Fordy farewelled in Wahgunyah

Vietnam Veteran Robert John Ford (Fordy) of Wahgunyah has been remembered as a natural leader, champion allround sportsman, a legend and loving father.

Over 100 people attended a memorial service at the Wahgunyah Monument on Friday, January 14 where Fordy’s great mate Barry Jones was Master of Ceremonies. Fordy’s daughter Carly delivered the eulogy.

The 72-year-old passed away on October 1, 2021 after a long battle with lung cancer and heart problems, the latter taking his life. A wake was held in Montmorency with 80 people in attendance; he was privately cremated. Carly organised the memorial service on her dad’s birthday, January 14.

“Fordy’s war service was exemplary and was promoted in the field. He miraculously survived anti-personnel mines and other threats,” said Mr Jones, who first met Fordy on October 1, 1969 at Puckapunyal; 7th Infantry RAR was the beneficiary of Fordy’s choice.”

Mr Jones (‘Baggar Bones’ as nicknamed by Fordy) recalled Fordy’s “good nature”, having nicknames for everyone, the visits to Brunswick RSL where his dad Dave was president and he later becoming secretary/manager of the committee, his football at Brunswick and Montmorency where he played in two premierships with each club and conscription cruelling advancement to North Melbourne, the big Anzac Days, the legendary fishing trips to many destinations and never complaining about his health.

“Fordy was widely loved and admired. Brilliant company, a barrel of laughs. I have a life-time of great memories of Fordy.”

Tributes were also delivered by great football and army mates, Terry Harper of Sydney and John Brigham of Melbourne.

Extracts from Carly’s eulogy are as follows: “Dad was the youngest of David and Doris’s four children. Dad was a promising young footballer and sportsman in general, and as the stars would have it, was conscripted to the Army in his late teens to serve in Vietnam.

“I know the dedication and loyalty that he put into his football career would have been akin to what he put into training and serving. He shared stories with me, I remember the first time he really opened up to me was when we were fishing at Lake Eppalock in his boat, with a story or two.

“As the years went on I got more of a sense of the depth of his experience. Five months before he passed he told me the worst of it and answered my questions, that I’d never had the courage to ask in the past. It was a huge bonding moment I’m glad we shared. I know that he wouldn’t take back serving in Vietnam and the mateship he gained from the experience touched his heart and is something only those mates can understand. Mateship was one of the strongest themes in Dad’s life.

“He needed to be lucky to get home, play some epic football with some more lifelong mates, meet my Mum, Julie and have me.

“As the years went on holiday trips to Lake Eppalock further cemented that, my Dad was actually the ‘King of the Kids’ so I guess that made me some kind of princess. Dad was always a willing Santa, he owned his own Santa suit and had made appearances far and wide, his last at the Wahgunyah Pub.

“Dad moved here to Wahgunyah in 2003 where I think he found the slower, more community driven life he had in his holidays at Lake Eppalock and Eucumbene. And just like everywhere he went has made some life-long mates.

“As Dad would frequently say to me, ‘Carls, there are legends and then there’s me.’ Or if he was feeling generous, ‘there’s legends and then there’s us.’ I did see him as a legend.

“An instigator of fun, yes and an honourable man. A charming larrikin. With just a few words and exaggerated mannerisms he could have the whole crowd in stitches. I’m very proud to call him my father.”

Following the service, mourners filled the Wahgunyah Hotel and outside to celebrate Fordy’s life.