Vale, Jack Ford

By Gus McCubbing

Jack Ford has left an indelible mark on Seymour.

A veteran who served in Papua New Guinea throughout the Second World War, Mr Ford will be remembered as a ‘‘happy-go-lucky’’ man who ran a Seymour business for decades and loved grabbing the microphone at the RSL for a singalong.

But he was also an expert at woodwork and when more than 300 people attended his funeral service in town on Friday, they listened to his son, Rob Ford, and his good mate, Rex Harris, deliver eulogies from a lectern the ‘digger’ built himself.

Mr Ford, who died last week, aged 98, moved to Seymour from Brunswick in 1957 when he — along with Fred Stammers and Alf Alcock — started a 24-hour petrol station which became known as the All Nighter.

It was here that Hank Kreemers, who used to drive taxis in Seymour and would park at the petrol station during night shifts, first met Mr Ford.

‘‘I found him to be a joker — he knew more ditties than you could think of and he was always cheerful, singing and just a happy chap,’’ Mr Kreemers said.

But Mr Kreemers said it wasn’t until he eventually joined the Seymour RSL that he really got to know Mr Ford. And while Mr Kreemers said they were happy to leave their shared war experiences in the past, the two veterans had plenty in common.

‘‘Every time he saw me he used to call me ‘Hanks for the memories’, and I’ve got to say thank you too Jack for all your memories,’’ Mr Kreemers said.

‘‘Jack’s charisma, it just got to you, all the way up until the end. Whoever he met, they liked him. We used to call him a legend, because he was a bit of an icon.’’

Rex Harris also met Mr Ford through the All Nighter but said he didn’t properly get to know the veteran until they were both involved with the Seymour RSL, of which Mr Harris was president during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

‘‘He really lived for the RSL in the later years, and if there was a work party or anything on, Jack was always first there with his hand up,’’ Mr Harris said.

‘‘Even as he got older and could hardly walk, he would still be there.

‘‘It was only about four years ago that he could no longer help at bingo — he just couldn’t walk up and down any more. But he loved music, especially the old Second World War songs he used to sing.

‘‘Every time we had a function with a band, Jack would be up there singing by the end of the night.

‘‘His woodwork and his happy-go-lucky nature would be the things that really stood out, also his determination when he got on a cause. Jack always wanted a flagpole in the RSL yard — he nagged for about 14 years, but he finally got it.

‘‘He loved having a good time and being with people — he could always get most people smiling.’’

For Seymour RSL president Tony Lee, Mr Ford’s presence will be sorely missed because along with helping sell raffle tickets and badges on ANZAC and Remembrance Day, Mr Lee said his songs would light up the room when the group met on Wednesday and Friday nights.

‘‘There’s just a big hole in the RSL now,’’ Mr Lee said.

‘‘Jack was the man, and up at the RSL on the first Wednesday night after he passed away, it was just so quiet. It’s very sad but we’re glad we got him in for that last Anzac Day parade — it took a lot and he was determined to go, but when we got him out to lay his wreath with Ruth Hall ... I knew it was going to be his last one.

‘‘We’re going to get a photo of him and put it in the RSL, along with the eulogy by Rex Harris ... so people can see who he was.

‘‘And we might even have an empty seat for him at the next Anzac Day, to keep him there with us.’’