From Robert’s sister Joy; and brothers Tony and Barry.

Robert was Alice and Viv’s second child after a gap of nearly 7 years, no doubt he was welcomed by his big brother Tony. He was a determined child, some people might even say he was
stubborn.

As a toddler still in his cot Robert would dangle his bottle (glass!) over the edge until Mum was just close enough, then he would drop it, smiling, before she could catch it.

Robert when young would never let anyone see him cry, not when punished nor hurt. He was an extremely good athlete. He would win all his races.

A new brother Barry arrived when Robert was 2 and a half. The team of brothers and cousins was formed.

In 1952 two life changing events occurred in Robert’s life. The first was the birth of his sister Viv, known to family as Joy. The second of course was polio. This is where Robert’s strong will really emerged and he began his second life.

Years of hospitals followed. At Margaret Reid while Mum and Dad visited, Barry and Joy would play in the old rail carriages. Children weren’t allowed to visit. Our contact was by letter and the occasional home visit.

He was in his teens when he finally returned home. Tony had already left home. The team was back together and mischief— sorry — fun began with Robert the leader most of the time.

One time all the other kids had billy carts and the boys didn’t have one. This time it was Barry with the great idea and much to Robert’s horror his wheelchair was the closest thing to a cart. With a big push Robert
and his chair were flying down the hill. The ending wasn’t happy with Robert flying through the air.

As they got older the activities became more risky with one expedition in the back of a ute driving through the bush shooting. Thank goodness after many escapades all made it to adulthood.

Robert was always very generous to his family, spoiling first his siblings, then onto his nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews.

Our roles in Robert’s life changed as we grew older. Before he left home Barry would today be considered his carer. He did most of the lifting, in and out of bed, onto the school bus until it became too difficult. He was also Robert’s best mate. Being the only girl Joy’s role was different. She was of course the target of their teasing and the “go-for”. The only time Joy was punished by Mum was when Robert had tormented her so badly she told him she was glad he couldn’t walk. She did make up for it in her adult life.

Joy lived the closest. Robert adored his nieces and nephews. Because Alyssa and Damien lived the closest they became his surrogate children. Seeing them every day from the day Damien started school.

When Joy moved away and Mum was too ill (and later passed away) it was Alyssa who was always just a call away and many a call did she receive. Of course like so many of us, she would never say no. Over the last few years Jan and Alyssa were the two most important people in his life.

From Damien

My memories of Uncle Robert stretch from him throwing me the red ball to hit with a piece of doweling when I was three, to the tear he had in his eye this year when we visited him for my 30th birthday. He was remembering the years we had shared and how quick time had passed.

Uncle Robert is the reason I follow the mighty dragons. He is the reason I became so passionate about cricket having me out the back throwing me the ball telling me where he wanted me to hit it. He didn’t get to see me play much sport but he had all the paper clippings and was always keen to hear how I went. One thing that stands out from practising in the back yard is that one time I hit a straight drive and hit him in the leg and at that time I couldn’t understand how it hurt him because at that age I didn’t realise he still had feeling in his legs.

I always looked forward to uncle Roberts birthday when Alyssa and I would play pass the parcel and end up with better presents on his birthday than we gave him. I think this shows the kind of man he was. I spent a lot of nights with Nan and Uncle Robert and he taught me how to play chess and backgammon and we had plenty of battles on the test match field. I would always be on Uncle Robert‘s case to let me go for a spin in his wheel chair when he was in bed. Whenever he got a new one I would offer to test it out for him. When he got his bike he let me take it for a spin without Mum knowing.

As I grew older Uncle Robert was always there for advice and he was able to open up to me as well. One day that sticks out in my mind is the day I went up to Maitland hospital with Uncle Robert to see how his leg was healing after he broke it. The appointment was in the morning and Uncle Robert decided to make a day of it. This was great – we were enjoying bad habits together and having a ball. Drinking and playing the pokies. In all our drinking and playing time got away and we needed to get from Maitland to the Terrace (Raymond Terrace) in fifteen minutes in time for home care. We didn’t make it for home care but it was ok cause I put him into bed. That day was memorable because we told each other stuff that we had kept inside for many years.

In summary Uncle Robert was a very special man, he was a massive part of my life and will always be with me. We had a special relationship and he was always willing to help me whenever he could. Uncle Robert, I am going to miss you but I will make sure my kids and their kids know just how special you were.

From Alyssa

Too many memories to summarise. Uncle Robert’s love and influence on my life is too difficult for me to relay at this time. I can say that now seen through adult eyes I appreciate him more after watching him with the next generation. I not only lost my uncle but a very dear friend.

From Kim and Amanda

Amanda and my fondest memory of Uncle Robert is the adventurous stories he used to tell us when we were little, sitting on his foot rest listening intently, always asking for more when a story was finished.

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