Eulogy read by Bob’s daughter Margo Croyle.
I am the youngest and only daughter of Bob and Ann, their one and only as Dad would frequently refer to me as Margarita Donizetti. It is such a great honour to stand in front of you all today to share some of our experiences of being part of his unique family.
Dad was a Tarro boy who later found himself playing rugby league for the East Maitland club, later known as the Griffins. Mum grew up in Melbourne Street living above her father’s Leighton butcher shop. Most Saturdays Mum would manage to slip away through the back fence to sit in the grandstand with her friend Elaine Stace. They would enjoy checking out the sporty talent. It wasn’t long before she had caught Dad’s eye. To secure her attention he would throw peanuts at mum and soon after their mutual attraction a courtship began.
They married in 1956. Their family quickly grew to six. Later they packed up the four kids and moved to Forbes where we lived a fun life in a country town. Lifetime friends were made and the Asimus name was linked to many sports across the district. Dad was there teaching us to lose gracefully, acknowledge the better player and always play to win. This was a trait he had even if it was a family game of cards which made our rare victories so much sweeter if you were able to beat him at darts, cards or pool. His competitive nature lives in us all with the conscious reminder of playing fair. He would often return from the club and when asked if he won at bowls he would smile and reply “no but I did make another friend”.
Dad would often tell us what a fast runner he was. His sprinting training commenced in those early years. He would be kissing mum in the laneway near the butcher shop until he would hear the train whistle, the signal to sprint to East Maitland station to get himself back to Tarro. On many occasions he would find himself hitching a ride home along the highway. This training was of no benefit when he had the three boys that often could be found in the hay shed down the paddock. It was the day that they burnt this down from smoking that dad tried to hurdle a tall gate and chase them down. David yelling to the younger brothers “just keep running”.
Our father was a slaughtering foreman at the abattoirs. He managed and worked alongside many man and was always judged to be a fair boss. The 3 boys worked for him which wasn’t easy to be the boss’s sons amongst so many different characters. Dinner table discussions would end with Dad stating “you never ask anyone to do something that you haven’t done yourself”. A great reflection of leadership.
Being away from family was not easy for Mum and Dad but they would call home on a weekly basis. Dad worked out that the washers in the paling fences surrounding the abattoirs were the same size as a 20 cent piece. He removed every one, found the local pay phone and would chat away to both parents regularly. What an innovator!
The boys started to bring home their girlfriends and Dad would love the female attention. Always greeting them with “you look as beautiful as ever” Brian was full of party so it was no surprise to me that even before an engagement was considered with a quiet girl named Wendy Crotty she was being given gifts of bowls trophies for her glory box. I think Dad knew what was best for our Brian. Karen Kelly one of my friends caught the eye of our eldest brother David. Dad again encouraged this relationship as they were already our family friends and Karen would make a beautiful lifelong partner for him. It is a testament to Mum and Dad’s marriage of 61 years that their four kids have remained happily married to their original partners. What role models they were.
Dad loved the grandchildren and they have all have their own special memories of him. It is hard to believe that Dad would consider it a holiday for him and Mum to take Chris, Kath, Matt, Ben Kristy Sally and Kate to Nelsons Bay for a week every school holidays. There was no bedtimes and cards would be played into the early hours until pop finally beat them at Irish poker, skipbo or euchre.
Christmas every second year was a time of outrageous themes, games and Pop dressing up as Santa to hand out the many gifts. Our day usually involved a game of darts and to Dad’s amazement he lined up full of confidence only to discover he was missing a crucial finger. Without a second thought he quickly changed hands and said “I will win anyway against you blokes”. It was truly heart-warming to watch the pure joy on his face and know he felt so blessed and content being the head of this crazy family.
Great grandchildren followed and he again was in his element. “What a bonza kid” being the usual greeting. Mum and Dad would always let the fairies know the great grandchildren were on their way which then caused the garden to be littered with surprises for the little ones. The delight that both Mum and Dad experienced was their opportunity to relive being parents/grandparents all over again. The grandchildren in-laws were welcomed unconditionally to the family by Dad. Quick to offer Mick, Mitch and Jack a beer and always greeting Tara, Leah and Jess with “you look as beautiful as ever”.
Living locally my family was so fortunate to have Mum and Dad close by. They were there to care for Ben and Sal and the bond they have is something they will treasured in their memories forever. Ben will always remember his time at the Griffins and receiving his all age jersey from one of the old boys, his best mate pop. Sally Wally has been there to brighten his days especially in the later years. They shared the love of Cadbury chocolate and would usually try to eat a block together.
Hard to believe but my Phil was no dancer however he loved to watch our parents dance. For hours I would watch Mum and Dad glide as one around the dance floor and as I become older Dad would teach me the love of dancing. Now I hear the music and visualise Mum or myself dancing with a great man.
His legacy lives on in all of us and I regard him as an inspirational leader that taught us to live life well. Thank you for all being here together today to help celebrate a man who has touched us all by making you all feel part of his team throughout his 81 years. One of his favourite sayings, a room of strangers “were just friends I haven’t met yet”.
Bob also had a very successful bowling career representing NSW on 59 occasions, being selected to play in 44 test matches and in 15 Alley Shield games for NSW.
Bob’s first state game was against South Australia on May 4th 1977 at the age of 41 after he was selected whilst playing for his beloved Forbes club which has a proud history of producing some great state players including Les Hand, Tom Crawford, Harold Smith, Greg Parslow and also Bob Asimus.
For a club the size of Forbes Bowling Club it was unprecedented that Forbes were able to produce so many fine bowlers and a testament to the dedication and determination of the Forbes club.
Bob’s has achieved success in every format and level of the game at the three clubs, East Maitland, Maitland City and Forbes clubs that he has played for over his 56 years of playing lawn bowls.
Some of his highlights have been:
- Won NSW country Championship 1976
- Member of the winning New South Wales Alley Shield sides (Australian title) 1978/79/80
- Considered by many to be the benchmark second to play for NSW from 1977-1981
- Number 1 Pennant winner 1992 runner up 1994
- Won 2 State triples titles back to back
- 1998 State triples winner with David Brandt, Bob Asimus, Paul Cousins
- 1999 State Triples winner with Bob Asimus, Grahame Bridge, Paul Cousins
- Winner of the North Manly Champion of Champion fours (2) with Harold Smith, Greg Parslow, Bob Asimus, and Chris Smith (Len Nicholson also won replacing Chris Smith)
- King of the Hunter singles
- Winner of the Boarder Pairs (Maitland) & Ben Hall Pairs (Forbes)
- Forbes Easter fours and pairs winner
- One of NSW’s first professional Lawn Bowls coaches being employed by Maitland City Bowling club in 1980
- Awarded Australian Sports Medal for services to Lawn Bowls in 2001.