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Eulogy

BY LEONIE COOK, CIVIL CELEBRANT, March 2005

It was in Manchester - on the 6th of June 1923 that Annie & Hymie Salkin welcomed their first born son into this world. Today our hearts go out to you Ivor and also to Cyril (who lives in England) – as you say farewell to your brother.

Alf grew up in Solford & even though times were hard – the boys never went without the necessities of life – there’s was a very close family.

Alf was educated at the Grecian Street elementary school - & it was there that his teacher introduced him to plants… an interest that would become a major part of his life.

On leaving school at 14 Alf worked for his uncle as an errand boy – riding his pushbike to make deliveries. That was until the bike was stolen.

That event led Alf to work for another uncle whose business was buying umbrellas from the lost property section at London, Midland & Scotland Railways & repairing them for resale.

Alf became a very skilled repairman. And he always recommended the 12-spoke paragon frame umbrella! Never one to sit still Alf went on to become an auto-electrician & later trained as a fitter & turner.

During the war years the family home was bombed out. After which they requisitioned a larger home where they billeted airmen.

After many long talks with them, Alf was spurred on to join the Air Force. Initially being told: “You needed to be fit & able to solve an equation to enlist!” He knew he was fit – but what on earth was an equation?

So he studied Math at night and as soon as he turned 18 - he enlisted.

Undertaking his training in England - Alf got his wings after soloing in a Tiger Moth. He was then posted to America – traveling there – I might add - in style - on the Queen - Mary with none other than Winston Churchill.

Well… there may have been 1000 other troops on board as well…but….that was just a minor detail….

Once in America Alf was based in Ponca City, Oklahoma - which on reflection - he considered to be the equivalent of Broken Hill.

He continued his training in Ponca City & by the end of 1943 held the rank of Flight Sergeant & was on his way back to England aboard the Mauretania. Home base was Harrow Gate until he trained further in the Middle East & Italy – flying Spitfires… later converting to flying Mustangs as a part of the 112 RAF Sharks Squadron.

Once the war was over – while Alf was still in the Air force and undertook an Art course studying in Italy – little did he know that this would lead to his future career.

The 5th of December 1946 saw Alf de-mobbed and he then returned to Manchester- to work with Ivor in the clothing trade.

Both Alf & Ivor wanted to migrate to New Zealand – but that wasn’t to be & when they discovered that Australia needed machinists – it was only 3 weeks later that they were sailing to Australia ready to commence a new chapter in their lives – arriving in the June of 1949 & immediately setting about working in their trade.

Because the work was seasonal it allowed them to fulfill their aim of seeing more of Australia - Like the time they rode their push bikes to Brisbane & then hitchhiked to Cairns to experience far North Queensland & to visit a friend – who - when they got there – had left!

After having found work in the Cairns area they returned to Melbourne six months later.They continued to explore various parts of Australia on numerous adventures together – for Ivor & Alf shared a close relationship all their lives.

Which brings us to the time that they both decided to take up teacher training. Alf trained as an Art teacher & commenced his new career – But it was in 1956 that destiny played its hand in his life – when he met Esma at the Australian Youth Hostel Association.

Well the rest is history isn’t it? They fell in love and were married on the 12th December 1959 at St.Lukes in North Brighton – soon after making their family home at Pinewood Drive in Mount Waverly. Esma was the love of Alf’s life.

Their marriage blessed them with their two devoted sons Ian & Owen & as a family they still went on adventures every school holidays – to the bush exploring the wonders of nature I know you have many stories from those days Owen.Alf commenced is career as an educator at Balwyn High School & Mount Waverley High School from 1964 - & was instrumental in planning some of the grounds & reserving the area at Mt. Waverley High.

The school honored Alf’s contribution by naming an area of the grounds – “The Alf Salkin Reserve” as a memorial to him.

But Alf – being Alf - wanted to extend himself even further - & in 1973 graduated from Monash University with a Bachelor of Arts & went on to achieve a “Master of Science in 1979.

His teaching career took him to Monash High & then to Brentwood High School – where he was Principle of the Middle School until his retirement.

Alf was a deep thinker – with a love of music, reading, art & of course the environment. And Lillian you shared with me that he was an advocate of social justice and lived by example.

With his fine sense of humour he was always good company and was indeed a gentle soul – a true gentleman. A loyal friend & a generous man to both his family & the community.

As many of you would know Alf & Esma were heavily involved in maintaining the natural bush lands of Waverley. More recently - in May last year - Alf was honoured in the Monash World Environment Day Awards – as Winner of the Community Leadership Award. I know that Ian & Owen are immensely proud of what both their parents had achieved. And a little later Rodger Elliot & Trevor Blake will share with us – more of that area of Alf’s life.

In 20 years of retirement Alf & Esma traveled extensively thru out the world – to places like Tibet, Alaska, Europe, USA (did they visit Ponca City Ian?) as well as journeys thru out Australia – but Ivor – this time not on a push bike!

Alf shared a very close friendship with Amy – Ian’s wife – and I know Amy you always enjoyed his fine sense of humor & respected him greatly.

Most of his life Alf had kept fairly good health- as he and Esma were always focused on a healthy lifestyle. But it was a year ago that he was diagnosed with cancer – & he was devotedly cared for with such love & kindness by Ian, Amy, Owen, Ivor & Pat – every minute of every day, until just a week ago when Alf was admitted to Cabrini.

And despite his illness he never complained….but that was Alf – wasn’t it?

Alf passed away peacefully – ever so peacefully on Monday the 7th of March – for his families love eased his passage – until it was his time to leave.

He will be deeply missed by his family & friends alike.