My dad was a man that never complained about his physical illnesses and never really revealed to us just how truly ill he really was, which meant that in the end he had a multitude of ailments (some secret and some not) that even his bullet proof fortitude could no longer manage. And being completely true to form, he waited until everyone was out of the room to take his leave and depart the world. This made the entire event feel so sudden and unexpected, but when you really read all of the early signs (which you always do after an event of this magnitude) we probably should have seen this coming and expected no less from our father.
I really wanted dad to have a nice farewell and even though he hated any fuss or fanfare, we did put together a short and meaningful goodbye for him and I wrote and delivered his eulogy myself. Writing his eulogy was so cathartic for me, not only did I get to say farewell in my own terms and with my own words, I also got to have some beautiful and meaningful conversations with people that also loved him dearly as they shared their special stories and memories of my father with me. The entire experience was really meaningful and it felt like such a perfect way to honour and farewell someone who has had so much influence over my own life.
I have decided to post the eulogy that I wrote as a tribute to my father, so that his story is immortalised and shared with the world, because he genuinely deserves nothing short of that.
If dad was here today, I know that he would be overwhelmed with the amount of people that have gathered here for him. I also know that he would probably say something like "why are you bothering with all this bullshit for?" because that was dad's way.
However, in spite of dad not wanting any fuss or fanfare, I would like to talk a bit about him; about Don Hall - the larrikin, the hard working bloke, the complicated, private and yet always surprising man that I called my dad.
Born to a tough as nails Aussie family of five just before the start of WW2 in 1938, my father knew about hard times and would often talk about his childhood with a mixture of joy and the type of sadness that only those who have struggled could ever really understand.
His family survived the depression, wartime and postwar together in the Western suburbs of Melbourne where he grew up shooting rabbits with his uncle Les, chasing trains for coal, stealing scraps of food from the chook shed to stave off his hunger and generally being a complete scallywag with his older sister Linda.
Linda shared some funny tales about their early childhood adventures that included nicking their father’s treasured chocolates and smokes and the time that dad created a makeshift community swimming pool from a burst water pipe hole that resulted in my dad emerging caked from head to toe in thick brown mud.
One day the two of them had a marvelous time jumping on the bloated belly of what they thought was a deceased horse just to hear the farting noises come out. Turns out that poor horse wasn’t dead at all and when they decided to poke it in the bum with a stick it jumped up and ran off, much to their shock and horror. Linda informed me that that poor horse not only survived its run in with her and my father, but gave birth to a foal soon after…I wonder why?
Dad would often reminisce and regale us with tales about his youth; which were generally tales of mischief, childhood bravery or just straight up acts of delinquency! I recall his stories about shooting snakes with his father’s shotgun that had slithered into the family home, getting picked up by the local cops for various law breaking deeds and his free spirited days upon his beloved Ariel Square 4 motorbike that his older brother swapped for a Ute; which I think that dad never forgave him for.
One of dad’s lifelong friends Carso shared with me what a tremendously good friend my dad had been over the years. He once even offered his beloved Ariel bike to use when I was dating a woman in another town, he said, he was the sort of friend that would give you his arse and shit out of his ribs. Sorry to the sensitive ears for that one….but I do think that accurately sums how generous my dad could be.
My dad was a handsome, suave man and with his quiet cool attitude and rugged demeanor the women always seemed to notice him. My sister Donna recently told me that her friends at school used to comment on how handsome he was when he would pick her up ‘he looks just like Elvis’ they would swoon, and with that perfect jet black, side combed slicked back hair he caught the eye of my mother and from that moment on they fell in love and started a lifelong love story that lasted for more than 60 years.
He married my mother in 1960, much to the distaste of both of their families. My mother’s family was not too sure about my mum marrying an ‘Aussie kangaroo’ as they called him, and my father’s parents weren’t too keen on him marrying a new Australian either, but against all of the odds and prejudices they did marry and they made it work together.
They were young parents, mum only a teenager herself when they welcomed Donna into the world and dad being super handy with his hands built a bungalow on my grandparent’s property so that they could start a life and save for their first home. More children soon arrived, Morry, William, Kath and myself and before he knew it dad had a brood of children to care for and he took his fatherly duties very seriously, especially when it came to his three beautiful daughters.
Fiercely protective and possessive as a father, any boy that knocked on our door for a date was ran through the Donnie Hall series of difficult questions and demands. ‘What exactly are your intentions with my daughter?’ He would ask whilst running his eye over some sweaty, clueless teenager that looked like they were going to explode under the weight of dads inquiring and judging eye.
And dad was incredibly old fashioned like that, he was a boys will be boys and girls will be ladies kind of a dad who had high expectations that we all felt obligated to meet.
And there was something about dad that made us all seek his approval and affections because underneath that hard exterior beat the heart of a truly soft and genuinely sensitive man. Dad was firm but fair and we all knew that he only had our best interests at heart.
Those of us that knew him well understood that dad was actually just a big marshmallow who had mellowed greatly over the years and who loved nothing more than a joke (preferably a dirty one) and a good laugh.
He had many interests like cars, western and action movies and tinkering with mechanical things, especially fiddly things like clocks. He always had a curious mind and liked to learn new things, a fitter and turner by trade, my dad liked knowing how things worked and could spend hours investigating gadgets, taking things apart and putting them back together again.
One thing that we all knew about dad was his incredible work ethic, need to be kept busy and demand for perfection. He built and renovated several homes in his lifetime, one in Deer Park, Daylesford, Ballarat and eventually here in Ararat. House proud up until the end, he was laying new flooring in his house only weeks before he left us. Everyone said that dad would go with a hammer in his hand and that wasn’t far from the truth.
If something needed fixing, dad would do it. If something got broken, dad would work it out, and he took pride in being able to repair and mend almost anything that he put his mind to.
At his essence I believe that my father was a complicated man. He was often guarded, secretive and somewhat mysterious to us all in so many ways. He was difficult to get to know well and at times struggled to even understand the complexities of himself. I shared many conversations with him where he spoke candidly of his deep love and adoration for all of his children, grandchildren and our mother.
His last year with us was fraught with health complications, both physical and mental and it eventually took its toll on dad. But I also know that dad would want us to all remember the good times that we shared with him when we think about him, the laughs, the stories and the wonderful memories that we have of our time together.
I know that I will never watch a John Wayne, Charles Bronson or Clint Eastwood movie or hear a Roy Orbison song without thinking of my dad, I’ll never eat a roast lamb without wishing he could share it with me and I’ll never forget the man that I called dad.
Goodbye dad, we will all miss you very much.
Release Date: 1992
Running Time: 131 mins
An American western, directed and produced by Clint Eastwood, who also starred in the lead role. Unforgiven swept the Oscars in 1992, taking out the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Best Film Editing Awards and began what would be a string of highly successful films for Clint Eastwood.
Set in Big Whiskey, Wyoming in 1880, we witness two reckless cowboys, Quick Mike and Davey Boy, disfiguring a prostitute for laughing at them. After being let off with nothing more than a slap on the wrists, the prostitutes rise up against the law and offer a thousand dollar reward to anyone that is willing to kill the two cowboys for their crime. Two groups of gunfighters, one led by an aging former bandit called William Munny (Clint Eastwood) rise to the challenge, and find themselves at odds with each other and the law in their pursuit of the reward.
This is a violent depiction of the Old West, with great attention given to the importance of the reputation and heroism associated with successful gunslinging. Clint Eastwood is fabulous in what he himself called his final western, and boy he sure goes out in style here. This is one of the best westerns to have graced the big screen in many a year, and it shouldn't be missed.
FINAL SAY: It's a hell of a thing, killin' a man.
4 Chilli Peppers