Sunday, September 13, 2009
In Memorium- Frank Henry Papprill: 25 July 1922 - 12 September 2009
What can one say about Dad? What words best describe him?
Whatever we do we could never find enough to say about him or words to describe him.
For us he was always that big generous, loving, humorous, passionate, warm-hearted, big-hearted even, down to earth, involved, unassuming, surprising, concerned, neighbourly, a teller of stories, a raconteur, a lover of the bawdy as well as one of great tenderness.
Dad loved life as well as loving intensely with a devotion I can only hope I can emulate. For when Mum was diagnosed with cancer he saw it as his duty to look after her, to nurse her through her long illness and then, despite our shared joke that with all his lawn-mowing, gardening and shared meals he did with his friends on The Hill he was serving twelve widows, to remain loyal to his love right through until his death.
My Dad, our Dad, our children’s grandfather, their children’s great grandfather, was a man who continued to surprise us and will continue to be a role model we and they can look and live up to.
For he was a man whose bluff good humour would become the focus of a party - at my 60th his often embarrassing tales of my childhood, here in Wanganui, created much amusement for my friends who, every time we met, would ask “How’s the old man? Still telling stories?”
His intense pleasure of life and all it gave him was shared equally between us, as family, and his neighbours. I learnt, only recently, of his early morning gardening done for an army friend, an ex POW, whose ill-health prevented him from getting his garden into shape - who else but an overly generous man would get up in the pre dawn mist and go and dig a neighbour’s garden over before going to work?
But, then again, nothing should have surprised us for I recall Jocelyn ringing me one weekend, full of concern, when she discovered that Dad, when he was a regular hut warden for DOC, had met a young English couple honeymooning on the river and,after talking to them, had not only given the couple his jersey because theirs was wet but offered them the keys to the house to stay over in Wanganui while he was up the river. His generosity actually did include giving the shirt off his back!
Dad was also a man who enjoyed life and all the humour it held. For him living was a divine comedy. At our last family gathering, his 87th birthday, the evening ended with us falling out of our chairs with stomach aching laughter as he told and then encouraged others to tell story after embarrassingly funny story about himself, ourselves and his childhood. Each story often tinged with poignancy even as the punch lines threw themselves at our solar plexus and doubled us up with laughter.
It was an evening of great good humour that only finished when the final whiskey was drunk and Dad had decided that he’d had enough and said his good nights.
That enjoyment of life, his unquestioning generousity gave him rewards that he was astonished, surprised and humbled at receiving. The QSM for his services to the community that is Durie Hill, to the community that is the Wanganui River, the organisations and people along it and to his War time mates left him tongue-tied and speechless and, I think, awed by the honour given to him so freely.
And when, just a few months ago, the RSA awarded him a life membership for his care, his ongoing friendship to his mates, his comment to us was: “Christ, son, they called me up and gave me a life membership.I don’t know why they gave it to me. I was only doing what I normally do.... and ... bugger me if I didn’t start to cry ... stupid old fool eh?”
But that was Dad. He did what he always had done and carried on doing it because it was the right thing, the only thing, to do.
For a man that lived life to the fullest I know Dad was always perpetually surprised that he had survived to reach 87 and to see his family hit those magic numbers of 63, 61 and 50 themselves. He once said to me: “You know son, I told your mother when I reached 40 that I didn’t think I’d see them reach 40... least of all see Jocelyn reach that age.And now, look at us - you’ve passed 60 and Jocelyn’s going on 50 - where did the years go?”
To which I said -”Keep asking Dad ‘cos we expect you to be still here at 90.”
Unfortunately that won’t happen.
Yes, Dad was a great father, a welcoming and loving father in law, a great grandfather and great great-grandfather who has had a huge influence on our lives and on the lives of our families.
He has been great neighbour to many - an established figure on Durie Hill as, after all, you don’t live in one house on one street for 66 years without becoming part of the fabric of the suburb.
He has been a great friend not just to us as his family but to all he came in contact with.
His death will leave a huge hole in our lives but his memory will survive, his stories will be retold, relived and embroidered on for many years and his presence always felt whenever someone begins a sentence with: “Remember when Poppa said or did...”
So let us all remember Frank, remember Dad, Remember Poppa and celebrate his life and mourn his passing.