A true gentleman devoted to

By Country News

Those who knew Rod Harmer would say he was a true gentleman who maintained respect, honesty and kindness wherever he went.

The Dookie resident is being remembered for his undeniable love for the farm and his larger than life personality, following his death last month.

Roderick David Harmer was born on February 2, 1933, and died on December 24, 2018, aged 85.

He was a husband to Dawn, a loving father to Bev, Gayle and Julie (dec), cherished grandfather to seven and great-grandfather to five.

Born at Ambermere Hospital in Shepparton, Mr Harmer was the fourth child for Frank Esmond and Violet Milne Harmer.

A family of three boys and one girl, the siblings attended Cosgrove Primary School and then Shepparton High School.

Living on the family farm Braefoot in Cosgrove, the Harmers attended Cosgrove Presbyterian Church and Sunday School in Dookie every fortnight, something which cemented a strong faith in Mr Harmer.

In Mr Harmer’s eulogy, his family acknowledged his childhood on the farm was filled with many adventures and lifelong memories he formed with his siblings.

In 1945 when Mr Harmer was just 11, tragedy struck the family when mother Violet was killed in a car crash on Boxing Day.

‘‘Rod became a huge blessing to the family and his father Frank had a reason to keep living after his darling wife Violet died,’’ his family said.

‘‘This little 11-year-old was a comfort and joy to the whole family’s life.’’

Suffering from the loss of his mother, Mr Harmer turned his attention towards playing practical jokes on those around him, something that enabled him to take his mind off his devastating loss.

On many occasions his sister Joy would sit down to listen to Blue Hills on the wireless and was left wondering why it would become static.

One day Joy decided to find out what was causing the interruption.

During her investigation she found her brother outside twisting the aerial, after which she quickly grabbed a broom and chased him around the garden.

In January 1952, Mr Harmer underwent four months of National Service before completing close to five years of Citizen Military Service.

During this time he met Dawn at the Youanmite Hall in a progressive barn dance.

His family said he coaxed Col Knox, a well-known Dookie identity, to give him a lift to the dances in Shepparton where he continued to meet Dawn.

‘‘After their Saturday night dates Rod would walk Dawn to her parents’ home where they would share supper together,’’ the family said.

‘‘Rod knew that Dawn’s mother would always have a leg of lamb cooked and would take the shank for the trip home.

‘‘The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and Rod sure fell for that.’’

Mr Harmer went on to marry Dawn on September 10, 1955, the date of his mother’s birthday, at Scot’s Presbyterian Church.

They welcomed three girls into their family who they dearly cherished.

‘‘Rod was a devoted father who adored his children; he referred to his three girls as his three little chicks,’’ his family said.

‘‘He enriched their lives by spending quality time with them and showing an interest in all that they were involved in.’’

Mr Harmer’s family said he strived to make fond memories with his daughters while on their farm Round Plain near Dookie, and despite his demanding job he continued to encourage them through their education.

After harvest each year, a well-earned holiday with family and friends was spent by the sea at Rosebud, spending days sightseeing, swimming and playing tennis in the sunshine.

Rod had a distinguished sports career, excelling in football, tennis and lawn bowls later on in life.

He first played senior football for Dookie at just 15 years old, he was a member of the Tungamah league 200 club, played in the 1962 premiership side and was named in the Dookie Allstars team as centre man.

He was president of the Dookie Football Club from 1973 to 1975, something his family said brought out his caring and supportive nature.

‘‘He did not just wear the tie but was actively involved by rubbing players down or taping them up to get on the field — he was the president who involved himself with all the players, committee and supporters,’’ they said.

After his body slowed down, Mr Harmer channelled his sporting skills towards lawn bowls with the Dookie Bowls Club.

During his time with the club he held nearly every position, was president for three seasons, club champion on three occasions and runner-up many times.

Mr Harmer’s generous nature was evident through the many hours he donated through sporting club working bees and as a volunteer firefighter with the Cosgrove/Pine Lodge CFA.

‘‘Rod was very community-minded and involved himself in a lot of local activities, which included playing Santa in many childcare centres and primary schools in the area — and what a jolly Santa he was,’’ his family said.

His family also acknowledged his love of nature, saying they would often find him sitting in his garden enjoying the many wonders of God’s creations.

Mr Harmer’s family quickly grew over the years with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren bringing him endless joy and something he considered a true blessing in his life.

His childhood on the family farm in Cosgrove and married life near Dookie were forever ingrained in his heart, and his family said he had always wished to continue doing what he loved on the farm for as long as possible.

‘‘Rod was a brave and courageous person, having battled through the loss of his mother at an early age, a house fire at Round Plain with a young family, and later the loss of his beloved eldest daughter Julie,’’ his family said.

‘‘He will be remembered for lighting up our lives and the room when he entered, his gorgeous smile, his outgoing and cheeky personality — he was a true gentleman, respected, honest, kind and always fair.’’

—Liz Mellino