Jeff McLeary … A Life Well Lived
Earlier this week, an enormous cross-section of the community attended the funeral for the late Jeff McLeary in Newcastle. As sad and heartfelt as the occasion was, the service was also very much a celebration of Jeffrey John McLeary and a life well lived.
The speeches offered a touching and candid insight into the 52-year-old part owner of award-winning motorcycle dealership, KTM Newcastle, and the indelible legacy Jeff leaves behind … for his family, and for the huge array of friends, business colleagues and others whose lives he touched.
For those who weren’t able to attend the funeral, we’d like to share the amazing eulogies that were delivered with such strength by Jeff’s son and daughter, Brock and Shea, with the McLeary family’s blessing…
“Good morning. I wanted to start by sincerely thanking every single one of you for being here today. I know I speak for the whole family when I say that we really can’t put into words how much everyone’s love and support means to us. It blows me away to stand here today and see just how many lives Dad influenced. I know how proud he was of myself and Brock and I am equally as proud to call him my Dad.
“Only a few months ago I watched as Dad sadly had to say goodbye to his own Dad who passed away. I remember being at the funeral and one of the hardest parts of that day for me was seeing Dad grieve over the loss of one of the most important people in his life. I couldn’t begin to imagine what he must have been going through – and I truly never imagined that only a few months later I would be standing here saying goodbye to one of the most important people in my life, and my biggest role model.
“Dad got some of the greatest joy out simply teaching people. He loved sharing his knowledge with anyone who was willing to listen to him. More often than not, he’d thoroughly repeat himself several times and then still feel the need to say, ‘You see what I’m sayin’?’ I won’t stand here and tell you that his repetitiveness didn’t absolutely frustrate me at times, but I know that all Dad really ever wanted to do was help, in any way he could.
“Dad taught me so much. He set me up to be a genius from the outset, by teaching me the alphabet backwards before I could really say it forwards. If you asked him about it, he’d tell you some spiel about how learning the alphabet backwards would give your kid better literacy skills and boost their confidence in school. To this day, Dad and I could both say it more fluently backwards than we could forwards. It was always our little party trick that only he and I could do.
“Dad taught me how to ski when I was four years old, and he didn’t let us miss a year after that. When I was about 10 years old, he taught me a valuable lesson in gambling by playing a friendly game of household two-up. At first I won some money, which I thought was fantastic, but then I kept playing and I lost all of it. It would have been about $50, which was all of my pocket money at the time, and he refused to give it back. Of course, 10-year-old me cried and thought he was being harsh, but he didn’t give in, and I still absolutely hate gambling to this day. So thanks, Dad.
“Dad was an optimistic, funny, all-round ‘keen’ guy with an infectious energy. Our family has a bond like no other. Whilst we leave here today with a void that can never be filled, our bond isn’t broken; it’s only stronger than ever before.” – Shae McLeary
“Dad taught me that nothing worth having comes easy. He continually pushed me to work hard at school, and in all areas of life. At times I thought his expectations were too high, but it was only because he’d set the bar so high for himself. Dad’s work ethic was like no other. It was a rare occasion that he showed us he knew how to rest. Nights at home were often spent trying to come up with new and exciting business ventures, and Saturdays and Sundays for him were just extra days on the calendar to get stuff done! We used to laugh because it was like he never understood why those around him weren’t working as hard as he was. He was a man who never stopped.
“That aside, there was no doubt that Dad still knew how to have fun. From adventure rally rides, to advanced race car driving, to heli-skiing trips and overseas holidays, he was always going somewhere and doing something. Dad taught me that it’s okay to party on the weekends – on the condition that, come Monday, it’s back to the grind, and all work and no play until Friday rolls around again.
“Dad taught me to go after what you want. When he found out that what I wanted to do was in the area of design, and not psychology, he walked me straight into the opportunity to start my own business. I must admit, it did take Dad a while to get over the fact that I wasn’t going to be a doctor, but from the minute I expressed interest in the business opportunity, he was onboard with me one hundred and ten percent.
“Not only did he teach me how to run a successful business, but more importantly, he believed in me and gave me the confidence that I was capable of doing something I never thought I would do. Dad’s number-one priority in life was setting us up to do well, so that one day, we could provide a wonderful life for our own families, the way that he has done for us.
“Dad taught me that every day is a new day. He woke up every morning with a smile on his face, a Maccas coffee in his hand and a greeting that was often way too enthusiastic for the time of morning that it was. He was an optimistic, funny, all-round ‘keen’ guy with an infectious energy.
“Dad’s number-one priority in life was setting us up to do well, so that one day, we could provide a wonderful life for our own families, the way that he has done for us.” – Shae McLeary
“I have to admit, I am terrified by the fact that I have to face the rest of my life without him, that I can’t pick up the phone and ask him those simple, silly little questions or say, ‘Hey, what do you think about this?’ But, Dad, you spent your whole life teaching Brock and I everything that we need to know to do it alone. And you did it.
“Whilst I wish Dad were around a hell of a lot longer, I have no doubt that I’m going to realise things within myself that I didn’t even know he had taught me yet. He left some incredibly big shoes to fill, and there is no one on this earth who I would think about handing that task to other than my brother. Our family has a bond like no other. Whilst we leave here today with a void that can never be filled, our bond isn’t broken; it’s only stronger than ever before.
“To my dad, thank you for everything. I love you, I miss you, and we’re going to make you proud. I promise.”
“I could stand here for hours and speak of my dad’s life, his achievements and his success. But I think it would be best if I start off by talking about something we all know and love about Dad … and that was his ability to make you laugh. It wasn’t as if he had a book of jokes up his sleeve or a bunch of corny dad jokes (although he used them too). It’s just the way he was; he always had you laughing. Even though nine times out of 10, he had you laughing at his expense – not that that ever bothered him; he never took himself too seriously.
“Let me tell you a story about a time Dad had myself and the rest of the dinner table cracking up laughing. We were on a snow skiing holiday in Canada with Simon and his family. We had sat down, grabbed a few drinks then ordered some chicken wings for the table. While we waited, we spoke about the day we had just had, what the plan was for tomorrow, and of course argued about who was the best skier on the day (yep, it was always Dad who would bring that conversation up). So, the waitress came over and put two bowls on the table – one bowl of chicken wings and another bowl full of water with a piece of lemon in it to wash your hands if need be. We all get stuck in, not taking too much notice of each other when we all sort of simultaneously notice Dad begin to dip his wing in the bowl full of water. Before any of us can understand what on earth he is doing, or before we can say anything, he puts it in his mouth, chews it up and says, ‘Haven’t seen this before. Must be some sort of lemon dressing!’ It’s safe to say none of us had laughed so hard the entire trip, including Dad.
“My dad was just a big kid. Anyone who was close to him knew that. He was a heli-skiing, adventure riding, fast car driving, beer pong playing, tequila drinking, thrill seeking, fun-having 52-year-old badass!” – Brock McLeary
“It was or all or nothing with the old man. I think back to the days when I first started racing. Sure, the first couple of years it was a just a little bit of weekend fun, but by the time I was seven years old, Dad had formulated a plan to move the family from our beautiful waterfront property in Eleebana all the way out to Kurri Kurri – or ‘The Sticks’ (as Mum likes to call it) – just so I had somewhere to ride. But that was just where it started. The 10 years that followed, Dad and I would pack the van every single weekend to go racing. Some weekends, we had local races. Some weekends, we had races in Queensland or Victoria. One year, we even travelled all the way to Western Australia. We were all in. Over the years we would have travelled roughly 200,000km together. That was our time to catch up, talk about our goals and dreams, and talk about what we both had going on in our lives. And yeah, we would talk about girls (sorry, Mum). But most importantly and what we loved the most was that that was our time to just hang out. We were best mates. The years we spent together going racing are the years that I will hold closest to my heart. I’ll never forget them.
“My dad was just a big kid. Anyone who was close to him knew that. He was a heli-skiing, adventure riding, fast car driving, beer pong playing, tequila drinking, thrill seeking, fun-having 52-year-old badass! How lucky Shae and I have been to have had Jeffro as our dad. Every kid always says, ‘My dad is the best’ or ‘My dad is the coolest’. But seriously, our dad was. Of course, I could never actually admit that to him. The last thing he needed was someone to tell him how cool he was (he already knew).
“Dad taught me everything I know … all the typical duties that go along with being a dad. But the most important things that Dad taught me came from watching and learning how he carried himself every single day.” – Brock McLeary
“Dad said something to me the day before he passed away. I have always said that everything happens for a reason and that life works in mysterious ways, but the timing of what was said just makes me wonder. It was two weeks ago now. Dad took the family to Melbourne to watch the Australian Open. We had a great night, watched a few games and left the night saying to each other, ‘We will be back next year’. The next morning, we woke up and went out for breakfast before we flew home. We all sat down and had breakky as a family, and as we were sitting there watching all the guys and girls walk past on their way to work, Jeffro looked at me and said, ‘I don’t know how these blokes wear a suit every day; they make it look so easy!’
“I replied, ‘I guess you’d just get used to it’. He left it at that for a moment before looking at me again to say, ‘You know what; I reckon you’d look good in a suit’. ‘You think?’ I said. ‘Yep, bloody oath. When we get home, we’ll have to get you a suit,’ he said. Little did we know that two weeks later I would be standing here, in a suit, talking about the life of my dad. I hope I look as good in a suit as you thought I would.
“Dad and I rarely left each other’s side. We travelled together, we worked together, we partied together, and we got into trouble together (usually it was him getting me into trouble, but he somehow always had a way to get us out of it). In the short 20 years that we got to spend together, he taught me far more than most people learn in their lifetime. Dad always made sure that I was kept in the loop of what was going on, just in case he wasn’t around to sort it out. He taught me everything I know – how to fish, snow ski, ride a bike, tie a tie, tell the time … all the typical duties that go along with being a dad. But the most important things that Dad taught me came from watching and learning how he carried himself every single day.
“Dad taught me that every day is a new day, and that no matter what problems you had going on the day before, you can always wake up the next day and fix it. Dad taught me that hard work pays off. If you truly want something and you believe you can do it, then work your arse off every day and you will achieve it. Dad taught me how to be a man, a gentleman. It doesn’t matter who it is, what language they speak or where they come from; you shake their hand and you treat them with the same respect you would treat your mum. Most importantly, Dad taught me how to be strong; to fall down seven times, but stand up eight; to never quit.
“I’m going to miss my old man. I’ll miss being woke up at 6am by the noise of the ride-on lawnmower. I’ll miss getting 15 phone calls a day (even though we worked in the same building). I’ll miss his crappy jokes. I’ll miss his enthusiasm. I’ll miss being able to count on him to know the answers to all my questions. I’ll miss having him continually picking on me. I’ll miss having him tell me that he’s proud of me. I’m going to miss my best friend. I love you, Dad.”