‘Frank was the most amaz­ing, self­less man’


FRANK Iske did not have any rel­a­tives in Aus­tralia, but he had a fam­ily — and a com­mu­nity — to call his own. Born in Hol­land, Frank ar­rived in Mel­bourne in 1953, aged 26, with lit­tle more than his older brother’s bi­cy­cle and a youth­ful sense of ad­ven­ture.

In the years lead­ing up to his mi­gra­tion, Frank cy­cled a lot. The fifth of seven chil­dren, he would ride across the Dutch coun­try­side, help­ing his fa­ther with the fam­ily ci­gar-mak­ing busi­ness. Af­ter work­ing as an up­hol­sterer and serv­ing in the Dutch Army in In­done­sia, Frank came to Aus­tralia, find­ing work in Fitzroy. His bi­cy­cle came in handy, as it helped him to nav­i­gate the un­fa­mil­iar streets and of­ten-un­pre­dictable trans­port sys­tem of Mel­bourne.

Though Frank set­tled in quickly, his time there was short-lived. Within a mat­ter of months, Frank trav­elled to Heath­cote, fol­low­ing the foot­steps of other Dutch mi­grants. Some, in­clud­ing the Bo­ere fam­ily of the Green Frog Cafe, be­came firm and fast friends.

With lim­ited English, Frank found work as an ap­pren­tice with Cor­nelis Bo­ere, who was owner of the Green Frog Cafe and also a cab­i­net maker. Frank’s English lan­guage skills and con­fi­dence grew quickly. When Cor­nelis re­tired, Frank took over the busi­ness at 220 High Street. He would serve the com­mu­nity of Heath­cote as an up­hol­sterer and all-round handy­man for 37 years. Dur­ing that time, Frank could of­ten be found rid­ing his bike to and from the local hard­ware store.

Frank was loved and re­spected for the qual­ity of his work and gen­er­ous spirit. He was also com­mu­nity-minded; he served in the Fire Brigade for 20 years. Over the 54 years Frank lived in Heath­cote, Frank made many friends, in­clud­ing his best mate, Ron “Joey” El­lis.

He kept in touch with his fam­ily, mostly through let­ters. Frank re­turned to Hol­land twice, but it wasn’t un­til later in life. Although Frank never mar­ried, nor had chil­dren, he formed close ties with the Oost fam­ily through the Bo­eres. Even­tu­ally Frank would be­come the beloved god­fa­ther of Danni and Lyn­don Wheeler, the great grand­chil­dren of Johanna and Arend Oost (Mia Mia) and the grand­chil­dren of Fenry and Shirley Oost (Mia Mia). Trag­i­cally, Danni’s par­ents, Fiona and David Wheeler, were killed in a car ac­ci­dent when she was just eight years old. It was at this time Frank fully em­braced his role of god­fa­ther. Over the years, he would pro­vide Danni and Lyn­don with much love, care and sup­port.

“Frank be­came a hero in our lives,” Danni re­flects. “My brother and I would spend weeks at a time dur­ing school hol­i­days with him. Heath­cote was like our sec­ond home. As we grew up, we re­mained close with Frank. My fam­ily live at Lockwood South and Frank would spend his pen­sion money on fuel to come and visit. He re­ally was the miss­ing link in our fam­ily. He would tell us sto­ries about my par­ents and Nan and Pop.”

In his fi­nal decade, Frank left Heath­cote to live with Danni and her hus­band. Danni gave birth to three chil­dren, each of whom de­vel­oped their own close bond with Frank.

Liv­ing in a self-con­tained unit on their prop­erty, Frank re­mained fully in­de­pen­dent to within a month of his pass­ing.

Danni re­flects, “De­spite fairly se­ri­ous health is­sues, Frank drove his brand new Subaru Out­back right up un­til the month be­fore he passed. It meant a lot to care for Frank in his later years. He was a kind, quiet man, with a deep love for chil­dren. Although he didn’t have his own, he was closer than blood could be. He was like my un­of­fi­cial grand­fa­ther. My kids idolised Frank. He was the most amaz­ing, self­less man you could ever be blessed to know. I will miss him ter­ri­bly.”

Frank Iske, who was born in Hol­land, lived in Heath­cote for 54 years.

Frank had a close bond with his god-daugh­ter’s chil­dren.

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