On April 5, 2016 John passed peacefully from this earthly life, surrounded by family in our lounge room, into the journey of eternal mystery.
True to character, John remained alert and displayed his humour until the day before he died. When we were planning his funeral service, he suggested that we might include “the goons”! John listened to an afternoon of music planned for his service, sung by our lovely friend, soprano Lyn Moorfoot.
Pancreatic cancer is an insidious disease, and we were both so grateful that, after diagnosis, John had 19 months of a reasonable quality of life, including travelling interstate to family. We made positive reflections each morning and gave thanks for so much in our lives, particularly our 53 years of marriage. John had a quietness of faith which was the basis of his optimism and peace, particularly in the last days of his illness. We were able to care for John at home, with assistance of family and Karuna Palliative Care, and that enabled lots of our wonderful friends to visit him, which cheered him immensely.
In 1937 John was born in Toowoomba where he spent the first 9 years of his life. He attended Toowoomba East primary school and his play ground, with his younger brother Peter, was the Toowoomba Grammar School where his Father was Headmaster. The family moved to East Brisbane in 1946 where he attended Churchie until his Senior year. John was not a sportsman, but early in his school days developed his musical talents on piano and organ. Music was encouraged by his Mother (a musician) and Father (Headmaster) and this sustained him throughout his life. John took up string bass in his 40’s, played at the old St Marys for some years, and was a founder of the St Andrews Orchestra where he played until December 2015.
After school John studied medicine, and graduated in 1961. Subsequently he became a general physician and later entered the subspecialty of gastroenterology. John’s General Practitioner who knew John from the earliest days in the 1970’s when he was a visiting specialist at his GP practice, and then cared for John after he retired, said of him “The time and dedication given to each of his patients was paramount to good medicine, and John practised good medicine. His medical legacy continues in the many gastroenterologists he upskilled, mentored and trained”.
John had a wide range of interests, so wide that he often complained he couldn’t get to all his meetings. Photography was a lifelong interest. He has left a large photographic legacy – slides, 8mm movies, and dvd’s, including his latest dvd “Tower Bridge, London” which won an award from his video club in December 2015. Model trains were an absorbing interest for John from a small child to his last days. His son Timothy talks of his bonding with John in his model train room in the 1970’s. John often travelled overseas and explored many interesting train journeys, particularly in the USA.
John’s was a full and rich life. Despite his busy public life and his many interests his anchor was his family – children Lindy, Mary, Timothy Sarah, Rachel and Sophia, and his sons-in-law, Robert, Kevin, Howard, and Geoffrey. The children claimed that they learned their ethics from their Father. He taught them the difference between knowledge and wisdom. One daughter said “Dad had a questioning and inquiring mind, a sharp intellect that remained sceptical of simple slogans in the face of the most challenging dilemmas. Dad underscored the importance of what is NOT said as much as what is said. By that he meant leading by quiet example. Wisdom indeed and one that he often embodied”.
John did not have a list of regrets or missed opportunities. He was content with his life, primarily focusing on a few key projects – making dvd’s, editing the interviews John and I did with women and men from the Movement for the Ordination of Women in the Anglican Church, archiving his headmaster Father’s papers in Queensland State Library, and planning his model train room in our new apartment for his grandchildren and others.
John adored his grandchildren – Olive and George, 7 year olds, 4 year old Henry Roberts (fifth in the Henry Roberts dynasty) and Iris, 6 months, all living in London. He made frequent trips there, with me, to visit his family and grandchildren.
In 2003 John and I gave a homily, in dialogue, at the old St Marys on the occasion of our 40th wedding anniversary. We revised our very conservative wedding vows we made in 1962 and this is what we said to each other in 2003 – “I make this marriage covenant with you. I promise to be faithful to you and to care for your wellbeing and growth. I will love you and share the intimacy of my body, mind and spirit with you. It is my prayer that this covenant will enlarge our capacity for communion with others and expand our willingness to be part of God’s work of giving new life and renewal to the world”.
I am aware of John’s spirit and presence, and so it is my hope and prayer that I can continue the vow we both made, ‘to give new life and renewal to the world’.