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Dubbo Dave Kesby - a man for all seasons - dies in Sydney


Dave Kesby - always a man of good cheerAT 2.30 THIS MORNING, Dave Kesby died of cancer. He was 68 and a most admirable man. I am struck with grief.

Dave was a classmate of mine at the Australian School of Pacific Administration in 1962-63 and went on to teach in the Rabaul area before returning to Australia in about 1966 (apologies for the vagueness, I'm in Queensland and without records).

He got more degrees and worked as a school counsellor around Sydney for many years before purchasing a taxi licence. Cab driving may not seem every professional’s cup of tea but Dave loved it. The passing parade of passengers and conversations was a source of almost unmitigated delight.

It could have been a sad day when ill health finally forced him to give the cabbing game away about 18 months ago. But there was always the Berowra ukelele band....

I last spoke with Dave eight days ago. He was in hospital, he knew he was dying and we had two conversations.

The first was short. He'd been allowed to leave his hospital bed for a couple of hours to see his grandson play football. The boy scored five goals and Dave was pleased to have seen that. He said he couldn’t talk for long and said goodbye.

A minute later he rang back, saying he didn’t want us to end on that sombre and abbreviated note.

He said he’d had a good life, that he felt happy. He was surrounded by the family he loved and he told me he was not afraid of death.

We talked politics – like we always did – and Dave puzzled over the desiccated state of the Labor Party, to which he had a lifelong commitment, knowing he would not live to see it in any other condition.

His mouth badly ulcerated, Dave found it difficult to talk, but talk we did. He apologised for not wanting any of us to join him at the hospital, but he said he wanted us to remember him as he was.

A man for all seasons - good for them all. Benign or malign. A little regret but not a trace of self pity.

Then we said a final farewell.

Dubbo Dave Kesby as a young manDave was man of unremitting courage and good cheer. A man of honesty and straight-forwardness who never fooled himself that things were other than they really were.

A man constantly delighted by his fellow humans (bullies, thugs and Liberals excepted) and generous in spirit to the many people who came his way.

 Dave leaves behind Elissa - a beautiful, calm and courageous woman, his sons Jack and Pete, and other family members.

A celebration of Dave’s life will be held at the Uniting Church, 6 Alan Road, Berowra Heights in Sydney at noon on Wednesday 2 May.


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Peter Kesby

Thanks Keith for writing this wonderful story about Dave's life and your friendship.

It really warms the heart to read this and to think what a great man and father he was.

A real character, an interpersonal master and such a kind and friendly man. Miss him.

Regards, Dave's son, Peter

I still miss Dave too, Peter. I've been fortunate in my life to know many fine people, and Dave was one of the best - and the most courageous. Your note prompted me to go back and look at what I wrote. Wouldn't change a word.

April 2012, that's getting to be a fair while ago. It seems I've now reached an age old folks must get to when, somewhere in our consciousness, the dead are more alive than the living. Certainly Dave's there, crystal clear in my memory, shaking his head and saying, 'I dunno how we elected that Morrison, Keithy, I just don't bloody know'.

Thanks for getting in touch. Give our love to Elissa, for a writer I'm a bad correspondent. I'm dropping you an email so if ever you're up this way, you might get in touch - Keith

Anne Zele

I stumbled across this page while doing some reminiscing about my childhood in PNG.

David Kesby was our teacher in a small settlement called Kwalakessi in New Britain around 1964 - there were eight kids in the whole school and he was aged about 19 from memory. We were probably his first ever class.

I was in Year 2 but there weren't any others in my year so I sat with my older brother on the Grade 4 desk and did Grade 4 work. We had a wonderful experience with him which we still talk about.

He brought a lot of fun to his class, and we learned many of his favourite English folk songs, all sung with a lot of gusto in the middle of the jungle.

We would pack up school at lunch time, as it was hot, and head out fishing or swimming with him for the rest of the day - great memories and I am sorry to hear of his passing.

Funnily enough I have lived near Berowra for 30+ years and would have loved to have seen him again.

Pamela O'Keefe

David was my cousin and, being over three years older than he was, our paths didn't cross very often in the years since our childhood.

Whilst attending his farewell and hearing the wonderful eulogies given by his family and friends, I sincerely wished I had been fortunate enough to share more time in his (unique) company.

carol jarvis (GHS 74 - 84)

Dave was a mate at Galston High School. I will always remember the somewhat unkempt exterior, no nonsense Aussie expression and heart of gold. A true Aussie bloke - a man for all seasons and always a man with an effervescent personality. My thoughts are with you at this time.

Alex Harris

Beautiful eulogy Keith.

Colin Whyte

Dave and Elissa have been so much a part of our family and social life for so long now and they are both such an inspiration.

Dave and I had so many good talks about politics and our fears about the future of the party and public policy generally.

These past few years have been tough but we have been pleased to be able to add some levity to them with our days and nights at the box, joint travels, enjoying Dave's culinary expertise, countless beers and jointly savouring new wine labels, red and white!

Great memories of good mates (Dave and Elissa), great characters and wonderful human beings.

Richard E. Jones

Very, very sad news to hear about my old mate, Dave.

We will always have very fond memories of Dave going right back to the ASOPA days and the flat in Spit Junction, shared in 1963, and then onto Rabaul in the mid-sixties..

Our 2 families had one memorable meeting when our girls were little and we were on a driving holiday to Sydney and NSW.

The ASOPA reunions and the mini one in late 2002 at Dave and Elissa's property. We were on their outside deck, overlooking the marvellous canyon and trees below. That one with the Booths, Jacksons and Macleans

Even the morning "sparrow fart" Berowra walks which transmogrified into the amble Dave described as "Dick's night walks" when they visited Bendigo, Castlemaine and central Victoria one spring.

Like Keith we marvelled at Dave's bubbly spirit, not to mention his courage in the face of his illness.

Colin Huggins

Sincerest of condolences to Elissa and their two sons and families.

"Dubbo" Dave was a great friend, forthright with his views and a wonderful host. Always full of fun.

I am so glad that he and Elissa were able to attend the party for Bob "Moose" Davis of late last year. Photos for class mates are on the Bill Bohlen blog of the event. 14th December 2011.


Vale my good friend.

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