There was joy in the return from my travels, but sadness too when I heard that Frank Jones had passed away on 9th of May, aged 92 years. His funeral held at St Brigid’s Mordialloc on 18th May 2017.
As a longtime member of Mordialloc Writers’ Group, Frank’s poetry and stories have graced eight of our nine anthologies. Another broken link with the group I founded in 1995 and although I am no longer active at Mordialloc workshops, I’m sure there are many Mordi writers who grieve Frank’s passing.
Frank celebrated his 90th birthday at our regular Readings By The Bay and was the oldest writer in our last anthology, Kingston My City, contributing a marvellous reflective essay on his 65-year relationship with Mordialloc and the City of Kingston.
A natural born writer, Frank loved poetry – especially ‘bush’ and rhyming poetry – ‘the old -fashioned kind’, he said to me when he first joined the group. He wrote from the heart, a kind compassionate heart.
I’ve never forgotten when he and his wife Joan turned up at the inaugural Readings By The Bay. Frank stood up and recited from memory, a poem he had written to Joan on their wedding day 50 years before! A romantic at heart too.
When Joan was diagnosed with breast cancer Frank suffered deeply and was shattered when she died. He, of course, used writing to share their story. Another poem showing his love for Joan as she struggled with treatment.
I lost my partner, John in 2003, and also had a breast cancer diagnosis in 2010. These shared sorrows added a depth to my relationship with Frank I didn’t have with other writers in the group.
Frank and I lived a street apart and sometimes bumped into each other when he walked to U3A, or latterly to his acupuncturist in McDonald Street. He’d often ring me and ask for help editing or to give an opinion on a writing idea, or to share the joy of publication.
My daughters knew who was calling before Frank offered his name – he had a distinctive Aussie twang and spoke at the level you’d expect from someone going deaf.
‘Mairi, is that you? It’s Frank Jones,’ he boomed.
When Frank had bouts of illness that kept him from workshops or readings, I still included him in any anthology project because he always produced a memorable poem or story.
He was a writer who understood deadlines, listened to and appreciated any feedback. Also that rarity – Frank accepted the editor’s suggestions and decisions. A boon for those who helped edit the anthologies.
Frank referred to me as his ‘writing teacher’ although he never attended any of my classes!
Frank used his life experiences to produce interesting and contemporary pieces: –
- growing up in the country (Kyneton area),
- serving in WW2 in the RAAF
- working in the building trade (a brickie)
- and newsagency business,
- his love of family,
- his British heritage
- love of swimming – he was in the icebreaker club
- love of golf,
- his love of dogs, especially a particular pet
- his determination to continue to learn the craft of writing – he wrote stories, poems and a play
- his commitment to his Christian Faith and volunteer work for St Vinnie’s
A prolific writer, I can remember how proud Frank was when his family collated his poems into a beautiful leather bound volume. He brought it to Sunday Readings to show us.
What a wonderful gift for a writer – your life’s work in a gold-lettered book!
The book was for one of his significant birthdays. Frank said it was after he became an ‘OBE’, ‘over bloody eighty’!
Frank’s honesty and sense of humour will be missed too. I have many photographs of Mordialloc Writers’ events over the 21 years but only the last few years are digital and easy to add to this blog post. Below is a selection from the last five years.
In Mordialloc Writer’ eighth anthology, Off the Rails, 2012, Frank wrote about attending an interstate swimming carnival – he had a pool in his backyard and swam every morning – perhaps a key to his longevity.
To Albury Grand Railway Station
Hurrah! I proclaim we’re away on the train
Without fanfare or celebration
We glide down the tracks and never look back
As we leave old Spencer Street Station.
Our journey profound, we are Albury bound
In their carnival, we’re listed to swim.
We’ll strive to be best as our bodies protest
Even though we are taut, fit, and trim.
Onwards on time through a mesh of train lines
We view backyards tightly compacted
We wonder amazed, some even quite dazed
By urban plans neatly protracted.
We pay no heed as the train picks up speed
The wheels clattering faster and faster
No one complains as we head for the plains
Where drought is a common disaster.
Soon a voice loud and clear announces
!e cafeteria is ready to serve us
!reading through seats to sample the treats
The swaying train a challenge, if nervous.
Cars on the roads and trucks with their loads
All head for unknown destinations
!e train’s horn blasts every crossing we pass
No cause for great consternation.
Wangaratta and snowfields well passed
Signposted Canberra a further location
The Murray in sight and Wodonga’s delights
We are nearing our destination.
Speed now declines … it’s the end of the line
We’ll get on without hesitation
You won’t read in the papers about our capers
Or the fun of our jubilation.
We savoured the home, of ‘Albury’s Own’
So many sacrificed for this nation
On the hill high, their memorials lie
To overlook Albury’s historic Grand Station.
Frank wrote from the heart expressing himself in a language he understood and used daily – the best qualifications a poet can have – he was himself! He didn’t try to emulate another style or be ‘poetic’. His words authentic. Frank Jones, the poet, writer, and raconteur will be missed.
One of the first poems of Frank’s that our group published is one I have never forgotten and is alluded to in the title of this blog post. It is one I mentioned to others when on my recent travels.
I spent a lot of time overseas visiting cemeteries. Not just chasing information about relatives but because I find them fascinating historical records. Discoveries are inspiring and intriguing, headstones holding so many stories.
Sadness too – all those people who have lived and by the state of some graves, are forgotten, or the family line has died.
Frank Jones – a rich legacy indeed – thank you!
You will be remembered as more than a pause between two dates.