Friday, March 29, 2013

Farewell to colleagues


There was a terrible helicopter accident on Thursday 21 March 2013 at Bulli Tops, just south of Sydney.  The four people who lost their lives were John Dunlop, 66, Tony Farmer, 68, Gerry Haddad, 71 and Don Price, 67.  I knew them all and had a special friendship with Don.  I write this post to honour their memory.

I worked for CSIRO Australia, the national applied research laboratory, for nearly 25 years in two stints.  In the 1980s, I was located at the National Measurement Laboratory in suburban Lindfield in Sydney and it was there that I got to know the four, all of them physicists on site.  I eventually moved to another CSIRO site in 1992 and we drifted apart somewhat, although we continued to catch up occasionally.  By 2013, all four had recently retired after distinguished careers.  All leave behind loving wives, partners and families, to whom I send heartfelt condolences.

I shared many things in common with all four, especially our love for science and how it should be applied to make the world a better place. 

During the 1980s I was an enthusiastic distance runner, as was Don, and we trained together almost every lunchtime for about six years.  John was another member of the regular running group.  With Tony and Don I shared a passion for squash, a popular game at the time, and we played friendly matches together on many occasions.  With Gerry I shared participation in a CSIRO Research Leadership course and I recall many animated discussions (furious agreement really!) on any number of topics.

What do I miss especially about these friends?

Don’s considerable talents might not have been obvious to all at first because of his modesty, but he had a huge work ethic, a steely determination, an understated sense of humour and was absolutely reliable in all aspects of his life.  In addition to his scientific achievements, he was an accomplished amateur sportsman, especially in squash and running where he completed many marathons and had a best time under 2 hours 40 minutes.

I remember John’s sharp intelligence and dry wit as we would dissect the latest CSIRO management disasters on our lunchtime runs, Tony’s friendly greetings in the interminable corridors of the National Measurement Laboratory, and Gerry’s desire, eventually fulfilled, for a senior management role in CSIRO.  All were dedicated professionals, the sort of admirable colleagues you knew you could rely on through the ups and downs of a career in a government research organisation.

So, I’m grieving for all four.  The happy memories I have are a comfort to me, but the coming week will be a tough one for everyone who knew them, with multiple funerals to attend.

I especially extend my deepest sympathies to the loved ones all four have left behind.  Their loss is great.



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