(Eulogy delivered by Leigh Marett, Natives Rifle Club)
Tom was born in Leongatha, Victoria in 1935, The youngest of 4 children and the only boy.
I met Tom in the late 1970s, when I was in my teens. To me he made quite an impression, a good shot, and a hard competitor, both on the range and in the bar, sports drinks took on a different meaning back then.
Over time into the 80s and 90s was when I really got to know him. His shooting reached another level during this time… and he became one of the country’s elite rifle shooters. Podium finishes at many of the state championships, which attracted 100’s of competitors, were now the norm.
At country prize meetings in Victoria, I can still remember hearing some of his rivals groan, when they saw Tom’s car come through the gate or parked on the range, as they knew their chances of success were severely diminished.
Top Cat, had many beaten, before a shot was even fired.
One of my fondest memories was as teammates in 1994, representing Victoria, National Championships in Brisbane. Tom from memory did not drop a point in all the matches he was selected in… brilliant!
As well as being an exceptional shot, Tom would make custom rifle stocks. Just like his shooting, the attention to detail ensured the finished result was top notch. Every so often, he would travel an 8 hour round trip from Geelong to Myrtleford, just to hand pick the walnut timber blanks, that he’d fashion into his craftsman made stocks. Tom even had been known to turn out furniture, including the odd coffee table.
Tom’s skill and expertise with tools didn’t end there with timber…. he was an expert machinist with metal, not only could he fit barrels and do all manner of armouring. He could design and machine just about anything. All done with minimum fuss but maximum precision. Today, his sights are still in use all over Australia, across the Tasman and beyond.
Tom was also very savvy, mechanical wise, which goes right back to Leongatha, initially he had ambitions of being an electrician, but due to lack of opportunity in the town, he commenced a career in auto mechanical. This in time led to him becoming workshop manager there. He subsequently went to work at Ford as a mechanic, where he progressed to Manager of Ford’s proving ground in Geelong, where he finished his working life.
Speaking to Marcia, the other day, she told me he was also very adept at repairing appliances such as washing machines. There seemed to be no limit to what he could do with his hands.
1999 Tom and Marcia moved to QLD and joined Natives RC, after not too much convincing on my part, or at least I’d like to think ….. we already had a strong fixtures team, but we were now invincible with Top Cat on board. As well as a cracking shot, Tom proved to be a fantastic club man, and assisted many with his support, knowledge and advice.
Although never one to suffer fools or below par behaviour, he was greatly respected and held in the highest regard.
Away from the range also, in Tom I always had a real good mate. His technical knowledge of all things shooting, hand loading ammunition in particular was immense. As was his patience in answering literally the hundreds of questions I had over the years. …..Tom and patience, you may laugh. I will miss our chats on all sorts of things, and him whinging on how the umps dudded bloody Collingwood again.
Tom… Top Cat…. to me, and many of us here,…you will always be, Top Dog as a fellow shooter, bloke and friend.