It was with considerable sadness to learn of the recent passing of Bass local, Wally Marks.
For many years Wally operated plant-stalls at South Gippsland markets...including Wonthaggi and Grantville. He specialised in the bargain-basement bush business.
He was pushing 90, near deaf, failing eyesight, and could barely stay upright in a stiff breeze. In his lifetime he had the smarts and energy to make a bob or two. So, grafting-away at his advanced age was purely optional. It obviously gave his life real meaning. He enjoyed meeting people, having a chat, dispensing advice, and transacting. It was his opportunity to socially-connect on his terms. Moreover, he was very driven in his endeavours – perhaps the legacy of a pretty tough childhood back in England.
Inside his living room there was a dust-laden photo of a remarkably handsome pair on their wedding day. His better-half had died long before. Muttering under his breath he once declared this had coincided with the time ‘everything started to go wrong’. However, he was the most stoic of individuals, and not prone to self-pity. His therapy was to busy himself out of his often self-induced loneliness. This was all the more remarkable given significant physical disabilities.
Outdoors, he staggered around like a cat on hot coals. When the weather improved he went native, un-self-consciously sporting nothing more than an unflattering, oversized pair of underpants. Sometimes even less. This gave the rather surreal impression of being in the presence of a venerable Indian mystic. Hobbling along, he would grasp at every approaching physical support within arms length. He would seed, plant and propagate, by which time there was no remaining energy or inclination for the more mundane task of tidying up the accumulating crap. Or perhaps he simply confined it to his peripheral vision.
Consistent with his exceptional stubbornness and independence, any attempt to assist him clear the mounting backlog was met with the most emphatic refusal. He liked it just the way it was, and didn't give a hoot what others thought.
He did not ask for any favours, nor shy away from speaking his mind. Ordinarily, compromise was not the subject of negotiation. Conversely, he was very forthcoming and helpful with advice to his customers. There was a soft side to him, but it could be eclipsed by his exceptional mental toughness, independence and defiance.
Somehow, he would load up his van every weekend and drive to the market de-jour. One expects he was sweating on the advent of driverless vehicles to enable him to continue for all eternity.
Wally had no compelling need to endure all this, and in reality no longer had the physical capacity to do so. However, he purposefully and courageously willed his way through the process until the day his spirit was snatched away. Snatched, but by no means meekly surrendered. His life therefore was one of purposeful struggle. Which made it full of meaning, or conversely as meaningless as those drawn to the fervent building of elaborate sand castles at low tide. Take your pick.
It may be argued his life could have been more comfortably spent. But comfort was not in his lexicon. He was not your born-again Ikea man, and clearly did not treat his home as a pristine retreat from the minor calamity outdoors. Indeed, his inside and outside worlds were indistinguishable, even for his beloved four-legged friends Curly and cat. Socially, this was obviously problematic, but it did not seem to bother him in the least.
If cleanliness is next to Godliness, Wally was certainly not currying favour with Him upstairs for more advantageous treatment in the next life. He could have received any amount of more earthly assistance, but he steadfastly refused. Indoors, he gave the rather melancholy impression of a man defiantly protecting the spirit of his dearly-departed from the unwanted incursions of latter-day intruders. If she was not there to manage it, then no-one would, not even Wally himself. In so doing, he forged an eerie symmetry between the slow decline in his physical state and his chosen surroundings.
Wally was a man who ran his own race. Unlike most, he was not in the least shaped by the whims and expectations of others. If the measure of a man were the lasting impressions left in the memories of his contemporaries, whether favourable or otherwise, then Wally’s life was a significant triumph.
Pete Granger DDA, Tenby Point, Victoria, Australia
A colourful account of the passing of a local legend.
Written with a high degree of passion by an old ****** Agricultural College colleague of mine, a Brother of 57 years standing, Peter (Piddles) Granger.
Piddles and I spent two years locked together as 24 hour classmates in house. We ate together, studied together, played Australian Rules football together, chased the girls, laughed together, cried together....and we graduated together.