Local retired real estate agent, John Atkins, passed away on Wednesday, April 22, 2020 aged 81 years, at Moree District Hospital in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
Sadly, for all involved, he was alone due to COVID restrictions, after a period of about 24 hours in hospital; his death certificate cites bilateral pneumonia as the cause of death.
Over and over the many condolences to his family mention his community service, the fact that he was a gentleman and a hugely respected member of the Moree community.
John's graveside funeral service at Moree Cemetery was held Thursday, April 30, 2020 presided over by Kevin Traynor and attended by the mandatory ten people.
Members of the Moree Golf Club and Moree Motor Enthusiast Club formed a guard of honour along the road between the golf course and cemetery which was a fitting tribute to a man who had a great passion for golf, and in more recent years, his vintage Celica.
His daughter Kelly, delivered the eulogy, a poem written especially by Daryl Burling was recited and Marty Roberts provided the music, in particularly cold conditions.
Fittingly, red flowering gum leaves from his daughter's garden were placed on the casket along with a recent family photograph, his hat, a couple of golf balls and of course, a golf stick.
Pallbearers were son-in-law Geoff Hatton, grandson Tom Hatton along with mates Tom Greenaway, Bob Conroy, Bradley O'Mullane and Bob Williams, who all represented facets of John's life.
To date 2,400 people have viewed the service which was live streamed by Logan's Funerals.
John Sydney Atkins was born at 21 Arthur Street, Homebush on July 16, 1938 to Clarence and Beatrice Atkins (which co-incidentally, was just around the corner from where his son-in-law Geoff grew up).
John had one brother, Robert who was eight years older. They grew up on the northern beaches of Sydney. John's detailed memoir recalls the Victory Day celebrations in 1945 in the city, at the age of seven and sitting upon his father's shoulders amongst the crowds massed in and about Martin Place.
His first job was at New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company Ltd, a wool broking firm and stock and station agency as a messenger and he recalled working at the Flemington Saleyards.
But country life beckoned and in 1956 John commenced employment at "Balnabeen" Pokataroo (Collarenebri) as a jackaroo, employed by Jock and Perry Adams, a job that was to last nine years and never see him return to city life.
With precision he remembered the details of both cars and machinery and, of course special occasions.
He met the love of his life June at the Collarenebri nurses quarters and was married at the now-demolished East Moree Catholic Church in September 1966.
Kelly was born in 1968.
They moved to Moree in 1970 where John returned to agency work including employment with Mr Ronald hunter before establishing his own agency business as John S Atkins in an office at the Pastures Protection Board, Balo Street, Moree in 1975 until moving to the present site in 1979.
According to John one of the most enjoyable days of his life was the marriage of daughter Kelly to Geoff Hatton at Noosa on June 2002 where Marty Roberts and his muso's accompanied John in a memorable impromptu version of Bye Bye Blackbird.
Over the years John was so community minded, actively involved in Moree Lions Club, Chamber of Commerce, National Party, Golf Club and more recent years, Diggers Swimming and Moree Motor Enthusiast Club. He was always conscious of keeping fit, well before it became orthodox, and was often seen walking, cycling, swimming or playing his beloved golf.
He now rests easy knowing that he achieved a hole in one off the first tee at Moree Golf Course on Thursday, March 2, 2017 with his faithful Ping driver and a pre-loved ball.
He was a great father, husband and father-in-law and a fantastic grandfather to Tom and Max, always ready to undertake any activity with them.
June, Kelly and Geoff appreciate the support of their friends in the Moree community and further afield - the beautiful gestures, the tidbits, often funny, about John are very comforting.
When delivering the eulogy Kelly said, "He was a good man, a gentleman, trusted and respected, he was not only a father but a mentor and best friend all wrapped into one".
There are many people to thank especially those involved with the guard of honour, Marty Roberts for the music and Kevin Traynor for the service - this would have been difficult as they knew John over many years.
John would be pleased to know his final piece of real estate is so close to the Moree Golf Course, rest in peace.
John is survived by his wife June, daughter Kelly, son-in-law Geoff and grandchildren Tom and Max.