A couple of years ago on my wedding anniversary the phone rang, and I gave the phone to my wife, Louise, to answer. On the other end of the line was my mate, Jack. When she answered the phone he started singing the song, Louise, the 1929 classic by Maurice Chevalier. My wife loved it. It was all Jack's idea. He had been planning it for months. Every time I would see him he would say, 'Remember the phone call. I have planned the song out. We're ready to go.' That is my mate, Jack Bedford, 95 years young and one of the world's great romantics.
Seventy-five years ago he was not singing love songs. He was in a place called Tobruk and was one of the great Rats of Tobruk that withstood the siege by Rommel's army in 1941. On 14 April that year a German dive bomber flew overhead where Jack was working with his mate, Eddie Herne. As the bomber started firing, they both dived into a little dirt hole, one on top of the other. After the plane had passed, Jack pushed Eddie off him. Eddie had been hit; he was riddled with bullets from the plane's machine gun. As he lay there dying, he asked Jack a favour. He said, 'Try to see my mum when you get home.'
When Jack got home he married Beryl, the love of his life. They had three wonderful children, Julie, John and Darren. Over the years they had stacks of grandkids and great grandkids. Jack worked as a bread carter and he joined he local RSL at Bankstown, and that is where I met him. For the last 14 years he has been the president of the Bankstown RSL.
Jack never forgot his mate, Eddie, and he never stopped trying to find Eddie's mum. A couple of years ago he found Eddie's family. His mum had long since passed away but his three sisters were still alive. He finally made good on his promise. Eddie's sisters told Jack that it was like he had brought their brother back to life after all these years, and Jack started crying.
Last Monday was Jack's last Anzac Day. He was not at his beloved Bankstown RSL leading the service and having bacon and eggs with me; he was in Waratah Private Hospital.
He passed away on Sunday morning with his daughter, Julie, by his side.
Jack Bedford OAM was a great man. More importantly, he was good man. He was a good husband, a good dad, a good friend and I am going to miss my old romantic mate very much. I am sure he is up there now, back with his beloved Beryl serenading her, and he is also up there with his mate, Eddie, the mate that he never forgot.
I will not forget you, old friend, lest we ever forget men like you.