Bingara loses a true and lifelong friend

October 21, 2011

Well known and popular Bingara resident, Henry John Fay, fondly known as Harry Fay, passed away  on Tuesday, October 11, 2011.He was christened Henry John but was always meant to be known as Harry after his grandfather.

He was born in Bingara on October 3, 1923, the elder son of Charles and Pearl Fay. His brother George died of a brain tumour at age 10 and sister Cecily passed away just a few years ago. Harry spent his early days in Riddell Street, and after his early schooling at Bingara Primary, attended Tamworth High School. He boarded at the Presbyterian Boys’ Hostel during this time.

He started accountancy after school and worked for 7 ½ years for two Practicing Accountancy firs, interrupted by 3 ½ years in the RAAF during the war. Although he never claimed any academic prowess his family recently discovered that he came 2nd in NSW and 3rd in Australia in his Auditing exams.

He related how he audited the books for places like Goonoo Goonoo Station out of Tamworth and for other properties run by the same company in northern Australia.

At age 18 he joined the Airforce in Ballarat. He served in the warmer climes of Katherine in the NT, went into Darwin immediately after it was bombed, spent a lonely 18 months at Higgins Field on the tip of Cape York and the remainder of the war in New Guinea at Madang on the north coast.

“Dad related in a letter home that he had received the signal notifying the end of hostilities and bemoaned the fact that while others were given a ration of beer he had to remain on duty.  Perhaps because of his time in the Airforce and some dodgy aircraft he never seemed that keen on flyinglater in life,” Harry’s son Angus said in his eulogy at Harry’s funeral.

Harry met Ketha while playing tennis at Dr. Shineberg’s home in Tamworth where Ketha’s father was a bank manager before being moved to Sydney. They married in the Presbyterian Church in Rose Bay on March 20, 1950 and spent their early life together in Yamba.

Harry continued his career in accountancy in Maclean and made many firm friends there, as was his nature. Maybe it was Les Wherrett his doctor mate who convinced him to take on the job of CEO and Secretary of the Lower Clarence Hospital, at which he spent 4 ½  years. During this time he built the new 65-bed hospital and nurses’ quarters, and Susan, Angus and Alison were born before, during and after the construction. Fiona was the only Bingara baby.

After his father died in 1956, Harry kept his promise that he would look after the business and the broader family. So came a return to Bingara and H. Fay and Sons which he ended up managing for most of his 36 years in the business. Many people have acknowledged the support Harry gave to individuals and organisations in and around Bingara through H. Fay and Sons. His daughter and son-in-law Susan and Rick Hutton took over the reins on his retirement.

Three or four years after his return to Bingara Harry was diagnosed with TB and spent many months being treated in Sydney.

Harry’s contributions to business and the community are almost legendary and include the following:

  • He was a Founding Director of CRTs and served for 18 ½ years as a Director.
  • He was a past Vice- Chairman of the Country Division of the Retail Traders Association of NSW.
  • He served as a Councillor on the Bingara Shire Council for two terms covering 17 years.
  • He was a very active member of Legacy for 57 years, serving as a country Vice-President.
  • He joined Rotary in Maclean, continued in Bingara before joining Lions where he was active for the 2nd half of his life.
  • He was Director and Treasurer of the Bingara RSL, becoming a Life Member in 2003.
  • He was an Auditor for many organisations amongst many other roles. And as one of the nominations for his Order of Australia noted, he was Patron of just about everything.

Harry was gregarious yet unpretentious and could talk to the most senior politician or those doing it toughest in life. His children remember accompanying him on Christmas Day to deliver hampers from the shop to a Legacy widow or someone who would otherwise be forgotten.

He had a wide circle of friends and would go out of his way to catch up with them if nearby.He was a fair golfer and Angus remembers playing with him many times on numerous different courses.

“When growing up in Bingara we came home from school for lunch, our main meal. Dad would join us from work. After lunch he’d pick up the papers for five minutes then just nod off. Ten to 15 minutes later he’d be up fresh as a daisy and back to work” Angus said.

Harry and his father built a beach house at Brooms Head, near Maclean, where the family spent summer holidays.

He was a natural father and it always struck people how good he was with babies and young children.  Perhaps he should have been a politician!

Parents visiting the store often delighted in Harry nursing their children while they did their shopping. At his 80th birthday party Harry admitted he was proud of his children and grandchildren.

“Dad contributed more in his 88 years than most us ever will but he wasn’t dealt the best cards late in his life. However, he did have the love and support of his family, friends and the staff of the hospital and Touriandi and we’ll be forever grateful for this” Angus said.

He was a true gentleman, a good friend,  generous of spirit, a loving husband, father and grandfather.His funeral was held at St. John’s Anglican Church, Bingara on Saturday, October 15.

Harry Fay is survived by his wife, Ketha, children Susan, Angus, Alison and Fiona, and grandchildren Lexi, Nick, Klara, Hattie, Ben, Juliet and Annabel.