Great teacher and leader
SHEPPARTON MAN’S FINAL FAREWELL WITH A WINK AND A SMILE
A craftsman, leader, a loving husband and father, a helper and a man with an inexhaustible sense of humour — Richard ‘‘Dick’’ Hutchinson was all these things to his friends, colleagues and family.
Val, his wife of 56 years, described her beloved husband as a fun-loving father and a friend to many.
‘‘He made everything fun, he was a great teacher and leader for young people and he was a wonderful husband to me,’’ she said.
Dick died on Friday, October 1, after battling heart disease for many years — six days short of his 78th birthday.
Richard Lancelot Hutchinson was born in Essendon in 1943, earning him the title of ‘‘lifelong Bombers supporter’’.
As a teenager he took up a paintbrush and ladder to become a painter and decorator alongside his father — a skill which saw Dick transform buildings inside and out across the Goulburn Valley.
However, it was a chance meeting on a Melbourne bus that changed his life and set him on a path to become a father, an inspiration to many and a beloved son of Shepparton and, in particular, of the Goulburn Valley arts community.
Nagambie-born Val remembered their first meeting.
‘‘We used to catch the same bus to work in Melbourne. One day he fell on my knee when the bus stopped suddenly. We got talking and that was it,’’ she said.
Dick and Val married at St John’s Anglican Church at Nagambie in 1965, but it wasn’t long before they made the move to Shepparton with the attraction of more painting jobs.
‘‘I reckon he had painted every church and pub in Nagambie. He used to say ‘I’m safe whichever way I go’,’’ Val said.
She said her husband had no problem finding work.
‘‘He always went that extra mile. He wouldn’t do a job without finishing it to perfection,’’ Val said.
As children arrived, Dick and Val stepped up to become Scout and Guide leaders in Shepparton.
In 1970, Dick joined the 1st North Shepparton troop and remained a leader until he turned 55.
Val spent 25 years as a Guide and Scout leader.
Val said Dick had been a Scout messenger during the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne.
‘‘He used to run the results to the judges — he was very proud of that, he kept the scarf all his life,’’ she said.
She said as Scout master Dick took boys all across Victoria in a transit van, and came up with a special ‘‘Bog Badge’’ awarded to those intrepid young scouts who helped free the vehicle from numerous muddy tracks.
‘‘He made it all crazy and fun, and gave them all good memories,’’ she said.
In the late 1960s, Shepparton Light Music Company president Lance Woodhouse encouraged Dick to join the community theatre group.
The painter and decorator went on to become a lifelong theatre lover, using his skills backstage building and painting sets.
He later graced the stage as an actor with the Shepparton Theatre Arts Group.
After his first heart attack at the age of 41, Dick underwent a five-way bypass heart operation 17 years later.
In 2010, he was fitted with a pacemaker and defibrillator.
‘‘He was living on borrowed time,’’ Val said.
Despite battling heart disease, Dick supported nearly 50 STAG productions as a painter, builder and actor.
He was awarded a STAG life membership in 1993 and went on to earn four Georgy Award nominations for his acting skills in The One Day of the Year, Gosforth’s Fete, Cosi and It’s My Party (And I’ll Die If I Want To).
A STAG tribute to Dick’s long contribution said one of his final STAG shows was the 2017 production of The Sound of Music.
‘‘He came to every rehearsal to make sure the set looked right, he spent countless hours painting and repainting to get the perfect look,’’ a tribute read.
‘‘He loved to chat to the cast especially the young ones and was always willing to lend a hand where needed. One thing is for sure Dick was loved by everyone. His smile and infectious laugh could light up a room.’’
Son Troy remembered his father as a strong role model.
‘‘Throughout our formative years, it is our role models that shape the person we each become,’’ he said.
‘‘I am blessed that my father was such a man, who lived his life in such an exemplary way, showing not just my siblings and I, but generations of youth in the community, his strong moral code, tempered with humour, compassion, patience and boundless love.’’
In the final years of his life, Dick and Val shared a passion for geocaching — a worldwide outdoor pursuit using GPS to locate hidden artefacts, sometimes in remote locations.
‘‘We travelled to every state in Australia, often off the tourist map — and we had tremendous fun,’’ Val said.
Val remembered her husband’s infectious humour, which has a permanent reminder in the shape of ‘‘Dick’s Stump’’ — a tree stump he carved into a face using a chainsaw on a Kialla Golf Club fairway.
Val’s final memory of her husband is of a man with boundless love and good humour.
‘‘When he was on the trolley being put in the ambulance, the ambos put a sheet on him, but told him not to pull it over his face because the neighbours might get a shock.
‘‘Of course, he pulled it over his head — but before he did, he gave me a wink and whispered I love you. That was the last time I saw him,’’ Val said.
Richard Hutchinson leaves behind Val, four children and 10 grandchildren.