Geoffrey Lionel Marks
Dad passed away last Tuesday the 13th, and that afternoon Suzie, Bruce, Maureen and I spent several hours on a sidewalk café in Glenferrie Road, reminiscing about Dad's 88 years.
We remembered Mum telling us both the story that life is rather like a bucket of water with a pebble dropped into it. You make a few ripples and splashes and then the water is still again.
For Dad the water is still again ... but we would like to share just a few of those ripples and splashes.
He really was the quiet achiever, the unsung hero, so first let's see what shaped this guy ...
He was born in 1916, midway through the First World War, and we understand was born into a brand new No. 10 Martin Street, Brighton. (Hands up all those who visited No. 10.) It was a remarkable family home that his parents, Mark and Violet, created, and he was the baby by some years to his older brother, John, and his sister, Jean. It was surely this amazing home of constant but particularly on Sunday hospitality that shaped Dad. It was not unusual for 35 people to be there on any Sunday. With the tennis court, a few blocks from the beach, a nanny, a maid, a very large circle of family and friends, no wonder Dad was so gregarious.
He was sent off, in his brother's footsteps, to Melbourne Grammar. There are a number of silver cups and awards for boxing, athletics, tennis and footy in storage that Dad won.
At the age of 14 at the height of the Depression in 1929, a very gangly Geoff left school and went and worked at Dimmey's in Swan Street. He was a keen tennis player, and a number of his friends here today will have fond memories of tennis at Royal South Yarra or Martin Street with Dad. In fact he was invited to join what we call today an elite squad, to obtain special coaching. In his late teens and early 20's he did play the country circuit.
He joined Metters, pre-war, perhaps 1933, and as we all know, this next to his family was his sole preoccupation for over 50 years.
In 1939 at the outbreak of war he enlisted with his best mate, Jack Seymour. He was in the infantry and one story that I'm sure is correct is that on the troop ship going over to the Middle East he was teaching unarmed combat to a group of soldiers and whilst demonstrating the defence against attack with a dagger, he broke a soldier's arm and was busted back from sergeant to corporal. He served in the Middle East and Darwin and really, like so many soldiers, didn't talk much about his war years.
In 1944 (and this bit is thanks to Shirley Polack) Dad was home on leave and one of those Sunday tennis days at Martin Street was in full flight. Invited was one Sister Pamela Beryl Goldring, with weekend leave from the Alfred Hospital. Within days of this initial meeting, Pamela and Shirley went to Tasmania for a two-week holiday and Shirley remembers Pam being very "low key" about this Geoff fellow. But she remembers Pam always being low key about the men in her life.
Apparently a whirlwind romance followed and they were married within 12 months, with Jane Hayman, who is here today, and Shirley Polack, who is away interstate, as bridesmaids, and nine months later a Miss Susan Jane arrived into the loving arms of Pam & Geoff.
Dad recommenced at Metters post war and a new family home was built in North Road, Ormond, a few doors away from his brother, John, and his wife, Betty, and the three boys, Tom, David and Bill. In 1949 Pam & Geoff's second little package arrived ... but that's another story!
1956 was a momentous year in Dad's life:
The Melbourne Olympics Dad was awarded a bronze medal, not for his feats on the sports field, but in recognition of his contribution to building the Olympic Village and the supply of white goods. Pam & Geoff hosted a Kiwi for the duration of the Games. He was made State Sales Manager for Metters. Their son was run over on a pedestrian crossing and nearly killed, spending many weeks in the Children's Hospital. He became Master of the Old Melbournians' Lodge.
The next few decades were family, that's every Sunday at Martin Street with Michael & Jean, Margie & Di, John & Betty, Tom, David and Bill and a host of others. Weekends at "Little Croft" at Cranbourne with Mum's mother, Estelle, and her companion, Helen. Holidays with the Polacks, the Les and Joan Marks family and the Haymans ... and the one constant: Metters. Susie and I have memories of parties at home for his sales team and he was always so proud of his team. Cath Cummings, his secretary, to the very end has remained one of Dad's greatest friends and supporters. Dad was always entertaining at the Australia Hotel, where he was treated a bit like Dolly in that scene from "Hello Dolly" when she walks down those stairs, and the cast break into song: "Well, welcome back, Dolly."
Dad became National Sales Manager, and who can forget Evie Hayes and "If it's Metters, it's modern" on Channel 9's In Melbourne Tonight? Under Dad, Metters became a household name. It's not generally known that he was invited onto the board at Metters, to become a director, but this would have meant moving to Sydney, and rather than dislocate the family, he declined. In the mid 1960's Metters joined forces with a US company, Clow, to make pipes. This joint venture, Metters Clow, built a plant at the back of the Ford factory. The US partners were so impressed with Dad that an informal offer was made for Geoff to move to the States. I remember getting very excited at the thought of the family moving to America. Despite my input, family came first and the offer was declined.
Pam is now working for her cousin, Peter Isaacson, the kids are growing up, Geoff is working hard and always late. At weekends playing golf at Cranbourne with Charles Levi, Allan Salek, Les Marks and John Polack, to name a few that made the trek up the Princes Highway.
Totally involved with the Old Melbournians' Lodge. Those famous Lodge picnics, he initiated with the Try Boys and the Lodge Ladies that he also founded.
He was also Chairman of the Victorian Jewish Youth Council for many years and on many committees in the Temple.
In 1974, Pam and Geoff move from Ormond to their home on the Yarra, in Toorak. Mum and Dad always played cards, Solo, mainly. Under the guiding hand of his mother-in-law Estelle, truly one of Melbourne's great bridge players, bridge was learnt and taken up. Geoff always said it was one of Mum's lasting gifts to Dad that she cajoled him into the game! Dad continued to work well into his 70's and couldn't understand why retirement was ever mooted. Metters became Modern Maid and a management buy-out saw Geoff as an owner of the company, but he was never really comfortable under the new regime and semi-retirement was taken.
He set up his own consultancy business, determined to remain involved and active in business.
Mum passed way in 1992, and Dad lived on at 9 Winifred Crescent for some years (with much help from his neighbours including Jan, Guido and Steve) but in true style recognised that he really couldn't cope and sold-up and moved to Lisson Grove Manor, under the loving and caring eye of Robyn De Clifford and her team. He made good friends there and his bridge and his family and his team of specialists, his Probus kept him busy and reasonably happy. During a short stint in hospital, he vowed to himself that on his discharge he would buy himself a new car, so in his 81st year Dad purchased not only a new Golf motor car but a mobile phone ... just in case he broke down ... and he always kept his golf clubs in the boot.
So in a few short words we have tried to set the scene of what shaped Geoff through his life.
Now let's examine those wonderful qualities he possessed:
- Family man immediate and extended were always of great pride and love to Dad.
- Loving Was gentle and showed genuine love, interest and affection for all he met.
- Gentleman impeccable manners and the utmost respect for his fellow human being regardless of station.
- Wisdom sage-like in his advice, thoughtful and I can never forget with my recent hickup in business what an amazing rock and guiding hand he was.
- Communicator such a genuine interest in everybody he met. Read widely and could talk on most subjects with consummate ease.
- Insightful Was a great judge of character: managed to put all at ease and look after those that were in his circle.
- Courageous Through most of his life Dad has faced challenges with his health, his work and play.
- Self-disciplined for most of his adult life Dad did his 5BX exercises: every day the family was woken up most mornings to the thump, thump of jogging on the spot.
- Modest to a tee Dad would never big note, exaggerate or blow his own trumpet. Always happy to push the spotlight on to some one else.
- Matchmaker would always try and connect people.
- Witty always had a good story, a new joke and quick with his repartee. Three days before he passed away Maureen and I were visiting Dad and telling him how that morning Maureen been working in the garden and had badly gashed herself on a garden stake. He shot back "that was rather a mistake".
- Ethical & Moral Almost to his detriment at work he would always play a perfectly straight bat.
- Respectful - Never ever would Dad offend intentionally or speak ill of anyone. Always managed to see the best in everyone.
- Tolerant Dad would always see both sides of a debate and if he had been at the United Nations could have sorted out many a religious/political/ethnic conflict.
- Jewish heritage He was always proud of our family history and heritage.
- Realist Dad always managed to get the right perspective on a situation. Like recognising it was time to move into Lisson Manor or it was time to stop driving or even that it was time to go.
Enough. We could go on but you will remember Dad in your own way the ripples and splashes through his life.
It would be remiss in closing not to mention some "buckets of water" that he (and Mum) have left behind in Suzie and me and our wonderful partners, Bruce and Maureen, and their absolutely gorgeous, intelligent and caring grandchildren, Jenny, Catherine and David.
More ripples, more splashes ...
Dad's bucket is very still ... and the water is crystal clear: because he was a pure and good man.
James Marks, 19 January, 2004
Geoff Marks was my father's first cousin on his father's side, and married Pam, a first cousin of Dad's on his mother's side. Hazel met both of them at the Marks family reunion Geoff organised in Melbourne in late 1988, after several conversations with him on the phone.
Incidentally, the congregation at the Springvale Necropolis chapel couldn't forbear from applauding, lightly, after James had finished his eulogy, a first for Rabbi John Levi.
Last Updated 23 January 2004