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The Demise of 242572 WO1 John Barry (JB) Brown (Ret)

Born 13 May1934—Died 27 May1986

By 41961 WO1 (Bob) R.C. Thompson (Ret)

Early June 1986 my old Army friend, Bruce James Byron, commonly known as Barky rang me at home and gave me the sad news that JB had passed away and was residing in the morgue at Red Cliffs hospital. He went on to say that JB was destitute and there wasn’t any money to have him buried and what were we going to do?

I told Barky we should try to raise the money by asking all the RAEME units and it would be a good idea to put an article in the Sun newspaper seeking donations. I actually said this with tongue in cheek. Barky did just that. Barky also enlisted the help of Peter Abbot and had a word with Lt. Col. R. Blackwell who said he would help.

Barky and Peter Abbott opened an account with the Defence Credit Co-Operative Limited. Account Number 54322 J. B. Brown Fund.

The word was sent out to all the RAEME units that we required donations and all of a sudden money started to arrive at the special account. By about the 20 June we had enough money to bury JB among his friends in the Wodonga Lawn Cemetery. Contributors generously gave $2394.40. I have listed all their names at the end of this article along with the balance sheet signed by the Fund Managers LtCol R.M. Blackwell, Peter Abbott and Bruce (Barky) Byron dated 2 Jul 1986.

Barky made arrangements with John Hossack Funeral Directors to have JB bought down from the hospital at Red Cliffs. The Funeral Directors were asked to help with the costs as we also had to buy a grave. They bought JB down in the back of a ute, Barky and Peter bought a grave out at the Wodonga Cemetery, we were all up and running. Notices were placed in the Border Morning Mail and the Melbourne Sun announcing the funeral to be on Friday the 4Jul86 at the St John’s Anglican Church Wodonga starting at 2pm.

In hindsight I have found out that DVA would have buried JB if he had less than $5000 in assets. At the time we didn’t know.

Friday the 4th of July 86 arrives and we all assemble at the C of E Church Wodonga, 2pm and the day is a shocker, it is pouring with rain. The service starts with some reverence. There were testimonials, all spoke glowing about JB. Barky (pictured) who is one of JB’s oldest friends said how sorry he was that JB had appeared to die alone. We all thought that shouldn’t have happened.  Someone suggests to the Funeral Directors that going out to the cemetery in this weather wasn’t a good idea and just maybe the grave is full of water. The service is over and we all wait for the verdict re the burial and in the meanwhile people got up and started to tell funny stories about some of JB’s antics over the years. I have never laughed so much in all my life, it was really hilarious. The verdict from the Undertakers was the grave had collapsed and it wasn’t possible to conduct the actual burial on that day. All or most went out to RTC (RAEME Training Centre) where Barky put the rest of the collected money over the bar. Seven dollars and seventy five cents.

Barky Byron later put out a statement re what happened with JB.
JB’s doctor at Red Cliffs advised that the cause of death was cancer of the throat, a condition diagnosed approximately 12 months ago. He attended the Peter MacCallum Hospital in Melbourne and underwent surgery and received chemotherapy treatment. The doctor said JB was always fully aware of his condition and accepted quiet well. His condition deteriorated further about a month before he passed away in Red Cliffs Hospital on 27 May.  There were times during his illness that JB should have been hospitalised however he preferred life in his caravan and the doctor said he acceded to JB’s wishes. The Doctor was quiet impressed with JB’s ability to be able to discuss his condition using terminology normally employed only by members of the profession. The state of his affairs at the end were probably bought about by his failing health over the past year or so.

Copy of letter sent with a donation of $20.

Dear Sir,
I had never heard of the late J.B. Brown, ex WO1 RAEME, Balcombe, until I seen your little ad in todays Melbourne ‘Sun” newspaper. (11Jun86)
However, as one of the countless Australian taxpayers who fund the scores of foreign Draft-dodgers who have been granted a safe and happy haven in this fair land of ours, I thought the least I could do for a fellow countryman would be “to kick in” twenty Bucks to give him an honourable resting place after having served his country.
Hoping your efforts are crowned with success

Yours sincerely,
Dinkum Aussie.

Alf (AJJ) Lee comment:
JB was the only person that I knew who could prop at the RTC Sgt’s mess bar for several hours and thoroughly read and understand a complicated technical manual whilst joining in and listening to the mess activities all at the same time. And on occasions, consuming a can of Baked Beans also.

List of Contributors

Balance Sheet