An Obituary

I’ve just found out that he’s dead. My mate. Dead. It’s such a small word but carries so much with it.
I want the world to stop for a while. Work can wait. I need to write this down.
He didn’t wake up. Went to sleep and didn’t wake up. Simple as that. When Max rang to tell me Paul was dead he may as well have said that the world is flat; it made no sense. Grief was surging through my veins in unrelenting waves like a migraine.
Paul. Kid Natural. The Kid. Names he carried with him. The man with the smile. Girls loved him because he was him. Constantly happy, generous to a fault, handsome and articulate. What more do you want? Everything is a little less bright today.
Paul was one of eight children. Good quality Irish Catholic stock. He grew up in Rennie Street, Thornbury sleeping in a bungalow, squeezed in with his brothers and sisters. His old man, who only died a few years back aged in his nineties, did the local fire wood and briquette delivery rounds, and his mum ran the house. He worked as a motor mechanic with Peter, one of his brothers, in High Street, Preston until five or six years ago when the physical toil of his occupation got too much. He retired from that and was teaching kids in TAFE colleges in recent years. The teaching caper came naturally to him because in a way he’d been teaching his whole life; teaching us all.
Paul was about fourteen years older than me, making him about 62.
He was the worst tennis player I’ve ever seen. Some years back a few of us had a hit every Thursday night at the Bulleen Tennis Club and Paul would come along. He had a devastatingly innocuous serve. Somehow he’d get the ball to lob JUST over the net (and that was his first power serve) leaving his opponent stretching helplessly as it hit the ground like a wet pat leaving an aging cow. After the swearing and cursing from his opponent subsided he’d smile and say,
“Did ya like that?”
But for Paul it wasn’t so much about the tennis, it was more about the few beers at the Templestowe pub on the way home.
His house in Montmorency was the classic drop in joint. Any time of day or night you could knock at his door. He’d be sitting at the kitchen table with the form guide spread across it, or in the backyard watering his beloved hydrangeas, or tinkering in his garage over one of his Holden restoration projects. He loved his cars. You could fair dinkum eat your lunch off the motors.
And every greeting was exactly the same.
“G’day mate. Beer?”
As lousy as Paul was at tennis he was just as magnificent as a water skier. One of the best I’ve ever seen. As a young bloke he skied bare foot but as he got older he preferred to slalom ski. He possessed enormous balance and strength behind the boat. When he cut hard outside the wake you could feel the boat pulling back against his momentum. It was incredible to feel the power and to watch the technique, especially as he wasn’t an overly large bloke; maybe 5’10” in the old. And when he did a dry start off the river bank he would yell “go” to the boat’s driver with the ski only half on, but would inevitably hit the water without a wobble or a fuss.
Paul was also a very handy pugger from all reports. Given our age difference I never saw him box. He would have been learning the sweet science with his mate Frankie whilst I was still running around under the garden hose dressed only in my terry towelling under pants. But I could imagine how he would have gone. The smiling assassin I reckon; a Les Darcy type of boxer, the sort of bloke who would land a crushing right cross with a delightful smile on his face.
He always reckoned that the blokes in the boxing gym invited him down to train and fight not because they wanted him, but because they wanted him to bring Frankie with him, whom they fancied as a very handy twelve round fighter. But I’m not so sure. Paul’s mates said he was a lot better than the ordinary punks.
I will miss Paul. I’ll miss him a lot. That smile that had the sun shining out of it. That smile with the mischievous hint. That smile that was so full of life. You can’t replace or replicate a person’s smile. We all had some ripper times with Paul; at Falls Creek in the winter of 1985, many Yarrawonga summers yarning under the willow trees, grand final days in his backyard, barbeques, parties, weddings and now, alas, a funeral.
Cheers old boy. See you in the next world.

About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Just from reading that I feel like I too knew Paul. Beautifully captured.

    Very sorry for your loss, Dips. He sounded like one hell of a guy and a great friend.

  2. Cheers Dips

    Sorry to hear about Paul.
    Sounds like a good bloke.

  3. Mike O' Donnell says

    Very well said ,Dips. We will all miss him and my reaction to the news was very similar to yours. I might add that I was proud to be on par with him as the equally worst golfer on the naboga weekend. Neck and neck for the clown pants. Had to mention this because I know it would have appealed to his wry sense of humuor.He was the insigator ofmany great laughs

  4. Phil Dimitriadis says

    My condolences mate. A nice tribute.

  5. Tony Robb says

    Thoughts with you Dips enjoy his friendship now just as you did when he was around
    Cheers TR

  6. Andrew Starkie says

    Deepest sympathies, Dips.

    Aren’t the most ordinary lives extraordinary?

    We all have a story to tell. Well written. From the heart.

  7. I want to thank everyone for their comments and thoughts. Paul will be given one almighty send off. He’ll be disappointed to miss it.

  8. Dips, a wonderful little obituary. May we all receive such a lovely send off, hopefully a lot later than 62.

  9. Paul Daffey says

    Good one, Dips.

    A few nice lines in there, and a lot of heart.

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