorne fishing comp attempts with Willis and Hydey became enshrined in legend because he never quite made the weigh-ins.
When he'd leave them there with rods in the water saying, "I'll be back in five" he never was.
OUR last punters club race meeting together was with a table on the finish post at Terang in November.
Our last dinner together was on New Year's Eve, graciously hosted by Dave and Berna.
As ever it was a suitably rowdy night with a lot of fun.
As ever Mr Sam was full of information and in good form.
When the time was right we all wished each other a Happy New Year - and none of us could have dreamt that Mr Sam's would be only 15 days long.
It still feels inconceivable that a life force so strong and vivid could be stilled so swiftly.
Yet here we are, sharing our sense of loss, admiration and respect for the legend writ large, Sam Flanders.
I'm sure on behalf of everyone here I say to Cindy, Willis and Oda, Gemma and the Flanders family that our hearts have been with you, and are with you, and we acknowledge Cindy's amazing support for Sam during the past few years.
What we know for sure right now is that there is no doubt that big Sammy's radiant life made the world a better place.
And that we were all so privileged to be part of it.
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