JOHN Thomas Dickie was a war veteran, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a farmer and a friend to many.
A kind and gracious gentleman, his death on April 3 was met with widespread regret across the community he adopted in 1957 as a Soldier Settler on Ghoolendaadi Station.
Like many other veterans, John never spoke about his time in New Guinea until his later years when he revealed that he had been a forward scout with the 2/3 Infantry Battalion.
As the years passed by in silent tread, he began taking part in Anzac Day marches and catching up with old mates - many have now gone before him. His death just a few weeks before Anzac Day 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic lock-down meant a small graveside service for a soldier who served with courage.
John was born at Moree on December 31, 1923, the fourth child of Nellie and Anthony Dickie. The family lived on properties west of Moree where his father worked maintaining bore drains, which was the water supply of the property.
His formal education began in a small hut on the property where they were taught by an older girl. They rode horses or travelled in the horse and sulky "with plenty of stops along the way for mischief". After leaving school, John found work on a neighbouring property, riding home on weekends to visit his family.
When the Japanese came into the war and Australia was under threat he volunteered to enlist but was sent home because he was too young - only to discover that he had been called up.
John was barely out of his teens when he enlisted at Rutherford on April 3, 1943, and went on to serve for just over three years. He was discharged on June 25, 1946.
John was a devoted father, ferrying his children around to various sporting events, secure in the knowledge that the farm was in good hands with his wife at the helm.
He married Beverley, the love of his life, in 1953 and they were blessed with their first two children Leonie and Peter. In March 1957, he was successful in the first ballot for a block on Ghoolendaadi. This ballot was the second largest ever conducted by the War Service Land Settlement Act Commission with the 42,000-acre station split up into 36 blocks, ranging from 950 to 1200 acres.
Of the 1796 applications, 1337 were accepted with the 36 successful applicants paying between 191 pounds and 226 pounds a year perpetual lease. John drew Block 11. A Soldiers Settlement Association was formed, a sports club set up and tennis courts built and two fire brigades established. A school had already been set up by the Goolhi settlers on the nearby property Craigelea which had another room added when the new settlers arrived.
The arrival of Kevin and Darlene completed the family and John and Beverley Dickie worked side-by-side building and growing a very productive farm, which became very busy over the school holidays as cousins and friends came to visit.
John was a devoted father, ferrying his children around to various sporting events, secure in the knowledge that the farm was in good hands with his wife at the helm. He loved family events and would try to attend every 21st birthday, baptism or wedding. He found a new joy in life with the birth of grandchildren and later great-grandchildren.
In later life, the Dickies travelled a great deal, criss-crossing Australia many times. John also travelled overseas journeying to the UK, Egypt, Turkey, Canada and New Zealand taking great delight in meeting people and seeing new places.
As the years rolled by, dementia stole Beverley's memory, causing great heartache for the man who had fought in a war and battled the elements to establish a farm and raise a family. The love of his life had withdrawn from the world and he missed her terribly as she went into care.
John was a man of great faith and was highly regarded in St Joseph's parish. Every year on Anzac Day he would be in the front pews with other veterans for the commemorative mass as poppies were placed on the Easter cross, remembering those who had died, and later paying his respects at the cenotaph.
With COVID-19 restrictions limiting numbers at funerals, the late John Dickie was farewelled with a graveside service at Gunnedah Memorial Park Lawn Cemetery on April 9, 2020.
The service conducted by Fr Vince Amaro of St Joseph's Catholic Church and the Returned Services League providing poppies to be placed in remembrance. The casket was lowered to the powerful wartime tune of Vera Lynn's We'll Meet Again.
The late John Thomas Dickie is survived by Beverley, his wife of 67 years, and his children Leonie, Peter, Kevin, Darlene and their families.