Eulogy for Revd Robert Lamerton 28 March 1948 - 17 October 2008
Delivered by John Lamerton at St Philip's on 20 October 2008.See also:
Mum was disappointed I didn't shave this morning, but I felt that to honour the man with arguably the best beard, I should symbolize his most significant feature with my own lame attempt!
Also, I should say, last Christmas Dad asked us to call him Rob and no longer Dad (or an alternative of one of our affectionate nicknames), so for what I have to say today I will refer to him as Rob.
He was born in Adelaide in 1948 to Bob and Josie Lamerton, the eldest of five — plus a recently discovered half-brother.
Rob was always surrounded by the extended family especially Pa and Nanna Lamerton (whose tools and tool chest we still have … perhaps the heaviest inheritance a Lamerton could receive).
He loved growing up near the beach and quickly joined the surf life saving club at Brighton Beach where he naturally took on roles of responsibility and leadership.
He also enjoyed lacrosse and cricket. (A rumour has it he played with and even bowled out Greg Chappell, which gives me some encouragement in my recently discovered passion for the game).
It was quite early that he began his professional career as a drummer with 'The Relics' and played all over the … well, Brighton/Somerton Park church youth group scene! He was renowned for his drum solos which provided further opportunities to fill-in occasionally for band 'The Twilights' (some of which later became The Little River Band).
Rob once told us "I don't recall when I first began to follow and love God" it was just always there, but his faith was developed thanks to his membership with the Church of England Boys Society and the St Philip's Anglican Church youth group, where he also was an altar boy and server — obviously laying a foundation for perhaps a more lasting career than his drumming!
When he was 21 years old, Rob moved to Canberra to take up a role with the Department of Defence as a Naval Architectural Draftsman; it was in this time he befriended many at the Macquarie Hostel and the St John's Reid young adults group
The move from Adelaide to Canberra obviously sparked an interest for Rob to travel and he left his job to hitchhike north through country New South Wales, along the Queensland coast and into the NT. It was during this time on an outback road that he felt a deep confirmation of his calling to Christian ministry.
Rob soon after took on theological studies at St John's Morpeth, where two of his lecturers were Ray Williamson and George Browning. He also befriended some lifelong ministry mates there, Mike Birch, Ray McInnes and Warwick Cuthbertson (who flew up from Burnie, Tasmmania last week to be there for Rob's final breath). Warwick kindly revealed that Rob was a passionate scholar of Greek — something none of our immediate family knew about!
After completing his studies and being ordained, Rob's first placement was at St Matthew's in Albury, where he began a long and loyal service to this region and diocese. Just as noteworthy is that this is also where he met Sandra!
However, Rob was soon relocated to St Paul's Cooma which meant Rob and Sandra had to cross the Snowy Mountains when they wanted to see each other. Obviously no mountain was too high, as on 29th September 1978 they were married!
A year later their first son was born; I'm very grateful! A move then to St John's Batlow produced Rob and Sandy's second son Gareth. Another move after that, to All Saints in Tumut, saw their daughter Jane come into the world.
I think they realized the cold climates were only going to produce more offspring, so they quickly left for a much more exotically located parish, St Matthew's in south Queanbeyan. It was here Rob and our family forged a close friendship with Simon and the Wooldridge clan.
Rob couldn't resist the offer to serve as the parish priest on the south coast in the town of Eden, and it was here he taught us children the essential life skills of fish fishing, swimming and surfing! It was also here he developed a good mateship with Rob Donald, who had been appointed to the newly developed parish of Merimbula and Pambula.
After four and a half years of fruitful ministry and family time on the coast, Gareth's education was a consideration, and we moved to Christ Church, West Goulburn, where Rob had a little more time for his hobbies; restoring vintage furniture and woodwork — this included a close replica to the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse!
Another four and a half years passed and the opportunity was taken up to move to Canberra, where Rob was posted in an associate role to St Paul's Manuka, followed by a brief but thoroughly enjoyable time at All Saints' Ainslie before a locum posting in Young.
Finally, Rob came to another St Philip's, this time here in O'Connor. With children leaving school, moving out of home and taking up study and work of their own, Rob attempted to give more of his personal time to the finer elements of life. His music and drums, his wine and his single-malt whisky, and a bit more furniture restoration … or collection! He maintained his health with a bit of squash, his morning swim and a daily jog … which later, with a bit of ageing, become the daily walk!
There was something about St Philip's — Rob didn't want to leave!
Throughout Rob's life, he exemplified a relentless love for all people, regardless of their background or history. He often spent his days in ministry going the extra mile for people whom many of us perhaps disregard. Countless times he was late for our evening meal due to giving someone assistance of some kind. Many of these actions were often unseen and beyond the call of duty, but he couldn't help but restore the confidence and self esteem of someone who was 'down and out'.
This was his gift.
Now to one of his other qualities — his humour! In our family, us kids would moan at the 'Dad's jokes' that frequented our meal times and car journeys. Many people here will have stories of how Rob made them laugh and smile — and I hope you'll tell them to me later. This side of Rob will be one of his most memorable.
I recently heard of when he announced to the St Philip's congregation that he was going into hospital to have an operation for colon cancer and that this would then make him a 'semi-colon', I was tempted to follow up this joke today by saying he has actually become a 'fullstop'. In honest reflection, however, I think he has become a resounding exclamation mark, challenging us all about how we carry our lives before God and each other.
I had the opportunity to sit with Rob last week in the hospice. We laughed, shared a whisky and watched some cricket (at the time Australia was winning). But what I found really valuable was telling my Dad that it was because of him that I had a faith in God, that he laid a foundation of grace, mercy, forgiveness and love in my life — not through words or father/son lectures, but through his lifestyle. I think the qualities of acceptance, warmth and healing were all perpetual traits of Rob's life and ministry and more than likely have touched most of us here.
My prayer with my Dad that night in the hospice was that we all could continue in that same spirit in which he lived.
Sketch by Jane Lamerton