Henry's funeral service was in Eugowra on 17 July, 2023, officiated by Deborah Jordan. We share his eulogy - an incredible tribute - with thanks to his family.
What an interesting, robust and long-lived man Henry was, one who has really left his mark on the world!
He was born in Forbes at the old Brentwood Hospital on the 23 May 1931, his parents were Gordon Thomas and Blanche nee Peacock.
Henry was one of eight children, his siblings being Jean, Keith, Marie (Henry's twin sister) Bill, Bob, Pat and John. There was always a funny rivalry between Henry and Marie, she may have been five minutes older but he was always taller!
He was educated at school in Forbes and helped to supplement the family's income by shooting rabbits for food and to sell the pelts. He was a bit cheeky and one time, shot a water rat and tried to pass its pelt off as well, he managed to get one pound for it.
His first job was as a Fettler on the railways, he was proud of the fact that although it usually took three men to carry the extremely heavy railway sleepers, he could do on his own. The family shared a cheeky story from Henry's teenage years, when there was still a picture theatre in Eugowra, he was watching a ghost movie sitting behind some girls so he waited until the atmosphere was created with all the smoke and effects; got the empty paper bag he had, blew it up and popped it scaring the life out of the girls.
He met his first wife Rose in the early fifties through her father Bertie who had originally got him the job on the railways. They were married in the mid-fifties and had three children, Colin in 1958 who is deceased, Donna born in 1960 and Kerin who arrived in 1961.
Henry left the railways and moved to Sydney where he worked at Parramatta hospital as a tradesman looking after the maintenance as he was a very handy and practical man. Sadly, during this time, Rose passed away.
He met his second wife Helen who was from Earlwood, they set up their home in Wentworthville. They moved back to the country, specifically Murringo near Young. Henry was working at the property "Templemore" and their daughter Sandra was born there in 1968.
When Helen went into labour with her and Henry had to get them to hospital which was quite some distance away, the only vehicle he could use was a truck with a tractor hooked up to it! Although poor old Helen was bumped and bounced all the way, they made it there safely.
In 1969, Henry decided to join the Australian Federal Police, which was the Commonwealth Police in those days, the family moved to Canberra and Henry went to the Police college there. After he passed the course, he was transferred to Sydney where their son Peter was born in 1971.
This was the start of the family's experience of living many different places as Henry was transferred around the country. When they arrived back in Canberra, they bought a home in the old mining town of Captains Flat, where the kids remember the old stove in the house that was used for heating and cooking, they played in the cubby house and with Peter's three-wheeler bike. As it was an old town many of the back yards still had a lot of fruit trees and Henry liked to preserve the fruit and make jam with it.
During his 16 years with the AFP, the family lived in many places including Brisbane and Alice Springs. While they were still in Canberra, Sandra remembers how supportive her mum and dad were of her hobby which was "Marching Girls".
She also remembers her dad helping at school excursions, ferrying the kids around. He would also drive Donna and the other school children to their horse riding lessons on school sports days.
They were also very supportive of Peter's BMX biking hobby when the family lived in Alice Springs, in fact Henry was involved in building the track which is still there.
His last posting with the AFP was to Pine Gap which was a US military base, the AFP was responsible for security at the boundaries of the facility. Henry was there for three years but the family moved to Brisbane after two years. Sandra remembers that the first time she ever heard her father swear was on the final trip from Pine Gap to Brisbane when the large trailer he was towing got a flat tyre. They bought a house in Gailes which is between Brisbane and Ipswich and when Henry finished his final year in the AFP, they bought a convenience store at Palm Beach on the Gold Coast. This was very hard work, long hours as the store was open 24/7, unfortunately Henry suffered a heart attack and while he was in hospital, Helen sold the store which they had been running for about a year.
Henry was a quiet man but would always speak his mind when he thought it necessary, he was a product of his time, preferring a simple, no-nonsense approach - he would get in and do what had to be done with no fuss, his was the pioneer style and in his heart he was a true country man. He was a generous man, doing mechanical work for friends and he and Helen often took in folks that needed help by letting them stay in their caravan.
He also served his community by completing 20 years with the SES and receiving a 20-year medal and clasp. He was a very good shot, back from the days he and his brothers would go shooting rabbits. When he tried out for the SWAT team in the AFP, he was given ten shots with a 303 rifle and top scored with ten out of ten. He was also in a gun club which he enjoyed.
The kids remember a loving family life, their parents had a happy marriage and they were brought up with good values. They remembered family holidays when they would go places in their caravan. When Peter was sick with whooping cough, it was recommended that he go to a different climate so they took a trip to Adelaide. They went to Port Macquarie where it poured with rain which was made worse by the fact that the caravan was not actually parked on the slab, the car was which was the wrong way round! They remember going to Ulladulla, taking their torches to go prawn fishing on the inland lake at midnight.
After the store was sold, Henry worked at the Ipswich Girls Grammar school as a security guard which he did for about eight years.
In 2000 Henry and Helen retired to Eugowra and bought a block of land, they didn't have to build a house however. Henry's brother Keith asked them if they were looking for a house as he knew of one that was available for $10. They bought it, moved it less than 1km and situated it on their property!
He worked a few hours a week at the Eugowra primary school doing maintenance and odd jobs, he ended up doing this for 15 years and received an Education Medal from the government.
He loved kids and babies, in particular his own grand-children and great-grandchildren; Sandra's kids; Kirsten, Bradley, Declan and Oliver, Kirsten's children Skylah and Sterling and Bradley's two Knox and Harlow. Although they lived far away, they definitely had a connection with Grumpdad as he was often known.
He wanted to keep his brain active so did crossword-puzzles and loved watching "Who Wants to be a Millionaire". He loved his rose bushes, his cowboy boots and country music. He also loved reading and reciting poetry.
Sadly, Helen passed away in 2014 but Henry was able to keep living independently as Peter and Sharon, being local, would always call in to help. He would go to Qld on his own to visit Sandra and her family and often house-sitting for Kerin and John. He also went on a cruise with Sandra and Kirsten.
Henry's survival of the floods of November last year is quite incredible as his house was inundated and ultimately floated away in it. He kept his cool and propped himself in the corner of the lounge room with the kitchen broom until he was rescued. His story was picked up by the press and the local federal MP, Andrew Gee, developed quite a soft spot for Henry and was very sorry to not be able to attend the service today.
He told his son Peter that the floods wouldn't take him and they definitely didn't! Henry went to stay with his niece Ann and her family in Orange and he really enjoyed that time. He was able to move back to Eugowra and his son Kerin and daughter Sandra were actually in Eugowra to visit Henry who actually passed away on the 4th July 2023. A great loss to the community and will be sadly missed.