Sunday, 17 June 2012

Dar

I went to my grandfather's funeral this week. This included a trip to Melbourne and a long drive home with my family back. I was supposed to get a lot of reading done, but it didn't really happen. But that's okay.

Besides being a sad occasion, my family has a way to make any event a memorable and usually hilarious one. Most of our family is in Melbourne, so we tend to only really catch up together at weddings and funerals. For some of us, that is more frequent than we would like, like the "black sheep" who stuffed his pockets full of biscuits from the wake. For all my cousins, who spent the rest of the day taking turns to try and turn the pocket biscuits into crumbs while the rest of us watched from the other side of the room, this is not enough.

But the man of the moment was my Dar. Dar was an incredibly successful and intelligent man. He was a research food scientist who started working for Kraft in the late 1930s and is the man credited with discovering that vitamin B1 and therefore Vegemite, is good for you. The Vegemite we eat today, is his team's recipe. He helped start one of the biggest Academies of Science in Australia and the annual Award of Merit awarded to Food Scientists in Australia each year is named after him. He got interested in my aunt's study of history at Uni and then decided he would go earn himself a Masters in history just because he could. And he went on to write quite a few books on science, food science, the history of food science and history.

He and I shared a love of science too, and I think he was a little chuffed that I used to work at the Science Centre here in Australia, and worked on the largest science prize awarded within Aus. At least I hope so, because I was always thinking of him while I was there.

What ties him in to this blog I guess, besides me obviously, was that this was a man I can never remember not reading. When he used to come stay with us what I remember as a kid, besides us having to have the best table manners in the world, and me being told off constantly for my pronunciation of the letter H, was that he always had so many books with him.

Usually it was work related, but he loved humorous British novels and British detective novels as well. He always sent us money for books or book vouchers for our birthdays and Christmas. One Christmas a couple of years ago at Mum's, we had all opened our presents. All 7 of us were sitting there with a pile of at least 3 books in front of us, some of us with 7 or 8. Dar looked around the room and just burst out in his large, explosive laugh. "Well," he said, "I have never met such a bookish family!"

I am very grateful to this old man, who always wore dress pants, a blazer, a vest, business shirt and a tie no matter the weather, who instilled in me a love of reading. I am grateful he taught his children this too, with my Mum and her sister both becoming librarians, and them making sure I always had books. I will miss our discussions about literature, education and science. I will miss the way he made me value all of them. I will just miss him.

4 comments:

  1. Wow, you are related to the person responsible for Vegemite? I'm sorry for your loss, but it sounds like the reunion side of things was lovely.

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    1. Thanks Jenny, it was one of those bitter/sweet moments.

      Sort of responsible. He didn't invent it, but did a lot of work with it in the 30s and 40s which "refined" it and proved all it's nutritional value. This went on to things like it was a staple in all our soldiers' ration packs in WWII.

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