Obituary: Gunnedah man, Richard Ernest Giffen

Richard Ernest Giffen, better known as Richie, was born at the Maternity Hospital in Aberdare on November 2, 1944 to Frederick and Elizabeth Anne Giffen.

Richie grew up in Kearsley and was the youngest of 12 kids. The family was not wealthy and over the years were primarily supported by their mother.

Even though they struggled financially, they were a strong family unit who loved and stood by each other. They enjoyed each other's company laughing, joking and stirring each other.  

Richie used to kick cans or old newspapers rolled into balls around the Kearsley soccer field from a young age and this began his lifelong love of the sport.  He represented the NSW Coalfields when he was 13 years of age and kicked the winning goal for them. 

Richie was then chosen to play in the NSW team to compete in Tasmania, but disappointingly he could not compete as part of the team as his Mum couldn't afford to pay for him to go. As Richie put it, “a rich kid went in his place”.

Richie later went on to play in a Gunnedah team called Ajax and was part of the representative team that won the Acropolis Cup in 1971 against Armidale.  He was awarded “best and fairest” on a number of occasions. 

In 1973, Richie and his lifelong mate Greg Drury went to Newcastle and played in the last four games for Cardiff in the Newcastle group. Richie was a very good, hard player, but not always the cleanest player on the field as he liked to get in and rough it up a bit, but you could always rely on him to give 100 per cent.

In 1959, when Richie was 15, he moved from Kearsley to Gunnedah and boarded with his sister and brother-in-law, Thelma and Reuben Cochrane. He carted sheep with Reuben to earn a wage.

In 1960, he started work at the Gunnedah Abbatoirs and stayed until 1974, working as a boner. He also worked for Seach's Garage of a weekend then later for Gordon Bush when he took over the service station. He worked behind the bar at the Gunnedah Services and Bowling Club for a number of years.

In 1967, Richie married Judy Wright and they had two children, Sharon and Craig. Richie and Judy divorced and the children were left in their father’s care. Richie’s mother moved to Gunnedah from Kearsley in the early 70s and helped him look after the children until she passed away in January 1977.

On January 1, 1975, Richie met Lea at the playroom at Tallebudgeria Creek on the Gold Coast at a New Year's Eve Party and they were married on September 3, 1977 in Lea’s hometown of Ipswich, Queensland.

The family moved to Palm Beach on the Gold Coast and Richie drove for Surfside Buslines. Long hours and an offer to take up his previous position at Gunnedah Colliery saw the family move to Gunnedah in September 1979. In 1983, Richie was involved in an underground accident, which ended his career in the mining industry.

Lea and Richie’s child, Anthony, was born in September 1982 and Richie coached Anthony in soccer from under 6's until he was in under 16's. They did very well in all their competitions and representative sides. 

Richie also coached the Gunnedah South Public School soccer team in 1994 and took them through to Sydney for the finals where they finished equal third out of 436 teams. In early June this year, Anthony took his dad to Sydney to watch their favourite team Liverpool play at ANZ Stadium, which they both thoroughly enjoyed.

Richie got his owner/trainer's license in the early 1990's and successfully bred and trained a horse, “Santa's Return” who achieved a few wins and placings; he enjoyed this immensely. This same horse, "Dash" as he was affectionately called, also saved his life from a bull, which attacked him and left him with three broken ribs and severe bruising.

In the late 1980s, Richie became a member of the Gunnedah Lapidary Club where he took out the champion and best polished stone on a number of occasions. On a Saturday morning, he would teach the children how to cut and polish the stones. He also enjoyed going on field trips with Lea and other club members to collect petrified wood and agate.

Over the years, Richie drove school buses for Millerd's, Keating's and Hope's buses and the children had a lot of respect and admiration for him.  

In 2002, Richie became a member of the Gunnedah Retired Mineworker's Association and in 2008 was elected treasurer. Richie and Lea enjoyed many an outing with other members of the association and going to Myuna Bay with members from other towns where they all got together. 

Richie also enjoyed selling raffle tickets down the street, catching up with people and having a good chat. He was a people person and would often start-up conversations with complete strangers.

He liked to play practical jokes on people, especially Lea, and had a great sense of humour. He used to stir his friends when he caught up with them at the local events, and sang “Happy Birthday” to family members in a Donald Duck voice.

Richie loved animals and was very compassionate. He often brought home stray dogs, cats or birds.

Richie spent 42 wonderful years with his best friend and soul mate Lea. They were married just shy of 40 years and raised three children together, Sharon, Craig and Anthony.

Richie will be sadly missed by his grandchildren, Maddison Square Gardens, Chelsey Soccer Team and Jed Klampert, as he jokingly called them.