A more pleasant fellow not to be found
06 August 2020
NOOSA – When the message circled the globe a few times and finally landed in my inbox it brought the gloomy news that Barry Whitby Vincent had died last Sunday. He would have been close to 80.
My immediate thought was of a young man with a friendly grin. A more pleasant fellow than Chenz not to be found.
We called him Chenz although he had told us he preferred Barry, Bazza or BV, anointed in an earlier life.
But that’s what young men do – solicit your nickname, reject it and invent another purpose-designed to annoy you.
Anyway Chenz it was and there it is stuck nearly 60 years later, even though he and I had scarcely met – maybe just a couple of times - since we left the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) and made our way to Papua New Guinea a week before President Kennedy was shot in November 1963.
Chenz went to the Central District to become headmaster at Pari before quitting teaching in 1966, the same year I did, to become a training officer first in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and then the Department of Civil Aviation.
He left Port Moresby for Darwin in 1974 and spent four years as senior training officer in the Department of Health before being sucked into the Canberra vortex for 25 years, ending his career as assistant manager of energy management programs in the Department of Primary Industries.
He and Liz then retired to Lake Macquarie which he told me he loved, later moving to what a pal termed “very comfortable digs on a hill overlooking the water” at Hervey Bay.
Subsequent life was not kind to Chenz, though, and he had to bear the curse of Parkinson’s Disease for many of those years since.
On first landing in PNG, before his promotion to Pari, he was at Tubesereia Primary School under the respective headmasters Ian Robertson and John Maksimas.
“Tubesereia was the most memorable of my PNG assignment,” he told me.
“Confronting the challenge of living in a new country in which the first language was not English, adapting to new cultures and beliefs and realising that electricity and running water were not to be taken for granted.”
Some years later, after PNG independence, he returned for a while as part of an Australian aid project to upgrade the skills of training officers. “PNG certainly wasn’t the same,” he said. “Dare I say, a siege mentality was evident amongst expats.”
He recalled ASOPA, where we trained as teachers in 1962-63, as “two years of fellowship, friendship and fun, interlaced with a unique learning experience.”
It was always good to have guys like Chenz around. Permanently good humoured and reliably friendly, prepared to cop any drama with a benign grin even when anointed with aN unwanted nickname.
Chenz, Bazza, BV, Barry was one of those blokes who, as the wick now begins to burn low and the wax gutters, you wish you’d been sensible enough to spend more time with.
He certainly turned that ASOPA certificate in education into a fine career and gave Australia its money’s worth.
I recall Barry and Liz very fondly from my Tubusereia days even though they prevented my move from my sauna-like Dowsett aluminium donga to the new larger house - with indoor toilet!
I also recall the Datsun(?) convertible sports car that seemed to be a strange choice for the Rigo road as it was then. My condolences to Liz on the passing of Barry.
Richard (Don’t Call Me Dick) Jones comments that the ASOPA ranks are thinning. So very true. That made me ponder on the increasing number of funerals I have attended in the last 10 years - more than a few of friends included in a 1973 photo.
This photo was taken at the last great gathering of senior HQ & District education staff prior to the first wave of departures of education expatriates from PNG. The photo illustrates the handover taking place between the “old” and the “new”.
I came across it during my pandemic lockdown decision to downsize my many records - both personal and work related. It is amazing the amount of paper that can be shredded after time spent scanning onto USB memory sticks.
The photo brought back a few memories. Richard could note that Tom Stanley did occasionally wear a standard white shirt with not an epaulette in sight (though the tie was still an essential).
Posted by: Ian Robertson | 10 August 2020 at 11:42 AM
Vin-Chenz was certainly good humoured and easy to like.
It's very, very sad that dementia and Parkinson's disease cut his life short.
I have a central Victorian footy mate who also suffers from Parkinson's. Our regular Friday night sports club dinners with other sporting-minded people and their wives and partners are on the back-burner currently with regional Vic on Stage 3 COVID-19 lockdown conditions.
Fancy Vin-Chenz working as a training officer, something I did for half-a-dozen years with the Department of Labour. Me, always with an eye on the looming main journo career with after-hours stints at the ABC/NBC and the Post-Courier.
Chenz with an eye on employment in Darwin and Canberra.
But unlike him we've never been back to PNG. Too much of the planet still to be seen first-hand.
I think we all caught up with Chenz at the early-Noughties Sydney ASOPA reunion and then the huge Brisbane blast a few years back. It was great to see him again.
The ASOPA ranks are thinning, KJ.
Posted by: Richard Jones | 08 August 2020 at 05:04 PM