Ros has asked me to speak about Vernon today and I am pleased and proud to do so.
I will speak about Vernon - but in everything I say there is an acknowledgement of the strong loving that Vernon and Ros so clearly felt for each other - and a respect for the deep sense of loss that is with Ros at this moment.
As with most of us here today, I have known Vernon for only a relatively short time. As with most of us, I met him when I joined the One Voice choir.I remember coming to rehearsal on my very first day ........ quite scared ...... unsure of myself ....... looking for someone or something to anchor my shaky self to in this ocean of unfamiliar people ....... and there was this big, beaming face rising above the basses .... providing a strong, comforting presence. Then I heard his voice, and it too was large, solid, resonant and reassuring.
Over time, we became good friends. I was attracted to his considerable intellect, his decidedly 'off-beat' sense of humour and his generally nurturing attitude towards the choir and those in it. I was pleased to share a number of tastes and interests with Vernon - the Goons, Monty Python and other weird English humour, wordplay, bad puns, jazz - and I personally experienced Vernon as a warm and caring friend, always interested in what was going on in my life - frequently offering honest (if sometimes unforgiving) comment on my most cherished beliefs and values.
He was a BIG man in every sense of the word. A large, reassuring physical presence, a big, resonant, tuneful voice that provided a solid foundation for the bass section - and a big personality...... bluff, but never raucous, strong but never over bearing, and always that slightly warped sense of humour, with jokes and puns that nobody else could ever quite 'get'!!!
Although he had many real talents, Vernon was a modest man. Too modest, I would say. He had a fine intellect, a highly developed (if sometimes incomprehensible sense of humour, and a great many other accomplishments and skills). In typically modest fashion, he has summarised his own abilities in a few aptly chosen words (written as it happens, on the day before his death, while attending a Creative Writing workshop). He said of himself: "I am a fully qualified school teacher by training, an alternative accountant by experience, a paper-maker and calligrapher by choice and a singer by interest."
Vernon was all of these things and much more. Particularly, he was a good friend, a caring choir member, a decent human being. I guess we will all treasure our own special memories of this most singular man. Who will ever forget his gentle, but irresistable reminders each Sunday that while there was no real compunction to do so, it would be ever so convenient if we took the opportunity to place our money in the waiting cash box. Or at coffee, after rehearsals, Vernon chiding Jenny S., or some other hapless conversationalist, for 'hijacking' the conversation (as he like to put it) and asking if there was ever going to be a point to whatever story it was they were telling.
For many of us here - myself included - the choir is something of a 'family', providing the same kind of affection and support that a family can give. I know this was very much the case for Vernon and Ros. In his shy, reticent way, Vernon loved us like family - and we were very important to him.I believe I express the feelings of most choir members when I say that Vernon was in turn much loved and respected by us. So Vernon, I say to you - Good friend, we miss you deeply, and we will remember you with the greatest affection.
Goodbye for now Vernon.
Kevin Warne (WA)