It is with the utmost sadness and devastation that I write of the untimely and tragic death of my father, Andrew John Cope, who was killed in a car accident on Thursday the 16th of November.
Dad was someone who lived life with a unique vigour and energy. He often sat me down as a child and remarked. “Tim, isn’t life just amazing!" I felt so special to have a father who was engaged with the outdoors, often taking myself and my brothers and sister into the bush, snow, surf, and mountains.
As a very young child I couldn’t work out what could be so interesting about a wildflower, or a rock formation, but his enthusiasm and excitement was enough to make me smile and be inspired.
In later life of course the passion he had for the outdoors transformed itself into the basis of my life, and my travels. Despite at times being a little worried about my endeavours and partly against (particularly the insecurity of my decision to leave behind my Arts/law degree at University), he always supported me in every way he could, and this often meant seeing me go on long and distant journeys. This must have been so hard as a parent, and only during my current journey constantly inspired by the warmth of family on the harsh Eurasian steppe, have I come to fully understand that . In his last letter to me, he wrote that he looked forward to the day that his’ ‘children’s voices could be heard again in his home.’
I am forever grateful that I had the chance to come back to Australia only two months ago for the Australian Geographic awards- before that I had not been home for two and half years. I spent four days at home, and then three days with mum and Dad in Sydney. They were some of the happiest, and memorable that I had ever shared with him. He was so proud, and I felt a little overwhelmed, for I always felt so proud of him.
At home recently I clearly remember how he took me into his office and said ‘tim, sit down, and read this.’ On the computer was a wonderful excerpt from Tolstoy. ‘Isn’t it just the most incredible descriptive literature you have ever read?’ Again there was his enthusiasm, and this time I realised that he had already found so much joy staying in touch with me on my travels. He had been reading so much about the places I have been travelling in and probably knew a lot more than me. Our connection was at a great distance, often through satellite phone and email, but we were close. Dad fitted so much into his life. He had an unending connection with surf life saving as a competitor, lifeguard, and member of Waratah Surf Life Saving Club at Sandy Point. He was particularly fond of ski racing, and this later developed into a love of sea-kayaking that took him on challenging journeys in Australia and later Alaska. He travelled to California in 1981 as part of the Victorian Surf Life Saving Association team, and this was the beginning of a special connection that he had with north America.
When I was fourteen he spent a year in Minnesota studying doing his masters in Experiential Education, and I will never forget the many stories of people and places that he constantly wrote home about. We often had his friends visit from all corners of the country in Australia, and from Canada and the USA.
Perhaps his greatest achievement while working for 18 years at Monash University in Gippsland as senior lecturer, was the creation of the bachelor of Sport and Outdoor Recreation. We sorely missed dad in those years when he was locked into his office working himself to the bone with incredible determination and energy. What he loved most though of course wasn’t being stuck at university indoors, but taking students on outdoor journeys, ranging from surfing, kayaking, bushwalking, to cross country and downhill skiing in winter. He was particularly fond of his international students with whom he shared many good times in the shade of ferns at Wilsons prom, the shadow of Hinchinbrook island, lapping waves of Waratah and the enchanting valleys and mountains of the Grampians.
In December last year, Dad made a very difficult decision to leave Monash University, and move into the unknown. His job had become something removed from his passions and he was suffering from stress. At the age of 55, it must have been one of the most difficult decisions that any man can make- to depart from financial security and the project and place that has taken up such a chunk of your life. A part of him no doubt regretted the decision, but he knew that he had to for his own well being. I was so proud of him for that.
I was in the Ukraine upon hearing this terrible news, and my youngest brother, Cameron (21), was in Chile. My sister, Natalie (23) and brother Jonathan (25) were fortunately in Melbourne and came to comfort mum on that very, very hard first night. For us all, particularly my mother Anne, we have lost so much and it will take time to understand the hole that has been left in our lives. I strongly believe though that Dad will live on through us, much as he always did, and see the things that he didn’t, and continue to be proud of us. I am in Australia and have left my horses and dog Tigon behind in the Ukraine for the time being, and will only return when I am ready.
Dad, you roam wide and free, and live to the heavens of your dreams and hopes. We are with you on this journey as you pass beyond the horizon, and we know that the sun continues to shine. Go with peace and enchantment, and know that your children's voices can be heard in your home.
Funeral service to be held Tuesday the 28th of November. Where: Community Church Warragul, Gippsland, King St. Service begins at 2pm. Enquiries, Robert Green, 03 56 232 338
All friends of the Cope family are welcome for the wake at the Cope’s family home afterwards.
Dad would have turned 56 on the 13th of December.
(SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM TO DOWNLOAD A FILM TRIBUTE TO DAD)