January 9th 2003
Obituary: Robert Francis Smith (1936 - 2003)
Bob Smith, Magnetic Island's first (Charter) President of the recently formed Island Rotary Club, died last week from cancer. Following is the eulogy provided by Bob's family which was read at his funeral on Monday.
Magnetic Times wishes to pass on our sincere condolences to Bob's family. Bob is very fondly remembered for his warm and friendly personality and the very impressive service he provided to MI in establishing Rotary in his twilight years.
Bob was born in Ayr, on the 24th May 1936, the 4th son to Emma and Ben Smith. Bob has 4 siblings, his older brothers, Keith (deceased), Don (now Father Don Smith), John (deceased) and younger sister Anne.
Bob's schooling was done at St Francis school in Ayr until Scholarship at age 12. On completing school he was sent by his parents to his Aunty Bella in Julia Creek to undertake an apprenticeship as a diesel mechanic with heavy equipment.
During this time it was expected that he should also work on the dairy. This gave him an absolute aversion to mutton, which was consumed on a daily basis - on many occasions uncooked. Such was life of a young lad on the 'farm'. It took 40 years before he could even contemplate eating lamb, and only when his children served it up to him without his knowledge!
The trucking business where he was apprenticed folded leaving a young Bobby Smith without a job, so it was back to Ayr and now an apprentice with Scotty Frazer as a blacksmith welder.
By now he was 16 and about to meet his match. Berniece Jensen was back from boarding school and frequented the local swimming pool where they met. Then at age 21 he married his childhood sweetheart. 50 years later and they were still together...
Throughout their courtship, and the early years of marriage , Bob continued to play his lifetime passion of rugby league. Then one night he walked grubby and sweating with his arm in a sling. By this time he had 4 babies under the age of 6, so playing football ceased. He played countless Foley Shields, winning many and always as a hooker, a position his son Shane was later to play. Of his other sons, mark played wing and Clint was the half back.
Then in 1926 Bob and Berniece built their home in Michael Street, Ayr and moved their 4 children into the highset home. They lived in that house until the year 2000, at which time they moved to Magnetic Island.
Bob was always heavily involved in his children's sports so he could participate and be a part of their activities. But typically Bob did more than participate he became President of the National Fitness Club, Brothers Junior Football, Brothers Senior Football , in Ayr and then the Burdekin Rugby League, and the Whitsundays / Burdekin Rugby League.
In addition he was a member of the Ambulance board in Ayr and the Lawn Bowls Club in Ayr and on Magnetic Island. He won the 8 badge in Bowls and the trophy at the North Queensland team bowls. It didn't seem to matter what sport he played he would excel at it.
Bob was strongly committed to his Catholic religion and church. He was a Eucharist Minister and would give communion to those not able to attend Mass. He often spent many hours just talking and spending time with those he visited. He would cut short holidays so that he would be back in time to minister to these people who he felt very close to. His compassion for those in need knew no bounds.
His commitment to Community Service was astounding. He was a member of the Jaycees, President of Ayr Probus, Ayr Rotary and very recently the Charter President of the Magnetic Island Rotary. One of the many tasks he was proud to be heavily involved in with the Ayr club was fundraising for the Cancer room in the Ayr Hospital.
While living on Magnetic Island he saw the need for a Rotary Club recognising the benefits it could serve the small community. So, in the short time he was on Magnetic Island, and with his wife Berniece by his side as usual, they set about organising the difficult and complex task of starting a Rotary Club.
The Club now boasts some of the most committed members ever seen. It was also a first within Rotary with Bob being Charter President on the Island and son Shane being the President of Mundingburra Rotary at the same time.
Bob's fundraising activities were phenomenal. Over the years he would have sold millions of dollars worth of tickets in meat trays, raffles and various prizes for all the clubs he was involved in.
Over the years, Bob and Berniece were in business working side by side for most of their 44 years of married life together. It was a very rare sight to see Bob and not see Berniece at his side.
Initially Bob worked for Herb Bagot for 9 years as a blacksmith welder, in which time he put many, many young men through their apprenticeships, most of whom went on to their own successful businesses.
Bob and Berniece then went on to buy a harvester, which caused them many interesting times. The 3am starts, Berniece often driving out to the farms with a machinery part that was urgently needed to continue working. The to of them spent countless hours working in harvest times, often Berniece driving the tractor while Bob drove the harvester.
Then they bought the Caltex Depot where they delivered bulk fuel to the farmers. They were to stay in business for 18 years.
Over this time Berniece worked in the office and Bob drove the truck, and in later years son Clint worked with them.
Bob could be seen lifting 44 gallon drums like they were empty and jumping down from the truck at the same time. His body was trying to tell him something when on one occasion he broke his ankle.
He was also to break his leg a few years later while on the delivery run, with son Clint piggybacking him to the ambulance. This was 5 days before Shane was to be married.
After selling the depot Bob was to retire at the age of 55, so he and Berniece could enjoy life and travel. They had gotten the travel bug prior to their retirement after visiting their daughter Danielle in Perth, Sydney, London and Europe as well as going to Canada.
After retirement they were off to America for 3 months. On coming home Bob couldn't sit still. The mango farm 'hobby' became the mango farms (3 in all!), lots of picking and then the unforgettable Smithy's Mangoes packing shed.
They worked extremely hard for 10 years at this before moving to the Island, with Bob taking up the position of Manager in his son Shane's SOS Hire business.
Through all of this though, Bob's greatest joy was his grandchildren. He has 8 with another one due in April. With his oldest Mark having the first 3 children, Jenna, Reese and Jordan, it became all consuming.
Then Shane and Donna with their 3 gifts of joy, Stephanie, Samuel and Stuart. Bob had great joy walking Dannielle his only daughter down the aisle and much to Bob's delight she produced Katie who would often 'help' granddad on the farm.
Then youngest son Clint and wife Anne Marie presented their baby daughter, Taylah. He couldn't get enough of them. You could often find both Bob and a grandchild sleeping peacefully on the chair with the TV blaring away in front of them. He loved and absolutely adored them all!
Bob was very well known and well liked man. He asked to be remembered in his own words as ... "A good man and a man who helped others"
Given the many lives he touched and helped, I don't think there is any doubt about this.
To his family he will be Dad, and Granddad, to his wife Berniece he will always be her soulmate, husband 'Robbie' and very sorely missed by all.
The above eulogy was read out at Bob Smith's funeral service, held at 11.30am on the 6th January 2003 at the Lakes Chapel, Morely's Funeral Home in Townsville.