Sports star courageous to the end
DENNIS Linton Gleeson was born on November 30, 1955. He was the eldest, of three sons, born to Lin and Nita Gleeson of Forest Dale — or the “Moormbool West Agricultural College”, best known as the Gleeson family farm, a fifth generation enterprise.
His early years on the farm were great fun with his brothers Les (known as Butch) and Gary and cousins Shane and Glenn Beale being constant companions at play, school at Costerfield, spotlighting, playing tennis with Costerfield Tennis Club, playing football at Tooborac Football Club and completing farm work.
But through all this they were allowed plenty of time to enjoy life and learn strong family values.
In 1967, Dennis was the boy champion at the Heathcote District Primary School Sports Association.
Years later, he proudly displayed his winning cup and the VSSSA medal he won for being the fastest boy runner in the district that year, to his children.
At 15, Dennis decided to leave correspondence school and begin juggling farm life while also earning an off-farm income. Shearing at 15 keeps you fit for footy, thought Dennis!
He soon learnt better income and less vigorous work could be achieved as a contractor at Puckapunyal Army Base, completing soil conservation work with stick raking and seeding.
He purchased his own Connor Shea seed box and began contract work and soil conservation work for local farmers too.
In 1979, Dennis married local girl and long-time friend June Harvey, making their home at Costerfield.
This was the home they were to live in all their married life and where they happily raised their two children, Tim and Meg.
Later they welcomed their daughter-in-law, Lilly, and grandchildren, Emma and Daniel.
Earlier this year, Damian, husband of Meg, was welcomed to “Nauru” too. The happiest times were spent around the outside fire or under the patio where they shared barbecues, pizzas, a few beers or red wines with family and friends.
Dennis worked hard but loved to play sport.
He played A grade tennis for Costerfield, participating in and winning many local tournaments.
Dennis also played in Country Week tennis tournaments for the Pyalong District Tennis Association in Bendigo.
At that time, Costerfield, Pyalong, Tooborac and Heathcote were members of that association.
In 1970, aged 14, Dennis won the thirds best and fairest award at Tooborac Football Club and was the runner-up best and fairest in the HDFL thirds competition.
By the age of 17 Dennis played in his first premiership as a senior team member of the Tooborac Football Club.
He played in back-to-back senior premierships for Tooborac. He made friendships with men from these teams who were to become lifetime mates, many of them travelling long distances to attend Dennis’ funeral.
When Tooborac FC went into recess in 1975, Dennis transferred to the Heathcote Football Club and played with their senior team until the end of the 1980 season.
Dennis then played golf for the Heathcote Golf Club. He played in their pennant team and made many friendships.
His name appears on many trophies and honour boards in the Heathcote Golf clubhouse.
A squash court was opened in Heathcote and while it existed, Dennis and June joined the competition.
In August 1980, they enjoyed the opportunity to be members of the same team and share a premiership.
From 1990-93 Dennis was the local Vickick coach and co-ordinator. In 1992, a team of local lads in West Coast guernseys played at half-time of the senior game against lads wearing North Melbourne jumpers, under lights, at the MCG.
The local lads won and Dennis proudly told everyone who cared, or didn’t care, to listen that he had coached a team to win at the MCG!
He went on that year to coach the combined team from Heathcote Primary and Holy Rosary schools to be premiers in Division Four of the Campaspe Mallee Primary Schools Football carnival at Catholic College, Bendigo.
In 1993, now playing in Division Three, Dennis again coached the team from the Heathcote schools to reach the semi-finals to be beaten by St Joseph’s, who went on to be the ultimate winners that year.
The same year, Dennis also coached the midgets game representing the HDFL at the Bendigo QEO, against a team representing the Loddon Valley League.
Dennis followed the Heathcote junior football and the cricket club around the countryside as his son Tim participated in those teams.
Dennis was always there to transport lads, umpire, be the scorer or help in whatever way he was asked.
For this he was awarded best clubman by the cricket club. When Meg played netball, Dennis, always the supportive Dad, learnt the rules and watched every game she played and coached from the sidelines!
Meanwhile, Dennis was still farming and building Gleeson Bros Fencing with his brother Butch.
His brother Gary and son Tim were also employed in the fencing business when they were available.
In about 2000 he began a stint as senior football team manager for the Heathcote Football/Netball Club.
He was to continue in this role until the end of the 2015 season. He also served on the committee of the club and was a tireless worker at wood days, grape picking, working bees and club functions.
For his dedication he was awarded a life membership in 2012. He was most proud to have a local lad tell him that when he achieved his 200 games award for the Heathcote club, Dennis had been with him at every one of those games.
During 2006 a barefoot bowls competition was introduced to the town on Tuesday evenings. With mates Chris Morcom, Des and Cheryl Ayres, Dennis formed a team.
They won multiple premierships. Dennis and Chris then joined the Bowling Club’s A grade pennant team.
Dennis loved bowling and took to it with his usual zest for competition. With Chris as partner they won the Heathcote Bowling Club Pairs Knockout Championship in 2011-12.
Dennis was Club Champion Runner-up in 2014-15 but was most proud to be a member of the Heathcote Bowling Club’s A grade team to win the Division Four Premiership in the Bendigo District Bowling Association in the 2015-16 season. His final sporting achievement.
Dennis served the CFA as a member of the Costerfield Rural Fire Brigade, rising to First Lieutenant.
He was secretary/treasurer of the brigade for 18 years and was presented with his 45-year service medal in 2016.
A couple of interesting facts about Dennis:
He loved to dance, especially rock ’n’ roll, and he loved family history.
He pursued his family tree through the Births, Deaths and Marriages registry and made contact with the farmer in Ireland who had purchased the last acres of the Gleeson family farm in County Clare, Ireland.
He was sent a stone from those farmlands and proudly kept it on the mantelpiece.
He loved trawling through the archived copies of The McIvor Times, finding vale articles for family members.
It is only fitting his vale should be published in The McIvor Times too.
In 2006, the Gleeson family were devastated to lose the patriarch of the family business, their father and mentor, Lin Gleeson.
Dennis now assumed the role that had been his fathers. He became ‘the boss’. He left the successful fencing business to concentrate on farming at Forest Dale.
He had a good business brain and had been well tutored by his father. The Gleeson boys became a formidable team with Dennis taking care of the wool and sheep, Butch the machinery and cropping, and Gary taking care of stock work.
In July 2009, the farm, trading as L Gleeson and Sons, won the Reserve Commercial Champion Fleece at the Australian Sheep and Wool Competition with a 16.6-micron fleece awarded 91.45 points.
This is the largest wool and sheep show of its kind in the world. Dennis was pleased, but not satisfied with this result.
His aim was to have the best wool-producing sheep in the area.
In 2011, the farm was awarded the most valuable fleece prize but again Dennis wasn’t satisfied.
He was rewarded in 2013 when L Gleeson and Sons received the Champion Commercial Fleece Award at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show.
They were beaten by 0.56 points on winning the grand champion fleece in the show — the winning fleece coming from a stud of 24,000 sheep and from a stud ewe.
In 2017, still under Dennis’s supervision, the farm was awarded the Elders Southern Supreme Clip of the month for October and were finalists for the Elders Supreme Wool Clip of the Year.
Dennis obviously had unfinished business in the wool game.
He had unfinished business with life in general.
Days before his 60th birthday he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.
He faced this diagnosis with fight and determination. His courageous battle with ‘the beast’ he knew he would never defeat lasted three years.
Dennis was blessed to be loved by so many, as he loved so many.
He was supported on the farm by his brothers and buoyed by the many visitors who didn’t forget him and continued to visit him at home when he could no longer travel in the community he had served so faithfully.
Dennis died at home on August 12, in his own bed next to his devoted wife, just as he wanted.
His love and devotion to family will live for ever and he will continue to look down on them and guide them.
We hope you were privileged to have met Dennis.
Article contributed by Dennis’s family and compiled from the eulogies delivered at his funeral by Rev Bronwyn Jones, Shane Beale, Butch Gleeson, Grant Baker, Andrew Conforti, Brian Taylor and Wayne McGrath.
Dennis Gleeson, right, with brothers Butch and Gary, won the Champion Commercial Fleece Award at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo in 2013.