Life is changed not ended

Desmond Leslie Stock

Born 22 July 1926, entered into eternal life 4 September 2021


Eulogy given by Christopher Stock, Des’ eldest son. 

Des was born on 22 July 1926 to Leslie and Millicent Stock.  Leslie had served as a gunner on the northern battlefields of France, during WWI, and was gassed a number of times.  He was eventually repatriated to Australia.  Sometime after returning from the war Leslie, from an Anglican background, was received into the Catholic Church in order to marry Millicent.  This resulted in Leslie’s rejection by his family.  Des remembered a time at the Rivoli Cinema when Leslie’s side of the family completely ignored Leslie, Millicent, Des, and his older brother Brian.

Des attended St John’s Primary School in Hawthorn run by the Marist Brothers.  During these years the marriage of his parents broke up.  Des remembered his mother Millicent grabbing the two boys and saying words to the effect of ‘I am not putting up with this anymore’.  Des described Millicent then taking off her wedding ring and throwing it in the Yarra.  Very sadly for Des, as far as we know, he never saw his father again.  As we know, war may end on the battlefield, but it comes home with the returning soldiers.  There appears every chance that Leslie’s war-time service took a toll on both him and his family. 

Millicent and the boys moved to a series of boarding houses.  This was a difficult time.  Married women were not allowed to work, let alone a single mother with two sons.  Millicent managed a number of city restaurants, then country rail restaurants including in Horsham.  Des and Brian were sent to board at Assumption College, Kilmore (ACK).  Millicent had an aunt in the Sisters of St. Joseph who arranged for Des to attend St Patrick’s Primary School in Kilmore.  Des remembered visits with Millicent to her aunt at the beautiful Josephite residence on Williamstown beach.

During term breaks, Des would stay on a farm with Millicent’s relatives in central Victoria.  When the boys visited their mother for Christmas, she made sure they said she was their aunt.  The Marist Brothers effectively raised Brian and Des.  Des had a life-long love for the Marists and for ACK.  He had a vast range of stories about his time there – loved milking the cows, working on the farm, building the main oval … and on the stories went.  Brother Christopher was such a special part of Des’s life that he named his first-born son Christopher.  Brother Romulus, ‘Rommo’, was another remembered name who also taught Christopher senior Maths at Marcellin College.  When Rommo first laid eyes on Des 30 years later his comment was – ‘you’ve put on a bit of condition’.  A testament to Des’ wife Betty’s cooking.  Des was a very good sportsman and athlete, playing football, tennis, cricket, and golf amongst other sports.

After leaving Assumption, Des commenced night school at RMIT, studying for a qualification as an Industrial Chemist.  During this time, he boarded with Mrs Hesse who lived a stone’s throw from the Our Lady of Victories (OLV) Presbytery.  If ACK was Des’s first family, then the OLV Parish was his second.  Des was very involved with the parish and the YCW (Young Christian Workers).  He played football for Camberwell YCW and attended dances at Manresa Hall on a Saturday night. 

One of his teammates on the YCW team was John Coleman, brother of Des’ sweetheart, Betty.  John gave Des the nickname ‘Herb’ apparently after the well-known Swans player and Brownlow medallist, Herbie Matthews.  Des was known by our Coleman cousins as ‘Uncle Herb’ from day one.  Betty and Des were friends of fellow parishioners, John and Dulcie Kennedy.  John invited Des down to Glenferrie Oval to try out.  After the second low blow to a very sensitive part of the body, Des decided VFL football was not for him!

In February 1952, Betty and Des made their marriage vows at Our Lady of Victories, commencing their journey together of life-long love.  After the birth of Christopher, they moved back to Pine Avenue where Betty had been born and raised.  In the following ten years Patricia, Martin, Richard, Catherine, and MaryAnn came in quick succession.  It was not easy with six kids and not a lot of money to go around. 

There is a photo of Betty from around this time.  It could easily have been one of those famous photos of the families in the California dust-bowl of the depression years.  Mum, surrounded by her brood of kids, looking exhausted.  There were, of course, many car trips on a Sunday afternoon, including to the Dandenongs and dad’s famous tracking of the elusive lyre-birds.  The old Holden, GYF756, was running out of steam, so dad arranged for the installation of a reconditioned engine.  That was still not enough to get us to the summit on a drive to Mount Macedon.  As the car began to roll backwards down the hill, dad wisely decided to turn around and head back down the mountain.

Mum and dad were very close to Mum’s sister Joan and husband Bob Quinn, and to John and Pat Coleman.  Many enjoyable family gatherings were spent with our cousins, uncles and aunties.  Des was a much-loved uncle.  Mum and dad also developed close friendships with those in the parish, including Tony and Thea Cantwell and Greg and Britta Kane.

After completing his qualification, dad took a position as a paint chemist at Glazebrooks Paints, Port Melbourne.  We were possibly the only family in Camberwell that visited Port Melbourne, not being then the hipster destination it is today.  Over those years dad was Secretary of the Oil and Colour Chemists Association (OCCA) and was eventually promoted to the position of Manager at Glazebrooks.  He was particularly proud that the hull of America’s Cup contender, Gretel II, was painted with a Glazebrooks product.  Following the closure of Glazebrooks, dad was appointed Manager at WR Grace in Fawkner.  In answer to the question ‘What do you make there’, dad would request that you forage for a bottle top.  He would then point to the sealant inside the cap ‘that is what we make’.

After many years of service, dad was caught up in the decline of the manufacturing industry in Australia and was retrenched.  He finished his career, as he had begun, as a paint chemist at Bristol Paints.  For a man in his 60s, who had occupied managerial positions, to return to a much lower position speaks volumes for dad’s character and his readiness to always make the best of what life offered.

Dad was a man of strong faith.  He was a life-long supporter of OLV Parish and of the Josephites whose convent was close by in Havelock Road.  I remember fondly fetes at the convent on beautiful spring days with dad spinning the raffle wheel.  He also counted the Sunday collection money for many years and was a minister of the Word.  Dad was also very much involved with the St Vincent de Paul Camberwell Conference, being President of the Conference for many years.  Our house was on the rounds of the parish rosary statue and mum and dad were strongly involved in the Catholic Family Movement.  They were very supportive of the many priests appointed to the parish and had life-long friendships with Frs. Pat Harvey and Mick McEntee who had been assistant priests in the parish in the late 60s.

A Myers-Briggs reading would describe dad as possessing the ‘Executive’ personality – a very apt description of many aspects of dad’s make-up:

‘Executives’ are representatives of tradition and order, utilising their understanding of what is right, wrong and socially acceptable to bring families and communities together.  Embracing the values of honesty, dedication and dignity, people with the ‘Executive’ personality type are valued for their clear advice and guidance, and they happily lead the way on difficult paths.  Taking pride in bringing people together, Executives often take on roles as community organisers, working hard to bring everyone together in celebration of cherished local events, or in defence of the traditional values that hold families and communities together.

Dad was also characterised by a meticulous, ‘scientific’ style.  Mum related how he was aghast when first confronted with the chaos that she left in her wake in the kitchen.  She credited dad for the training which resulted in her more organised kitchen operation.  When dad was in charge of the washing-up, the water was raised to boiling point with dad avoiding first degree burns by clinging-on to the very outer rim of the plate.  Plates were then placed on the draining rack in order from the back to the front.  Firstly, to allow efficient draining prior to application of the tea-towel and secondly to avoid the further risk of first-degree burns to his children.  Pity any child who lost concentration and took a plate from the front – a sharp crack on the hand with the back of the washing brush followed, but still fully in sync with the methodical plate-washing operation.  The non-calibrated mangling of the bread loaf, when cut by his children, was another source of never-ending dismay for dad.

As a scientist, Dad recorded the goals and points in the footy record from the centre column outwards.  This was a wise move as you did not run out of room if McKenna kicked a bag.  His children score their footy records in the same manner to this day.

Des was a man of strong views and very black and white in his positions.  Apparently, he was never wrong on any issue.  He was a handyman extraordinaire.  His house in Pine Avenue remains a testament to a life-long commitment to maintenance, renovation and repair. The unfortunate builder who took on the extension to the back of the house almost certainly never again experienced as many defect adjustments as the number identified by Des. 

Dad was always in some phase of repainting the house.  His years of mixing paint in the garage to achieve the exact tint desired was the stuff of legend.  Unfortunately for them, his sons were the not-so-merry band who assisted in the ongoing painting of fences, walls, pillars, and render.  Dad once also trucked in an enormous amount of soil which we spent one Sunday wheelbarrowing from the road to the backyard.  When finished the yard level appeared to have risen by at least two feet.  Dad mixed his ‘cuppa’ as he did his paint – like a mechanical industrial mixer on full speed.  No molecule of sugar remained undissolved. 

Dad was an expert maker of jams – fig and ginger; apricot; plum; cumquat.  He waged a never-ending battle with the birds in defence of his prized figs on the fig tree.  His famed blackberry hunts in the Dandenongs provided the ingredients for his very tasty blackberry jam.  However, to partake of the jam you were required to be part of the hunt.  He was also an expert mushroom hunter and fully confident in identifying the edible varieties.  Stewed rhubarb and apple were other specialties.

Each Christmas the family would head down to Mt Martha for the holidays.  No TV, let alone streaming, social media or Play-Stations!  Many enjoyable evenings were spent playing Canasta and Five Hundred or at the table-tennis table.  Blairgowrie then became the holiday destination at Christmas.  Famously Des caught a bream without bait off the rocks at the back-beach.  This was also where Martin managed to fall into the raging waters three times when over-reaching for the perfect fishing spot.  Dad developed a love for the frisbee and, like everything else, aimed to perfect the art.  During the Christmas holidays at the beach, any stray kids around were enlisted into his frisbee classes. 

It is no exaggeration to say dad was a Magpies tragic.  He changed from the Tigers in the 1950s as his mate offered to get dad into the social club at the Pies.  Thus began a life of pain and suffering.  Not only for dad but for his whole family.  You either supported the Pies or you left home.  It was a dark weekend indeed when the Pies lost a game.  We accompanied dad to many games at Victoria Park and continue to agree with his life-long view concerning the persecution of the Pies by umpires. 

Dad had eclectic tastes in music – Elvis, Dylan, Santana, Classical – amongst others.  The speakers he built would withstand a nuclear blast.  He enjoyed his retirement and told me that ‘Every day was like Sunday’.  He enjoyed reading non-fiction, particularly about early Australian explorers and watching documentaries.  It is fair to say that dad mellowed in his later years.  He and mum also had more opportunities to travel, including to visit their daughter Patricia, a member of the Missionaries of Charity order, while she was stationed in Japan.

Des and Betty celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary at Our Lady of Victories in February 2012.  Mum died later that year in September.  Dad’s memory had been increasingly failing in the years prior to mum’s death.  He remained at Pine Avenue for a few years.  After a collapse at home, he became a resident at Condare Court in East Camberwell where he was loved and cared for by the staff.  These were years of special blessing in still having dad in our lives.  Christopher and his family skyped Des in September 2021 on the day before Father’s Day, at 2.00 pm.  Soon after the news was received that Des had died at Condare Court at around 2.40 pm on 4 September 2021. 

Forever in our hearts.


Life has changed not ended


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