Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Monday 5th December 2016


A slightly different entry today.

Today we farewelled Geoff's Dad, & this “Brief Life Story”, sums up this wonderful husband, father, grand & great-grandfather, & a friend to many.

                                                    GREGORY FRANCIS JOHN O’REGAN 
                                                        10 May 1933 – 30 November 2016

Gregory’s entrance into this world defined his life.

Born in a simple room up the wooden stairs at the popular Palace Hotel, Watsons Bay, Greg grew up with an attitude towards life where love of family mattered more than material possessions, hard work brought rewards, and faith in God provided solace and a source of direction.

When he was very young, a rift grew between his parents, such that in 1941 his mother placed Greg in Saint Michael’s Orphanage, Baulkham Hills, where he was later joined by his dear brother Paul.

Greg’s days were filled with lessons of life and labour. Earning the trust of the Sisters of Mercy, he relished his expanding dues of milking cows, collecting honey and running errands.

With WWII putting pressure on space in the family home and at St Michael’s, at the age of 10 Greg was transferred to Saint Vincent de Paul Boys’ Home, in Westmead.

The structure, security and the spirituality of the Home influenced Greg immensely, such that by the tender age of twelve Greg had a clarity of mind to devote himself to God.

Marist Brothers Juniorate in Mittagong became his home, where he learnt the ways and discipline of the Catholic Order, and Greg became Brother Placid.

After serving some eleven years learning and teaching, Greg questioned his vocation to the Marist Order, and with nothing more than a few coins in his pocket, he departed, redirecting his energy and passion to becoming a qualified teacher.

It was during this transtion from cloth to classroom at Balmain Teachers’ College that Greg spotted a young, bright and somewhat shy Valerie Hislop.

Despite Greg being a mature age student, all of 24, their relationship flourished, and in the following years Greg made many a trip across Sydney Harbour on his BSA motor bike from his Double Bay home to Val, his North Shore girl.

Greg and Val were married in Saint Michael’s Church, Lane Cove, Sydney in 1960, marking the beginning of a mutual devotion that would last 56 years.

From the rental house in Randwick in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, Greg’s early years of marriage were filled with challenges and cherished moments. He taught locally at Bondi Public School, and later, Haberfield Demonstration School. Creating a family home was a priority, and by 1962 the first family home was designed and built and ready to move into in the far outer suburb of Sydney, Minto.

Greg did a long daily commute on the ‘rattler’ into Sydney as he combined providing for his growing family, as a teacher for the NSW Department of Education, and completing a Bachelor of Arts at University of Sydney; he graduated with Honours in 1964. Greg’s work took the family briefly to Armidale where he lectured at the Armidale Teachers’ College at the University of New England. Accepting a role with the Commonwealth Office of Education, Greg soon returned to Minto with the family.

In 1969 a new chapter in Greg’s life began when he was compulsorily transferred to Canberra as part of the newly formed Commonwealth Department of Education. The young family with six children took up residence in the then barren outer-suburb of Farrer, and the family proceeded to grow, numbering ten by 1980.

His dedication to the Commonwealth Public Service over 26 years saw Greg work on leading policy and programs, such as the Colombo Plan to bring overseas students to be educated in Australia. In the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Greg led and organised some 200 visits of Prime Ministers, Princes, Presidents, and the Pope to Australia. He also managed many delegations which accompanied Prime Ministers Fraser and Hawke on their travels to nations both near and far.

Despite the demands of work life, Greg’s focus on family was personal and paramount. He spent many hours and covered many miles ferrying his children to sport, music lessons, dance classes, choir, church and scripture. Providing for the family of twelve meant that meat and bread was bought wholesale, and crates of produce were purchased from the fruit markets. Holidays largely consisted of family camping trips, often making sure that Val stayed at home to relieve her from the daily load of home duties.

Greg’s links with the Marist Brothers remained a steady force throughout his life, and upon retirement from the Public Service in 1990, he took it on himself to write newsletters, organise reunions, and lend an ear to support former Brothers in times of need.

His later years also gave him additional time for his beloved grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and he was often happiest when there was child on his hip.

Greg’s life was marked by his devotion to his family, his faith and his work.

His values, love and generosity will live on through his family and many others. May he rest in peace.

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