Joe’s Eulogy given by Al Attard.
Good morning, for those of you that don’t know me my name is Al, and I am my late fathers son.
Firstly I would like to thank you all for taking the time to gather here today, to mark the life and times of my dad Joseph Attard, or Joe as he preferred being called.
The day has finally come which all families and friends dread, the passing of a loved one!
But what is one day, or even a hundred days of sorrow, compared to a lifetime full of love, friendship, achievement and happiness, creating cherished memories for those who are left behind. A life well lived!
So today I want you all to celebrate my dads life, and not to dwell upon that his physical being is no longer with us. He continues to live on, in all our hearts and in all our memories.
Dad was a proud yet forgiving man, who always put his family and friends first, he had a good moral compass (which is a rare commodity in todays world), a strong work ethic and liked the finer things in life, such as; fast cars, good whiskey, nice suits and of course coronation street.
Born in Malta in 1946, the tiny island had been devastated during the war. When dad was 4 years old, his parents Mary and Colin decided to move the family to Melbourne Australia to find a better life. During the 32 day voyage, dad stumbled across the ships engine room, it immediately sparked something inside of him and his love of engines and all things mechanical began.
The second eldest of four brothers, as a young man he was an accomplished student and in his spare time enjoyed working out in his home made gym, was the proud owner of a six-pack and had biceps that I have always been envious of! Although 5ft 7ish he enjoyed playing basketball and ozzy rules football, supporting his favourite team, Collingwood.
However, when the family returned to Malta in 1962, dad’s favourite pastime was chasing after the love of his life, my mother, Jane. He would get his friends to spy on mum when she was out, to let him know when her dad (my granddad) was not around. Once the spy network had informed him that the coast was clear, he would casualty stroll past her in an attempt to catch her eye.
Today we would call that behaviour stalking, but it clearly worked and they married in 1969 and would of celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary on the 22 June.
One of dad’s other passions was his career in the RAF. In 1977 this would take the family away from Malta, which saw us being posted all over the UK and Germany. Shortly after the move when we were based at RAF Henlow, and after a routine dental appointment he was diagnosed with cancer.
Luckily it was caught in time and treated successfully. As a young boy I remember him coming home from hospital, and that he looked different but it didn’t matter to us, as we were just happy to have him home.
Once back at work, dad built a reputation for being firm but fair, this was further reinforced by his arm wrestling ability in the Sgts mess bar, and I’m led to believe he was undefeated!
When my sister and I were young, every year the family would go back to Malta for our summer holidays. On one occasion when based in Germany, dad decided to drive to Malta. We drove though most of Germany, Austria, the entire length of Italy, stopping off at Rome to pick up his elder brother Father Mark, before catching the ferry from Sicily to the grand harbour in Valletta.
At the time Kath and I moaned most of the way, we fought like cat and dog in the back of the car and I felt carsick. Looking back it was a great family adventure and one I know my sister and I will never forget, especially the part when she punched me in the eye, in a small picturesque village in Austria. We later found out that the only reason dad decided to drive was so that he could show off his new Honda Accord Executive, equipped with air conditioning and electric windows to his other brothers, Tony and Mario.
Dad retired from the RAF aged 55 after 36 years service, reaching the rank of Warrant Officer. He was award the Meritorious Service Medal for his service.
Not one to sit around, after leaving the military he worked as a civil servant based out of Stanbridge and for Boeing. During this time he studied at the Open University and obtained his degree, before retiring.
Dad’s love of fast cars is well documented; something that was lesser known was his obsession with watches and planes! You would think being Ex RAF, of course he would have an interest in planes, but these planes weren’t the flying type! In fact he had a vast collection of woodwork hand planes, used for planning rough pieces of wood smooth. These ranged from tiny ones that fit in the palm of your hand, to great big lumps of metal that he could hardly lift! He treated them like his little babies, regularly showing me any new additions to his collection before hiding them away in boxes all around the house.
The same could be said about his watches; once he had safely tucked his hand planes away he would show me the latest addition to his watch collection, followed by the words “don’t tell mum”. A secret I was sworn to keep, until recently, when she found them in one of his draws. Sorry mum, at least there were no sports cars hidden anywhere!
Dad was extremely handy, as a young boy I would follow him everywhere, always watching him making or fixing things in the garage. This included rebuilding the cars engine or replacing the brakes. Making furniture for the house, installing the plumbing and fitting the electrics. Most people would just wash their car; he would remove all the panels, re-spray them in the front garden and put the car back together again. There was literally nothing he couldn’t do!
I’ve already touched on his sporting ability as a young man; later in life he started playing golf. On upgrading his clubs, I inherited the old set and we would play when I came to visit. On one occasion whilst playing at RAF Henlow golf club, it was my turn to Tee off. Before taking my swing I told dad to move position slightly as he was roughly at my 2 O’clock, ignoring me he said “just hit the ball will you”, so I took my back swing and let rip!!
Now I hadn’t played for a while and my technique was slightly off, so the face of the club didn’t quite hit the golf ball square on. Hitting it at a funny angle, I sliced the ball and it immediately began to accelerate to approximately 200mph straight towards the 2 O’clock position, where dad was still stood!
He didn’t stand a chance; the ball hit the inside of his right thigh!
In my defence I had given him fair warning! Once the pain had worn off, he proceeded to limp around the remainder of the course before we headed home. Needless to say we never played golf together again!
To keep himself active later in life, he swapped golf for bowels but I think it was more to do with the social aspect than the exercise!
One of his favourite socials events was the annual Fathers on Board. Every year serving sons would host their fathers at Poole. The day included displays, shooting on the range and helicopter rides followed by a Regimental dinner that evening in the Sgts mess. However, the highlight of dad’s day was undoubtedly the ride in the fast boats. He would sign a consent form stating that he most defiantly did not have a heart condition, was not fitted with a pacemaker or was on any form of medication. The boats would leave Poole harbour and transit to Studland bay at high speed. As the boats went over a wave or we were sprayed with seawater, dads face would light up, he absolutely loved it! When we got back on dry land he would still be buzzing for hours.
Whenever I came home to visit the first thing he would say to me would be “Son, when is the next fathers on board, I want to go on the boats again!” With a wry smile the second thing would be; “that’s a nice jacket, but it looks too small on you!”
After a few days I would head back to Somerset jacketless and dad would be the proud owner of a brand new jacket, which fitted him perfectly!
Dad’s health slowly declined over the last 18 Months and towards the end he was suffering and in a lot of pain. This didn’t stop him however, going out with his mate Toddy whenever he got the chance, insisting on doing a BBQ for the Platinum jubilee celebrations and starting a small woodwork project in his shed, which I’m sure was just an excuse to buy some more tools.
Winston Churchill once wrote, “If you are going though hell, keep going!” And that’s exactly what Dad did, he kept going, with dignity, until he could go on no more.
He is at peace now, drinking a whiskey at the bar with all his family and friends that have gone before him.
However, his legacy continues to live on; in his daughter Kathy, in me, in his four beautiful grandchildren, Adam, Gabby, Max and Millie who he cherished so much, and in the love mum has for dad, which is as strong now as it was 53 years ago, and love never dies!
RIP Dad, gone but never forgotten.