JOE was born to Ivena and Arthur Girvan somewhere in Bombala on July 31, 1918.
Joe and his four sisters, Lottie, Sheila, Hazel and Ettie, and his only brother, Rodney, used to walk to Bibbenluke for school from Moore Springs.
Ettie is the only surviving sibling who currently lives in Gosford.
The family left Moore Springs to move to Bombala where they lived in Caldwell Street.
The six country kids furthered their high standard of education at Bombala Public School.
One of Joe’s first jobs was working with his father, Arthur, digging out briar bushes at Cambalong and Quidong.
Whilst on the job, they lives out of an old tent in rain, hail, snow and shine.
Later on in life, Joe couldn’t work out why his kids could ever want to go camping.
Joe and his dad would wear out two mattocks each a week and they would buy mattocks as a baker’s dozen so they would get one for free.
It was only two months ago that Joe said he could go back and find the old ones that they had left behind.
After living in Caldwell Street, the family then moved to Emslie where Joe worked as a station hand for Gerald Platts.
Joe and Gordon Platts learnt how to shear sheep here in the early days.
Just last week, Gordon paid Joe a visit in hospital and they talked about their younger days and what they were fed for lunch in the sheds when learning how to shear.
Now comes the romantic bit.
Sally Summerill was good friends with Joe’s sisters and would visit and stay with them over the weekend.
One day, Joe came in the day, took one look at her and put his arm around her.
They both went weak at the knees and never again had eyes for anyone else.
Joe and Sally were happily married for 67 years.
They married in Bombala on March 22, 1947, and continued to live at Emslie where Joe helped look after his father whose health was failing.
In 1950 Robert turned up not longer after they moved to Girrawheen to work for the Shaws with Don, Jim and Ernie Badewitz.
In 1953 another surprise happened when David appeared on the scene and it was sometimes mentioned as the biggest mistake they ever made.
But in 1957, they had another surprise in the form of Sally-Ann.
All three were acts of God as Joe and Sally always maintained they didn’t know what sex was and never got any older than 21.
But even after all their trouble-making and pranks, Joe couldn’t have been more proud of his kids and later his grandchildren Mark, Andrew, Illise, Aaron and Cheyanne, and great granddaughter Takara, and self adopted Anita.
He was also very proud when Robert graduated to be an ambulance officer in Sydney and in later years enjoyed the skills of Robert when he began making model trucks and machines.
He was also very proud of his daughter Sally-Ann with some of her popular wins with her race horses.
And over the years, Joe was proud of his garden.
It had everything from pumpkins to carrots, and peas to potatoes.
He was always a good station hand and spent many a night repairing a baler on the kitchen table while Sally was trying to feed the kids.
Girrawheen also had one of the first fire fighting tanks and pumps in the district set up on an old Bedford truck.
On many occasions, Joe and Ernie would head off to a fire and have to carry extra water for the truck, as it had a bad reputation for boiling and not too many brakes, if any.
In 1969, Joe had a bad accident when a chip of wood flew up from a chainsaw he was using, hitting him on the forehead and causing a cerebral haemorrhage, and a trip to Canberra.
Sally went up to look after him, staying with family.
Money was very short and the big battle was on to survive.
The three kids were left at home and were looked after by the Badewitz family and their grandmother Ruby Summerill.
Ernie Badewitz became the kids’ second father as he would make sure they got to school and gave them a good kick up their butts when needed.
Sissy Badewitz would come out once a week to do the cooking with Ruby and Jimmy Badewitz would come out of a weekend to get the kids into trouble and have a lot of fun.
You should try to ride a billy cart behind Jimmy’s car ... with him driving.
When Joe came home, he worked tirelessly to get himself rehabilitated.
He would have all the firewood cut and brought home in lengths so he could cut the stove wood with a cross saw to exercise his bad arm.
David, being the stirrer he is, would torment Joe and call him Billy Sunshine to make him cranky to try to make him hit him with his bad arm but forgot one day that he still had one good arm.
The front verandah became a gym with exercise bikes, rope pulley, hammers, walking machines and anything else you could think of.
This became a family commitment to get Joe back on track.
It was great to see other family members, neighbours and old friends call in to help or just pull up on the road to have a chat or even just check if he was OK.
Later in life, Joe was rushed into theatre at canberra and had a brain operation to repair yet another bleed that had developed from a fall.
In no time he was back exercising, working at anything he could do just to get back on track.
Even until the day he passed, he still maintained that he was going to come right and live a natural life.
Exercise continued until the day of his passing with the nurses grabbing him as he used the monkey bars set up in the toilet of the hospital to help him with his squats and stand-ups.
The nurses were amazed at this and some said that Joe was shaming them into going home and doing their own exercises.
Joe became good friends with all the staff at the hospital as they looked after him as if he was their own father.
Joe was the original tormenter, and loved a good joke and annoying his grandkids by doing anything he could think of just to get a rise out of them.
Even the week before his passing, instead of calling Aaron his right name, he called him ‘The Chopper’.
And if you think David was a tormenter and prankster, you should have been around when Joe was feeling cheeky.
In 2008, Joe received letters from the NSW Governor Marie Bashir, the NSW Premier Morris Iemma, the Member for Monaro Steve Whan, the Member for Eden Monaro Dr Mike Kelly ... and Kevin 07.
Before opening these letters he mentioned to all around him that the government in power was in big trouble and needed help and that they were calling him down to sort out their problems.
On opening the letters he was slightly disappointed to find out that they were only wishing him a happy 90th birthday.
All who knew Joe are blessed to have known him, as there are but a few men who have overcome some very tough challenges on so many occasions only to have stood tall and faced them with his family and friends.
And remember, it’s not the end, as what the caterpillar perceives is the end, is but the beginning to a butterfly.
- Cheyanne Girvan