I think the great St. Paul had people like John Formby in mind when he penned those words Julie, his daughter, proclaimed in the Second Reading: I have fought the good fight to the end, I have run the race to the finish, I have kept the faith. For John it was a long and grueling race … a marathon. John was first diagnosed with cancer twenty-nine years ago. In recent years this was a crushing cross for John to carry as it drained his energy and prevented him from undertaking the projects and tasks on his long to do list. To the end John remained patient, resilient and non-complaining.
The sometimes gruff and loud personality you met when first introduced to John masked a character with a big heart and generous and caring spirit. When you asked John how he was feeling he’d normally respond: I’m doing o.k. buddy. On a really bad day he’d say: It’s a bit tough today and then deflect the conversation and ask: How are you doing?
With St. Paul, John could announce with conviction: I have kept the faith. John’s living of the faith was manifest in generous and practical deeds. He and Lorraine forged lasting friendships with a procession of priests who came to serve at St. Albert’s over the years. Their home in Trenerry Avenue was a haven where a warm welcome and generous hospitality was always on offer. In this John was replicating the example of his mother, Marj who was the housekeeper caring for priests in the Birdwood Presbytery for a number of years.
John was active in the Loxton Community regularly helping out as a volunteer driver for the medical bus. In the Parish John regularly proclaimed God’s Word at Mass, led Liturgies of the Word with Holy Communion when there was no priest available to celebrate Mass and helped Demi count the Sunday collections. Doubtless he and Lorraine’s greatest and most enduring legacy was opening their property for the regular Parish Auctions that were known far and wide. Whilst the auctions raised significant funds for much-needed Parish maintenance over the years their importance went well beyond the monies raised. They were a magnet for bringing the community together … parishioners … young, old and in-between … Parish and School … Catholics and non-Catholics. Those who gathered marvelled at the skills of the auctioneers … Peter Jackson, Curly Golding, the late Gavin Kelly, John and others whose voices were rendered horse as they sold a trove of treasure and trash of enormous proportions. The activity in the yard and auction shed was frenetic, loud and jovial.
After God John’s greatest love was his wife, Lorraine. Simply being in their presence you could sense the depth and quality of their love for each other. Lorraine, your love and care for John across more than fifty-six years and very especially as his health declined were heroic by any standards. You brought him so much strength, joy and comfort. You will miss him so much.
To Catherine, Julie, Michael, Elizabeth, Stephen and Matthew and your families, you knew how much your dad and poppa loved you. The photo gallery of the grandies and great-grandies on the loungeroom wall at Trenerry Avenue was a source of immense pride for John. Dad and Poppa and Lorraine were never happier than when the family gathered at the family home for Christmas, Easter, birthdays and other special occasions.
I remember John’s absolute delight at the time of Julie and Kerry’s wedding. A few weeks ago when I rang John, grandson, Ashley was visiting from the Northern Territory. John shared with me in that moment what a blessing that visit was and how much it meant to him. I know too how much John appreciated the regular visits of his sister, Carmel and the very special relationship he shared with Carmel, Norman and Margaret.
Last Saturday afternoon, Fr. Paul visited John one last time and shared with him the sacramental graces of our faith. Within fifteen minutes Jesus was present to John one final time as his earthly life reached its culmination and goal: Come to me, John, you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart. All that there is to come now is the crown of righteousness.
Today, in this Requiem Mass, we commend the soul of our husband, brother, father, father-in-law, poppa and friend to the loving mercy and eternal presence of Jesus who John loved so much and served so faithfully. Let us continue to pray for the repose of John’s soul and for Lorraine and all the family. Rest in God’s peace, good friend.