Matthew John Walch
Eulogy of Matthew John Walch 8/1/1925 – 22/11/2009
Matthew John Walch was born on the 8th January 1925, the 13th child of a large Mallee family. His mother decided after 12 home births she might try a hospital birth, but she just didn’t quite make it! Matt was born in a station hut on the side of the road near Tempy. Matt always had a habit of leaving doors open, often we would say to him ‘shut the door – were you born in a tent?!” – his reply was always ‘yes, I was!” naturally we never had a comeback for this.
Growing up in Patchewollock, a small farming town in the Mallee, Matt was affectionately known to his brothers as Si or ‘simple Simon’; he did his schooling at Baring, leaving at the age of 14 to help run the farm with his Dad while several of his older brothers were away fighting in WWII. At the end of the war all the brothers came home, but many consequently made lives elsewhere, so Dad continued farming the family land making it his life. Over many years Matt worked tirelessly for the greater good of the Mallee and its farming communities. He was a devoted National Party member and sat on the Wool Growers Board.
Matt met Betty through mutual horse-racing connections in Melbourne and after the ensuing courtship they were married in Mordialloc 53 years ago. Their family soon grew with the addition of Shane and Bronwyn. Matt was a very proud and loving father, taking a keen interest in all their accomplishments, much of which involved him driving them to and from many sporting commitments and events. There are lots of wonderful memories of large extended family outings and functions, town dances, and caravan holidays, each surrounded by the aroma of pipe smoke; Shane trying to burn down the house while playing with matches and Bronwyn helping her Dad feed the sheep but sending him flying off the back of the ute while she happily kept driving round the paddock none the wiser he was flat on his back with a bag of wheat lying on him. Matt loved life; it was always evident in his enthusiasm and joy in whatever he was doing or whomever he was with, complete with an infectious wide grin and smiling blue eyes. He had a love for Australian poetry and many a night you would find him and Tim O'Sullivan reciting at good yarn or poem.
Matt and his Dad helped build the Patchewollock Golf Course, an 18-hole Sand course, there were no greens to be seen! The land was donated and cleared by the two keen golfers and Matt was inducted as the 1st life member of the club in 1972. He also loved cricket and football and was involved in the local club committees. But if Matt wasn’t to be found at one of these venues, you’d most probably find him in the bar of the Patchy pub. However, when Mum rang looking for him of course, he had already left and was on his way home!!!
In 1974 Matt and Betty sold the family farm and moved to Wangaratta, where Matt took up a Farm Managers’ position. The family quickly formed many new friendships, once again becoming strongly involved in their new community, including St. Michael’s Parish. While golf continued to play a large part in his leisure activities, once Matt finally retired, he joined the Wangaratta Bowls club where his passion and love for the game developed. Over the years many good friends were made and the odd trophy gained!
The family expanded with Shane and Bronwyn both marrying and the steady addition of 6 grandchildren. There would be at least one small child invariably perched on his knee or at his feet, always listening to one of his many tales, poems or songs, or just trying to steal his peppermints!
In 1997, he had hip surgery where complications left him partially paralysed, and he required two walking sticks to get around. With loads of determination he became a compulsive walker destined to cure himself. He was well known around the west-end streets, walking miles every day, rain, hail or shine! Sometimes he would stop and rest on someone’s fence, chatting with owners or other walkers, and just enjoying being out and about. Matt always knew the local news well before it was published in the local rag!
Eventually ill health encroached on his freedom and Matt spent the last 4 ½ years at St. John’s nursing Home where he peacefully passed away on Sunday.
We will always remember Matt as a loving family man, a wonderful friend and a true gentleman. A Mallee Boy through and through.