Eulogy for Russell, passed away January 8th 2015 presented by his daughter Christine at his funeral held Adelaide West Uniting Church, Brooklyn Park South Australia January 13th 2015, followed by a Memorial Service at the Renmark Uniting Church, Renmark South Australia January 16th 2015 ALBERT RUSSELL MEAD – 95 years old Russ, Russy, Dear, Dad, Grumpy, Grumps, Poppy, but NEVER Albert. Dad was born in Renmark, the 7th but 6th living child of Katherine Hannah May and Ellis James Roberts on December 21st 1919. He was the youngest by 18 years with older siblings Gertie, Eddie, or Ted, Bill, Ella and Frances. Dad left school at 14 or 15 but not by choice. He worked for his father and his brothers on the fruit blocks in Renmark until he was 16 or 17 when he joined the Police Force in Port Adelaide. In circumstances where he was only allowed out of barracks on Sunday nights if it was to go to church, he began to attend the Port Adelaide Congregational Church where he met Mum. He was 17, she was 13. They have been together ever since. They would have been married for 72 years on Jan 30th this year and have been an item for 78 years: a testament to their utter devotion to each other. I will probably refer to Mum a lot during this Eulogy. It is almost impossible to avoid doing so – they lived life joined at the hip and made all decisions together in consultation. That is not to say there were not some tense times. One of the most memorable occurred when they were building an overhead tank stand. Dad fell off just as Mum was coming outside to empty the teapot. Without missing a beat she said ‘Thank God I paid the insurance’. For a while the decisions were not so joint and amicable. However, even just after Dad passed away we asked Mum if some arrangement or another was what she wanted. She immediately said we needed to ask Dad – before she realised she couldn’t do that anymore. After 10 years in the Police Force and 2 years working on a sheep station near Clare as roustabout and cook respectively, they moved back to Renmark in 1947. Dad, Mum and Helen (by that time 18 months old) lived with Grandma and Auntie Frances for about 4 years while building their own house ½ mile down the road with the help of friends. Dad bought their 1st 10 acres and worked that as well as doing the night shift in a packing cooperative and at the pumping station to get a start. Eventually by the mid 1970s they owned and worked 45 acres of mixed fruit trees, dried fruit vines and wine grape vines. Along the way they grew and sold tomatoes and peas as well as Mum making and selling butter. They also had cows which Dad milked so that the cream could be sold. That came to an abrupt end when 1 of the cows got into the tomato patch. Dad kicked its leg, broke his toe and the cow went to the butcher. He was a very nice man but capable of temper. Dad’s foray into public life really began when he was given responsibility for managing a section of the flood bank between 26th and 28th Streets Renmark during the 1956 floods. Our property was only ½ a mile from the flood bank. About the same time, he began his involvement with the local branch of the Agricultural Bureau with Ian Tolley. In 1957 he was elected to the Board of the Renmark Fruit Grower’s Cooperative and remained a member until about 1985. In 1963 he was elected as a South Australian grower member of the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board based in Melbourne. He remained in that position until his compulsory statutory retirement at 65 yrs of age. That same year when Helen had left home and I was not quite 8, 10 acres of tomatoes were ripe and had to be picked and delivered to the cannery. Dad had left for his 1st overseas trip for the Board, travelling with the Chairman Sir Eugene Gorman, a prominent Melbourne Barrister, who tried to introduce Dad to betting but without success. The trip was supposed to be for 3 weeks but ended up taking 11. While he was winging it to Europe in exalted company on BOAC 1st class, Mum had to manage the tomato harvest starting with the Morris truck breaking down on Day1 on the railway line at the end of the street, full of tomatoes. This was an early illustration of who was head of management in the partnership for its duration. Dad travelled interstate and overseas regularly to Europe, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Iran, Turkey, and the States for board business often for 2 to 3 months at a time. In 1971 he was part of an official trade delegation to Japan and Taiwan and won a golf trophy in Japan which took pride of place in one of the china cabinets at home for years. By that time Dad was either Councillor, Board member or representative on 7 Boards to do with the dried fruit industry, Rotary, radio stations, packing houses, church and hospital. Dad was not often at school concerts. During all his time away from home – from when he often told Mum he was just going into town to collect the mail, and returning home 4 hours later after ‘dropping in at the Packing Shed,’ to overseas trips for long periods, Mum ran everything. Mum travelled with him on several occasions after 1973 when I left home to live with Marie and Des Elson to attend University. Dad made sure he visited relatives in the UK when he had the chance as he was very committed to maintaining family ties. His father had emigrated from the UK to Australia in 1895 although his mother’s family had been here since 1853 taking land holdings firstly near Strathalbyn and then in the Mid North before going to Renmark in the early days of the town’s establishment. Mum also had relatives that he visited in England. By the mid 1980s Dad had ceased most of his official involvement with the fruit growing industry. His level of commitment over a long period of time was recognised by his Queen’s Birthday Order of Australia medal conferred in 1990 and presented to him at Government House by Dame Roma Mitchell. Mum, Helen and I accompanied Dad to Government House for the event. He was very proud and excited but also very worried. He’d just had an operation for haemorrhoids which had the unfortunate side effect of unexpected and loud wind eruptions. He was terrified it would happen in front of Dame Roma so insisted on waiting outside until the very last minute to minimise the potential for disaster. In 1965, Dad was invited to join Renmark Rotary with the classification of ‘Horticulture/Mixed vines’. He was inducted on 12/10/1965. I am now reading from material kindly prepared and provided to Helen and I by Bruce Edwards. Dad and Bruce shared a close relationship over many years, initially developing from their mutual dedication to Rotary and its ideals but extending to a deep personal friendship which included Mum and Audrey Edwards. The Rotary family to which Russ dedicated so much over the last 50 years of his life, will be greatly saddened by all who knew him. Russ was a quietly spoken, unassuming person but one of great integrity who was always intent on following Rotary’s ideal of ‘Service above self’. Upon Russ’s induction he, and his wife Mary, immediately endeared themselves to everyone connected to the club by reason of their commitment. Being very special people to their own family, it was not surprising that Russ and Mary took special interest in Rotary’s programs for the well-being of young people. They hosted Exchange students from several different countries over the years and were very special host parents to Chong, an Asian trainee nurse in a Rotary program from 1976 – 1979. Chong continues to communicate with the family and most recently visited them here in 2010. Russ served on many of his club’s committees over the years and was a Board member from 1967-1969. He was elected Club President in 1975-1976. The service of Russ and Mary to the Club was acknowledged by the presentation of individual Paul Harris awards to each of them at this time. The reputation of Russ within his Rotary District ensured his appointment as District Governor nominee in 1988/89. His predecessor Bruce well remembers Russ being introduced to the District Conference by his then Club President the late Peter Quigley who made the point that the Rotary background of Russ was fully stated but failed to mention his qualities as a man such as those demonstrated by his preparedness to assist with the education of Rural Youth in his “spare time”. These qualities were soon to be well known to all his newer Rotary friends. Bruce and Audrey Edwards became special close friends to Russ and Mary over the many enjoyable years which followed. They often visited them in their Renmark home, Audrey heralding their arrival with the rather indelicate greeting, “I’m here for a wee and a tea in that order”. Of course it never finished with the tea –Mary had, in typical country fashion, always baked cake and biscuits - and Bruce and Russ discussed Rotary and solved the problems of the world at length, they often stayed over and Russ never let them leave without an over-supply of dried fruit. Bruce and Audrey will always remember their great times with Russ and Mary and be grateful for their genial hospitality and much valued friendship.. The District Conference in 1989/90 with Russ as District Governor was held at Renmark and chaired by Club stalwart and friend Ross Gill. A highlight of the Conference was a tree planting project which won an award from the Murray Valley Development Council. These trees are now fully grown and provide a wonderful avenue for about 2 kms on the main road into the town from Adelaide. The Rotary Club of Renmark has recognised the wonderful Rotary service given by Russ over the years by establishing an annual Russ Mead Award for a Club member’s excellence of service. Bruce remembers driving Russ to a meeting of the District’s College of Governors held at the home of PDG Arthur Manser. Russ was frail and he and Mary had just moved from Renmark to live with Helen and Don. A decision to attend the meeting was delayed until the last minute but Russ expressed the view that he would very much like to attend and it was arranged. The meeting was in progress before Russ arrived unexpectedly. The meeting stopped and there was a brief silence. Then simultaneously, everyone in the room stood and broke into applause. Not a word was said – nor was it necessary. The reverence for Russ from all past District Governors present was clear. Russ remained a Rotarian until his passing. As Club Secretary Marj Lobban advised, he would not have had it any other way. Vale Russ Mead. Mum and Dad commenced selling property in the late 1970s but did not finally sell the home block until 2005 when Dad was 85 and Mum 81. Dad was still driving the tractor and tending 4 acres of cabernet grapes and Mum almost singlehandedly tending an acre of beautiful garden including over 150 rose bushes. They continued to travel overseas and take various cruises during their period of semiretirement. Their last cruise was in 2008 with the intention of celebrating her 85th birthday. What, in fact, she did was to frighten Dad to an earlier death by falling into the sea from the ship’s tender at Yorky’s Knob off Cairns. Mum has never been able to swim. Dad was terrified and in tears. She was rescued by 2 young ‘lithe and good looking crew’. We think Dad was a bit miffed!!!. Dad’s fruit industry and Rotary involvement and associated travel resulted in world-wide connections. In 1971 they commenced utilising a Visitors Book which makes for extraordinary reading. (One notable entry is a delegation of 20 Japanese who were fascinated by the size of Mum and Dad’s modest house and opened all of the cupboards to see what they kept in them). Mum and Dad, in turn, visited and were hosted by, many of these multicultural visitors. The connections were kept up over the years by an annual influx and outgoing of 150 – 200 hand written Christmas Cards. That job started annually in early October!. In 2005 they moved into their new courtyard home they had built in 15th Street Renmark next door to Dad’s niece Lois. They remained living there until failing health resulted in them rather involuntarily moving to Adelaide to live with Helen and Don in Sept. 2011. In July 2013 they moved to a shared room at Flora McDonald Lodge. The care they have both received there has been exceptional and they both felt, and Mum continues to feel, loved and cared for by all the wonderful staff. We know there are some present here today and we thank them for their devotion. Dad loved being part of a large family and their return to Renmark in 1947 facilitated that experience. He maintained close relationships with his mother and siblings until their deaths. His father had died when he was in the Police Force Dad often told us stories of being teased by his older brothers when he was a child. This apparently included being held upside down over the open underground tank by one leg, being dropped and then caught by the other leg, just before he hit the water. They would also cover themselves in white sheets at night and chase him making ghost noises. Ted and Bill were about 16 and 15 years older respectively so had the advantage. Dad learned about these experiences and Helen and I, as well as other family members and friends, learned this the hard way. Our toilet was outside until I was 11 and was built of galvanised under an overhead rainwater tank around 4 solid wood posts. It did have a roof but wasn’t lined. Helen and I were (and are) both terrified of spiders. Dad would wait until we were on the toilet and then run a shovel handle over the iron causing the spiders to come out from behind the posts. The results, on occasion, were not pretty. Both cousins Lois and Elizabeth had to drive around town in their wedding cars so as to arrive at the church late. Dad had informed them that their husbands-to-be had been held up. This was blatantly untrue. Neither of them were happy! Our eccentric and excitable neighbour Brian Malcolm experienced putting his hand on his tractor wheel only to find a snake. Dad had killed one and threaded it around the tyre tread where he knew Brian would rest his hand. Brian’s screams were heard 22 chains away. As well as Dad’s love of family life, he had a great sense of community. He and Mum made sure we went to everything that was happening in Renmark from Church picnics to Speed Boat Racing. Notwithstanding living on the river, he was a hopeless fisherman in contrast to his older brother Ted who could catch 10 fish sitting next to Dad who mostly caught none. In his young years he played tennis, but by the late 1950s was playing golf which he continued to do until he was in his early 80s. Dad and Mum met at church. As a boy he had attended the Renmark Congregational Church. When he returned with Mum in 1947, they worshipped at that church until its Union with the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches in the 1970s and thereafter at the Renmark Uniting Church. Dad held positions of elder, deacon, treasurer, chorister and lay preacher. Cousin Elizabeth remembers him rehearsing his 1st sermon by preaching it at her. Helen remembers being at church for one of his preaching occasions – the reading was to be from the Old Testament book of Jonah regarding Jonah and the Whale. He was in the top pulpit but couldn’t find the page and neither could he find it after a trip to the lower pulpit. He then told the bemused congregation and a very embarrassed Helen that since he couldn’t find it he would just have to tell them the story. He was nothing if not resourceful! On their arrival in Adelaide in Sept. 2011 they immediately began to attend at this Church and did so until they moved to Aged Care in July 2013. Norm Schrimshaw has ministered to them regularly since then and that has helped sustain their faith. (Norm knows a lot about their life – he has heard about it repeatedly!!!!) Dad was a man of great faith – not worn on his sleeve but lived daily. Helen left home in 1962 and I left in 1973. From then until they moved to live with Helen and Don they spent time with us as often as possible both in Adelaide and in Renmark but distance often meant this did not happen as often as we all would have liked. The grandchildren all spent holidays in Renmark over the years which were greatly enjoyed. Richard and Georgia remember playing tennis on the world’s biggest tennis court (the drying green) with a piece of wire strung between the racks to serve as a net. Margot and Alex will always remember being taken out to the Golf Club swimming pool and having to contend with the bees and wasps. Dad was an exceptional example of a well-balanced, modest, caring, considerate and friendly man. He was a devoted husband and always recognised that Mum was the wind beneath his wings. Whenever he was recognised publicly for any achievements or contributions, he made sure to say that Mum deserved the accolade equally. They never went to sleep without saying their favourite prayer together: Now I lay me down to sleep I pray the Lord my soul to keep If I should die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take This continued until the end. They lived together, loved together, worked together, travelled together, rejoiced and celebrated together. Mum now has to go on alone but recognises Dad’s time had come to an end and we know she will have the strength he gave her to go on and enjoy the rest of her life. Dad was an exceptional father. Helen and I were loved totally. Neither Mum nor Dad were demonstrably ‘lovey-dovey’ to us but gave total devotion to our well-being. They provided the most stable home life imaginable and unfortunately could never be manipulated one against the other! They gave us every opportunity they were able in circumstances where money was never freely available. Our early lives were very much lived in family and church based environments with much socialising with these families. Dad was obsessed with Helen’s and my education – perhaps because he had not had that opportunity. There was faint praise for anything less than perfect results. Helen remembers a grudging acknowledgement of her Leaving results. I distinctly remember being told by him outside Bonython Hall on the day of my degree conferral that it was OK but if I had studied I could have achieved a distinction. Nevertheless we achieved what we did because of his total support and encouragement in a world he knew little about. Dad loved Don and Gordon and never interfered in our relationships with our husbands or family life. He was always just there to provide whatever support he could when it was needed. He was never judgemental. It is hard to sum up 95 years of an extraordinary life but we hope we have given you some sense of both the public and private man. His like will not often pass this way again. Go in peace Dad – we will care for Mum.
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On 26 Apr 2017 Helen (Mead) Seretis wrote:
of Australia Gazette No. S 148, Monday, 1 0 June 1991 Published by the Australian Government Publishing Service. Canberra SPECIAL Mr Albert Russell MEAD, 27th Street, Renmark SA 5341 Awarded the Medal of the Order in the General Division (OAM) For service to primary industry, particularly horticulture.
On 26 Apr 2017 Helen (Mead) Seretis wrote:
Christine and I were talking the other day while on holiday in Renmark about how Dad desperately tried to teach Mum, me and Christine how to reverse a trailer. He was singularly unsuccessful!! He tried quietly instructing us then talking a bit louder and finally yelling at whoever he was trying to teach at the time. He was so frustrated that we could each do all kinds of jobs around the house but not that task.
On 3 Feb 2015 Helen (Mead) Seretis wrote:
Dear Helen and Don,
Thankyou for your phone call and news about dear old Uncle Russell.
It is a blessing for him but it is still hard for Auntie Mary, you and Christine and all the family. Us too.
He was such a faithful servant of Our Heavenly Father. He was the last link with his generation of the Mead family in Australia from Grandpa Mead's arrival 150 years ago.
So many memories come flooding back. When he dressed up as Father Christmas and was wheeled down the road ringing a bell to grandmas in I think Gina's stroller. We were so excited. All our presents were hung on the Norfolk Island Pine. Sitting up in bed with him singing all the choruses from HMS Pinafore and being shut in the bed that opened up, cutting peaches and having our knees squeezed while driving in the truck. How he used to tease Auntie Mary. We used to laugh our heads off. I just loved staying there on holidays and always visited when I was on holidays from Teachers College and when I was teaching.
He and Auntie Mary were so good to Mum especially after Dad died.
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