Died December 23,
2007 aged 62 years
For nearly 45 years Tony and I were close friends. He was my spiritual brother and I loved him dearly. Two other mates and I were at his bedside vigil during his last days with us. We were his closest family. No blood kin survived him. He was an only son and his Mum had gone many years earlier. He never knew his Dad who died in late 1945 as a result of injuries sustained fighting the Japs.
Tony succumbed to Type 2 diabetes related illnesses and too many years of very heavy smoking. He had retired only two years earlier from his teaching position in Law at the University of SA and had settled in an idyllic spot on Houhora Harbour in the far-North of New Zealand. He loved New Zealand and its people.
It was always good yarning with “The Short”. When we saw each other we'd bend each others' ears for hours over a glass or three. In recent years our conversations were mostly by phone every couple of weeks. We argued over some things, mostly our views on politics. But that never became a barrier between us.
The great thing about debating Tony was that he was always logical and consistent in his viewpoints. We did learn from each other and sometimes changed our positions, accepting the other's alternative viewpoint. He was a forceful character with a razor sharp mind. Our friendship was a partnership based on mutual respect and affection. The strongest kind of friendship there can be.
Although Tony was an intellectual, when the occasion demanded he could also be theatrical, funny, and resourceful, all at the same time.
I remember years ago going on holiday with him to Fiji. On our way home, the Indian ticketing manager at Nadi tried to bump us off our confirmed return flight and give our seats to his mates, some Qantas staff. In those days Tony was a big, fit rugby player. We both got angry-- but it was Tony who chased the little bloke around the airline counter, cornered him and threatened to sit on him until he gave us back our seats! It was game, set and match... Wisely, the manager coughed up our boarding passes and ejected the Qantas blokes who were already sitting in our seats.
Tony possessed a streak of heroism as well. In his unique way he recounted this true story at my 65th birthday bash. It happened on that same Fijian adventure.
“Fuller & I met in the early ‘60s when I was a first year student at Adelaide Uni. The fact is he & his first wife, Rhonda, owe their lives to me. Mavuva Island, Fiji, 1969, was the year I rescued them.
We were spear-fishing at night, standing on a pontoon with a little light. Next thing we know poisonous sea snakes start climbing the steps of the pontoon attracted by the light. So I jump in the water, swim to shore and come back in a boat to rescue the First Fuller Family. A debt, my boy, which can never repaid!
We were marooned on that island with beer for five days and ice for only two. So we drank the beer in two.”
Tony was being tongue-in-cheek of course but he had performed a feat straight out of an Indiana Jones saga. There were dozens of sea snakes surrounding us in the water. The light was attracting them but if we turned it out we couldn't see to ward them off, and they were climbing the structure. No matter that we later found they were not dangerous, we all thought they were deadly at the time and so Tony's heroism was very real. It was the bravest thing I've ever seen.
The photos hereunder might remind us a little of our own 'salad days' and of Tony as he trod the boards with his Footlighter friends.
Melbourne, December 2008