14 September 2008

Pat Snowden - remembered

Patrick Snowden, a dear friend, died of a brain tumour at the age of 47 on 5 September 2008. Jack Snowden, Pat's 16 year old son, Jeb Carroll and Pat's brother, Peter, each gave magnificent eulogies for Pat at his funeral service on the morning of 12 September 2008. This is the text of the brief remembrance I gave later that day at his wake, along with others, at the Longueville Pub in Sydney.


Patrick was the truest of friends.

Like many here today, Pat and Tracey have been an indelible part of the fabric of our family's life for decades. My wife, Susie, met the inseparable pair at Macquarie Uni Law School. Pat gave us the most valuable wedding gift conceivable: he passed up the opportunity to play for the 1988 Club Championship at Oatlands to attend our wedding; an act of self sacrifice in the interests of friendship that was typical of him, and for which we revere him.

We have been on family holidays with the Snowdens, staying in the same apartment with all of both our families' then very young children, and Pat has volunteered to take all six of them fishing! And what's more "alone and unassisted, brought them back".

Pat and Tracy have been the bedrock of reliability, the bricks of personal responsibility and the mortar of community mindedness that many of us mortals have looked to, to help reinforce meaning in our confused lives. And Pat, by the way he lived his life, bridged a gap that is seldom bridged, except in epic poems and ballads, that between the ideal of classical manhood and the modern Aussie bloke.

He lived a life of honour, humour and virtue.

When you were with Pat it was easy to feel you could be the best person you could be, because of the living example of chosen excellence that he so unassumingly projected. He made things that are hard for many of us, like engaging optimistically with complex clerical tasks or intimidating officials, easy and natural. And the effect of his positive personality spread to all those around him.

And there's almost no where in this state and beyond that Pat hasn't been and made friends. Anywhere in fact that that now legendary old silver Toyota Cressida of his could take him. With Pat a passing encounter with the person serving him in a milkbar in Tumut or a servo in Lithgow or a baitshop in Port Stephens, could easily, and did under Pat's orchestration, become a collective discussion involving everyone in the shop, about the special qualities of the meat pies or the vanilla milkshakes or the frozen prawns being sold there. And next year, when he next passed through, he would pick up that conversation again, as if he had just ducked out for a moment, and they would remember him, often by name, and treat him like a returning prodigal son. No-one else I have known could do that with such unaffected charm, and everyone always felt the happier for it.

My fondest memories of Pat are goatbusting. Many fellow goatbusters are here today, and although we have not all met before, we all know each other. Patrick has sent us all photos and emails of his many expeditions with each of us, and we have heard him tell the stories. I went goatbusting with him and his son Jack and and my boy, John, on trips to the hills west of Mudgee. Pat, whose call sign on our two way radios was "Goatbuster 1", always made a special point of looking out for John. He mentored him and Jack subtlety; demonstrating by his actions the delayed rewards of discipline, meticulous preparation, focus on the task and the importance of consistency and follow through.

Pat simply loved scrambling up and down that steep rocky country chasing goats. He was plotting their downfall from the moment he woke; musing on their whereabouts aloud even whilst doing his ridiculous but invariable morning stretch routine. We spent hours scouring rocky outcrops and ridges with binoculars, and then painstakingly stalking goats spotted on some distant hillside, for up to half a day or more, implementing his carefully laid plans that, often as not, came to nothing, but of which we never tired, so engrossing was the company and the task. Friendships formed in such adventures never wane, even when like me you are a lousy shot and your companions are such fine marksmen.

For Pat knew a thing or two about trajectories. He was a single figure handicapper at Concord, Oatlands and Cromer, but he still had time for hackers like me. And a round of golf with Pat was one of life's great pleasures, as all those who have had that privilege will testify.

But he lives on. He lives on in Lucy's beauty and intelligence; in Jack's competence and sense of honour and in Hannah's generosity and graciousness. And above all he loves on in Tracey's love.
And he lives on in the hearts of each of us, whose lives he touched.

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