Our community - and country - have lost a legend with the passing of Wilf Norris OAM. Here is his story, as read by son Laurie Norris at his funeral at Eugowra on Saturday, October 28.
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Wilf was my dad and I am here to share his story.
Now we all know that Wilf loved to make a speech, so I hope I do him proud today.
Dad passed away on Saturday morning the 21st of October, suddenly but peacefully with mum and myself by his side. Dad was 95 years old. But.. if you asked dad he would say "I am nearly 96."
As I said mum was right by his side when he passed, just as she has been since they married 68 years ago.
Mum, we all love and adore you and are so proud of you for looking after dad right till the end. Dad was the luckiest of men to have you as his wife, as we are to have you as our mother.
Wilfred Joseph Norris was born on the 3rd of December 1927, the first of 9 children born to William and Jane Norris of 'Montrose' Peak Hill. Dad was predeceased by his siblings Joyce, Molly, Cliff, Allan, Kevin and William and is survived by Geoff and Marie.
Dad was a Norris and a proud Norris at that, he researched his family history and often told the story of how his great-grandfather was born at the Cox's river under a wagon on their way out west to select land.
When Dad spoke of his childhood it was with great fondness, he loved growing up on 'Montrose". He told of how he was pulled out of school at age 14 to help his father and drove a 10 horse team on the farm when all the men went to war. And so began his life long love of the Australian draught horse.
Wilf was 21 years old when the tractor came to replace the horse and all the farmers bought new tractors and put their teams of draught horses on the train to go to the knackery. When it came time to put his father's team on the train Wilf said NO! So his father gave him the team of horses and he began his farming career with his very own team.
Wilf then purchased his first block of land at Trewilga, near Peak Hill, using his team to crop, he also did contract harvesting and tank sinking in the Peak Hill district, working very closely with his brother Allan.
After a few years Wilf's existing lung problems worsened and the doctors advised him to get out of the red dust and so he found a sheep farm in the Eugowra hills.
Wilf purchased "Inglevale' in 1954. Leaving his large family to live alone up in the hills with no electricity was a bit scary, so even though he wasn't a drinking man, he became a regular at the Central Hotel to escape the loneliness, where he met many lifetime friends. Dad was also a devout Catholic and the church was another place of comfort where he also met many Eugowra locals.
Also in 1954, that same year, Queen Elizabeth came to visit Dubbo, Wilf's brother Kevin and sister Molly who were working on a Sheep Station in Warren brought along the very beautiful governess, Pat McMahon, to see the Queen. Wilf was smitten and invited Pat to a dance and their romance began.
Wilf and Pat were married on the 23rd of July 1955, At Saint Lawrence's Catholic Church Forbes. Wilf then took Pat home to 'Inglevale'. Over the next 18 years 8 children were born: Wendy, Janet, Laurie, Bill, Tricia, Tom, Annette and Julie. From there our family has grown with 18 Grandchildren and 20 Great Grandchildren and one on the way.
One of Dad's favourite things to do was sit back at family gatherings with a baby on his knee, quietly chuckling, watching on as we all entertained him.
Life on 'Inglevale' was hard work. Wilf shore his own sheep for many years, then knocked off to feed the pigs and milk the cows. He butchered a sheep on a regular basis to feed the family and spent many hours felling trees with an axe and snigging logs out of the hills with the horses for Hay's Sawmill.
In 1973 Wilf was offered a job at the Forbes Lachlan Vintage Village tourist complex, as farm manager. This was a wonderful opportunity that introduced dad to the world of sharing his passion, knowledge and horsemanship with people from all over Australia.
Life for Dad became very interesting and included many highlights such as driving the Prime Minister of Australia, Gough Whitlam, through the streets of Forbes and working on numerous television documentaries and movies, such as the Leyland Brothers, The Dish and most recently ABC's Backroads just to name a few. The annual Australia Day Parade, where Dad drove his team of horses, was a highlight during that period of time.
During the Vintage Village years, Wilf demonstrated his horse drawn Mackay Header with his eight-horse team as well as many other heritage demonstrations with his horses.
In 1976 Wilf created a horse drawn single furrow ploughing competition 'The Golden Plough'. He was extremely proud of this ploughing competition and attended every year - he never missed one.
In the late 70's Wilf was one of the founding members of The Australian Draught Horse Stud Book Society.
This part of Wilf's life was some of his best years which were spent travelling all over NSW competing in competitions. The camp-fire entertainment at night was a highlight that dad enjoyed.
In 1984 Wilf left the Vintage Village and moved back to Eugowra. This allowed him to travel more with his horses whilst he kept farming at Inglevale.
In 2000, Wilf and Pat semi-retired and moved into Eugowra to Marara Street. The Farm was left in brother Bill's capable hands and Wilf kept the block down on the road where he carried on working daily with his horses until he was 92 and retired to Forbes.
It was Dad's mission to promote the Australian Draught Horse and he shared his knowledge freely, purely for the benefit of keeping history alive. He was the man for the job.
His hard work was acknowledged in 2018 when Wilf was 90 years old, NEARLY 91, when he was honoured with being awarded an order of Australia Medal for service to heritage preservation. Wilf travelled to Government House Sydney to be presented with his OAM by his Excellency, Governor David Hurley.
There is no doubt Dad loved to share a story and in dad's final years he spent his time looking back, researching his family history. Anyone who visited him recently would need to allow plenty of time for a Norris history lesson.
History was definitely a passion for Wilf, maybe because he lived it - funnily enough our family loves the story of when he was admitted to hospital on one occasion and had described to the Dr what he had been doing that day, which was ploughing his paddock with a team of horses - the Doctors report concluded that Dad was suffering from Dementia as it appeared he had been living in the past.
Dad was an expert in vintage machinery and with the help of his wheelie walker, his billy cart or the red Laser, he managed to help out... or get in the way - depending on who you asked.
Modern machinery, however, was a different story - dad's opinion was that everybody drives too fast these days. Dad's little red Laser was well known and a lot of people here today would have been stuck behind Wilf at one time or another - the truckies called it "getting Wilfed".
Wilf has had a wonderful long life and lived it the way he wanted to the very end.
We would like to thank the staff from Australian Unity who have provided home care and personal care over the last couple of years to make him comfortable and in his own home with mum for his final days.
On Wednesday, two days before dad passed, I was on my block pressing hay when in drove Mum with dad to inspect.
They drove into the middle of the paddock, Dad opens the door and yells out "bring one of those bales over here, I want to have a look at it".
He pulled and twisted it and made a mess in my mother's car - she was not happy - and he said "it's a bit green". My mother said in a sarcastic way "well it wouldn't be right, would it Wilf", but later that day mum told me he said it was damn good hay.
I can just see Wilf climbing those long golden stairs with Saint Peter in charge of the gate and him saying G'day Mate, where are the horses?
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