Tribute to a young man whose short life ended on the battlefield in France

©Warren Nunn (First published 14 Jan 2017)

On 22 August 1918, Harold Card’s short, drama-filled life ended when a German shell burst near the village of Etinehem in the Villers-Bretonneux region of France, not far from the Somme.

Just like millions of other young men who had needlessly died on battlefields in the course of human history, Harold never lived to realise his potential; he did not marry, raise a family or build a career.

He came into the world in March 1892 in what is now known as the North Shore area of Sydney, Australia’s biggest city.

He was the son of an English-born couple, Albert Card and Emily Florence Coker who married in 1882 at Westwood, near Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia where Florence—she was known by her second name—grew up after her parents brought their young family out to Australia in 1870.

About a year before they married, Florence had a male child she named Francis Coker who only lived for a few weeks.

It seems possible—although it’s not known for sure—that Albert may have been that child’s father given they married 14 months later.

Harold Card Postcard
A postcard that Harold Card received from his father, Albert, in 1905 after he went to London, leaving behind his wife and teenaged son. The other side of the card includes an image of Albert.

At some point thereafter, Albert and Florence moved to Sydney in New South Wales because that’s where Harold was born a decade later. Given Florence had already given birth to a child; it seems she must have had issues having children because of Harold’s arrival 10 years into the marriage.

The Cards next moved to Perth, Western Australia around the turn of the century because they are found on electoral records in 1903 where Albert is described as a conveyancer.

Beery, bungling, blackguard

Albert Card had been secretary of the North Perth Roads Board as well as having been the North Perth municipality’s town clerk but he appears to have been anything but competent in that job because in 1904 The Sunday Times newspaper had an article which highlighted his questionable actions.

It is titled: Currish, Card, a beery, bungling, blackguard.

In hindsight, it is easy to see the man was emotionally unstable.

Publically disgraced, Albert abandoned his family and left to live in England. More details of that can be found here, including that he took his own life in 1921.

In November 1905, Albert did send Harold a card from London with the words:

“Am surprised no letter from you, arrived here on Monday last; received baptism from London fog on Tuesday-wish you a merry xmas and happy new year-keep cool-write. Dad”

Such correspondence must have been emotionally confusing for a 13-year-old boy trying to come to terms with his dad leaving the family home and going to the other side of the world along with all the horrible things being said about him.

Cross-country move

Florence’s mother Emily Coker (nee Lee) left her husband James Thomas Coker in Rockhampton about 1904 and travelled across to the other side of Australia and joined her daughter in Perth.

They lived only a handful of streets from each other and it’s certain that young Harold had both his mother’s and grandmother’s influence to counteract the trauma of having been abandoned by his father.

Before Harold was born, his grandfather James Thomas Coker had been jailed for fraud, so there is little evidence of a lasting, positive male influence on his life, and there is no surprise that Emily left James and headed west to Perth.

Signing up for service.

In 1916, when Harold signed up to fight in WW1, he was employed on Perth’s tramway network which had only been established in 1899.

Without sighting his employment record—which could be available in the government archives—it’s not known what role young Harold had.

There are about 50 pages in Harold’s service record starting with his sign-up form dated 1 June 1916. It gives his mother’s address as 149 Palmerston St, East Perth, which is only a few minutes’ walk from a previous address, 515 Newcastle St, East Perth (that part of the street is now a small business centre), which has been crossed out on the form.

There is also a sober entry “Father missing”.

What the form also reveals is that Harold had previously been rejected for service because he had undergone an operation for varicose veins, which seems an odd condition for someone in their early 20s.

On this occasion, though, No 2299 Harold George Blanchard Card was deemed fit for military service and assigned to the 43rd Battalion. By October he boarded a ship at Fremantle that first went to Melbourne before heading to France via England.

He was described as 5ft 10ins (1.78m) tall, weighed 153 pounds (about 70kg), had hazel eyes, light brown hair and he had a scar on his right leg (perhaps from his operation).

Wounded in action

In March 1917, Harold first saw action and in August received a gunshot wound to his back and both arms. One can only image how anxious his mother was when she received this bland telegram a few days later:

Reported private Harold Card wounded will advise anything further received.

That was followed by a second telegram:

Not reported private Harold Card admitted Third London General Hospital Wandsworth England fourth August gunshot wound left arm back.

Unwelcome news.

The wound must not have been too serious because there is a note that it had healed by 14 September, so Harold was sent to the training area at Hurdcott in Wiltshire where was he stationed for several weeks before being sent back to France in November.

He was at Rouelles (24 November 1917), Saint-Omer (28 March 1918), Boulogne (8 April 1918), Havre (18 April 1918) and then in the Villers-Bretonneux region where he was killed in August.

As was the case with countless other soldiers on that dreadful arena of war, Harold had several bouts of diarrhoea.

Gallant, dedicated soldier

There are two letters giving background to Harold’s service in France. He was a runner which meant he had the task of getting vital information to headquarters or other units and would have been at risk from snipers, stray bullets and shells, etc.

A letter from Lt. A.H.Dalziel, sent from 3rd London General Hospital and 12 September 1918 reads:

Dear Madam. Your letter of 24th Sep. just to hand in which you ask for information re the late Pvte. Harold Card. As I was doing duty with another company of that particular day, I was not actually with him when he was killed, but if you write to the O/C "A" Coy 43rd Btl (Captain J.J.Moran) he will give you more information that I can as to the place and nature of his death. Speaking of Harold as a man and a soldier, I can say this (and for a long time he was continually with me, being my runner); as a man he was straight and good living and liked by all, and as a soldier he was always ready and fearless in his duty. When the occasion arose, and it was necessary to get information sent back to headquarters, no matter what the risk, I always knew that so long as he could move the information would arrive where it was required. And no soldier can show greater devotion to his duty than to place it before his own life, and this Harold was always prepared to do. His death was a loss to the whole company, and I am sorry that I cannot give you the exact locality of his grave, but I am sure Capt. Morgan will give you all the information in that respect. His death was instantaneous. In conclusion, please allow me to express for myself and his comrades in the company, our deepest sympathy for you all to whom he was so dear. Yours sincerely, A.H.Dalziel, Lt.

It was common for the military to write that “his death was instantaneous” because it was felt it would be too much for the family to read that their son had suffered painfully for hours or days.

It's easy to conclude from the above narrative that the phrase was added for such a purpose because it doesn’t fit otherwise.

A lieutenant in Harold’s battalion also wrote to Florence:

Dear Madam, Returning health permits me to perform a duty which I feel is long overdue. Doubtless you have been already notified of your son’s death in action on August 22nd. On that day, the 43rd Battalion was advancing to attack near the town of Bray (Bray-sur-Somme), north of the Somme. We were being heavily shelled, for we were under the observation of the enemy. At about 7 o’clock in the morning a large shell burst among the section to which Pte Card was attached and he fell with a hopeless wound to the groin, dying almost at once. Three others of the section were killed and three wounded. Unfortunately, I was myself wounded at this time and so cannot say exactly where your son was buried; but the cemetery will probably be very near the spot where he and so many of his comrades fell that day. That is near a cross roads just half a mile north of Etinehem, now far behind our lines and out of range of all German shells. Pte Card was a good and brave soldier, esteemed by both officers and men throughout the Battalion, and one and all. We wish as we may to express our great sympathy with you in your sad loss. And yet we believe he fell, as all brave men wish, advancing in the face of the enemy. Frank W. Thomas, Lieut., 3 Platoon, “A” Coy, 43rd Btn. A.I.F

From the above, the first letter gives no details of Harold’s death but Lieutenant Dalziel’s describes Harold as a soldier who did sterling service as a runner.

Official recognition.

In the second letter, Lieutenant Thomas describes the battalion advancing on the town of Bray-sur-Somme which is only about 3km from Etinehem when a shell-burst killed Harold and some others.

Harold was buried about 2000 yards (1.8km) from Bray-sur-Somme but the co-ordinates in his record don’t match normal longitude and latitude.

Treasured possessions

Harold was an exemplary soldier and the only “blemish” on his record was a minor disciplinary incident in England over burning a naked light after lights-out.

For Florence, the grief must have been unbearable and she treasured the return of his possessions as well as medals and other honours.

In 1919, Florence was sent her son’s effects that included a pipe, devotional book, a compass, a money belt, a woollen cap comforter, tobacco pouch, letters, a card photo, and a German machine gun belt.

In 1922, Florence received a memorial scroll, as well as a British war medal and a Victory medal.

Florence also had a memorial card printed that has an image of Harold in uniform with the words: In loving memory of my dear son Harold G.B.Card 43rd Battalion killed in action “somewhere in France” August 22nd, 1918, aged 26 years 5 months.

It also had the following verse:

They have laid our son down to rest

In the flag with the Southern Cross,

And we mourn for him as one of the best,

For his death was Australia’s loss.

He has sailed on his last commission

To that beautiful place called rest,

And his head is gently pillowed

On the Great Commander’s breast.

Deeply mourned -

Inserted by his loving mother.

Note: I am a first cousin, twice removed of Harold Card who was a first cousin of my maternal grandfather. See the relationship:


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James Thomas Coker, embezzler

© By Warren Nunn

According to immigration records the Royal Dane on which James Thomas Coker arrived in Australia did so in November 1870 and not 1869 as the above entry records.

At right is part of the prison record of  a criminal who spent time in Queensland's infamous St Helena Island jail. He embezzled money as a servant of a municipal authority. I am one of his many descendants.

What do you do with the information that someone who went before you carried out a serious crime - an abuse of trust - for years before being found out?

He made no attempt to deny his guilt when confronted with the accusations. That does not excuse his actions. You can't hide from the facts, nor can you wear them as some sort of badge of honour.

The man was my grandfather's grandfather on my mother's side. His name was James Thomas Coker, town clerk of the North Rockhampton Borough Council from about 1885 to 1890.

He was the third son of a successful businessman, William Coker, who was a ship chandler in Stepney, London, in the mid-1800s. When James was born in 1841, business was booming for the company run by his father and grandfather.

Business fails, money disappears

By 1852, both men were dead and the future was less certain. By 1867, the business was gone along with property and sums of money that William senior had left in his will to the six grandsons.

By July 1870, James had left England for Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia. From about 1885, he had the role of town clerk. In those times, the town had municipal authorities for both sides of the river.

When the Cokers arrived on the Royal Dane in November 1870, the family unit also included wife Emily and children Jane (11), Emily (9), Ada (7), Leonard (5), Arthur (4) and Henry (my grandfather's father, aged 2).

James Thomas Coker and Emily Lee.

Nine more children were born to the couple in the ensuing 15 years, but only James Martin, Albert Napier, Herbert Leslie and Archibald Lawson survived to adulthood.

Whether Coker honestly served the council at all is open to conjecture because, from 1886, he had a second set of books and was keeping money for himself.

An incident in 1888 should have shaken Coker out of his deceitful ways or at least caused authorities to have a closer look at the council. It came when the mayor, John Wallis Rutter, was jailed seven years for fraud.

At that time, Coker was in the thick of his scheme but auditors had not picked up on it.

It is often said criminals don't stop until they get caught. That was certainly true in the case of James Thomas Coker.

Perhaps the seeds of doubt were growing in October 1888 when councillors discussed at length Coker's claims that a third person other than he and the mayor had access to the strongroom.

Trying to cover his tracks

In July, Coker reported a burglary at the council offices during which the mayor's room was entered, a quantity of spirits stolen and a valuable lamp broken.

The newspaper report of the meeting is somewhat disjointed but mentions Coker's belief about a third key and, crucially to what transpired 18 months later, the disappearance of the butt of a receipt book he received from a committee chairman.

That was when Coker suggested the existence of a third key. Thereafter, the strongroom lock was changed. By August 1890, the pressure was building and, reading between the lines, perhaps the mayor and other alderman, had firm suspicions about their town clerk.

A report in the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin newspaper on Saturday 2 August 1890, leaves the reader in little doubt that James Thomas Coker's days were numbered.

Judgment day beckons

The paper reported a "mysterious silence" about the council's finances which were supposed to be tabled at each fortnightly meeting. That had not been done for several months.

The paper's closing observations are worth recounting verbatim:

"Only one conclusion can be come to after considering all the facts - that the Town Clerk has repeatedly disobeyed, the resolution of Council, and that the Mayor, if he has not approved of such a course of procedure, has shielded him from all blame.

But why all this silence about the finances? Are they in such a bad way that His Worship does not care to have the facts published?

The Council - and if no alderman has the courage then the ratepayers - should demand that the clandestine procedure be at once abandoned."

A fortnight later, the paper again reported on Coker's objections to anyone else handling the rates books.

The report reads: "The meeting of the North Rockhampton Council on Wednesday was rather lengthy, a good deal of time being wasted in discussing a motion introduced by Alderman Noble.

That councillor, with a view to setting the finances to rights, brought forward a proposal instructing the Town Clerk to make out a copy of the rates in arrears, the copy to be given to the junior in the office, the latter to have the power of receiving money tendered in payment.

The reason for this appears to be that the Town Clerk is understood to be averse to anyone touching the books in his absence. On the face of it the idea was a good one, but then there is no reason, so far us we can see, why another official besides the Town Clerk should not have access to the books.

It may be, as Alderman Nobbs said, that Mr Coker does not care for anyone to interfere, but that gentleman's wishes in the matter should not be allowed to operate prejudicially to the interests of the Council. Of course he cannot always be in the office - it would be unreasonable to expect it; but it is equally unreasonable for Mr Coker to imagine that ratepayers are going to call time after time with their money. I

f he is obstinate in the matter, and no other conclusion can be come to after reading Alderman Nobbs's remarks, it was manifestly the duty of the alderman named, to have said so straight out. The half-yearly statement of receipts and expenditure, was laid on the table, and will no doubt be published in a few days.

The Mayor has promised that now the accounts have been brought up to date a report of the state of the finances shall be laid on the table at each meeting."

About six weeks later, James Thomas Coker was arrested for embezzlement and admitted to having a second set of books on which he issued receipts for moneys received.

North Rockhampton Borough Council Building in 2018.


Full admission and restitution

He said he took about £450 and it emerged his actions started about four years earlier. Coker handed over a list of the sums misappropriated and also a number of butts from receipt books.

Justice was swift in those days and by 18 September 1890, Coker had received a four-year sentence, to be served on the infamous St Helena Island in the mouth of the Brisbane River.

It was 21 October when prisoner No.3802 arrived on St Helena and assigned to cell No.283. It was to be his home until 17 October 1893 when he was released on three months “special remission”.

In the record of his time there, Coker was twice cautioned for “offences”. The first was having in his possession a lead pencil and a bag of chillies. The second was for insolence.

His physical description was dark complexion, 5ft 10¼in tall, medium build, brown hair and brown eyes.

Coker’s former mayor John Rutter was also on St Helena. He had been in cell No. 51 since February 1888 and was not due for release until September 1893.

Petition for early release

Eighteen months after he was sentenced, Coker's wife Emily submitted a petition for his early release.

In the meantime, Emily supported herself and her youngest children as a nurse/midwife.

When he did get out of prison, James Coker returned to Rockhampton, eventually setting up as a land agent.

The Coker name was again associated with the council when son Arthur (1867-1945) was elected an alderman in 1903.

Around 1904, it seems James and Emily decided to part ways as she moved to Perth, Western Australia, apparently to live with their eldest daughter Jane.

The two youngest sons, Herbert and Archibald, followed her out of Queensland. Herbert was last heard of in Kalgoorlie while Archibald ended up in Victoria.

FOOTNOTE: The author, Warren Nunn, started his journalism career at The Rockhampton Morning Bulletin on 3 July 1972.

© The material on this page is the sole work of the author.

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Notes on Cyril Coker's funeral,  29th March 2004, Rockhampton, which was conducted by his son Pastor Ian Coker.

On behalf of my sisters, Marjorie and Judith, their families, myself and my family, I would like to thank you all for your attendance here today. It is appreciated and it is fitting that so many should have come to honour the life of Charles Cyril Coker and bid him farewell.
Prayer: Dear Lord, we ask your blessing upon this service that we may. honour Cyril's life in a fitting and appropriate way  and bid our sad but fond farewells to his earthly remains. We give you thanks for him, the influence of his life upon us, the continuing legacy of that life, and the memories that will remain with us. You give and now you have taken away. Blessed be your name Father, in Jesus name, Amen.
There was a young girl who was ever so constant in her attendance to worship. Someone asked her and she said. "So that when they carry me in one day in a coffin, nobody will say, 'Who's that'?"
My Dad was no stranger to this place, having worshipped here faithfully since it was converted from a bakery into a house nigh on 40 years ago. This is where he wanted this service to be held and we apologise to those of you who are having to stand.
The first thing that needs to be said about him was that he was an upright man, a good man. He was a Christian. He also preached. I'd like to quote from some preliminary notes he had written as part of his memoirs:
"Many now agree with me, that this land of Australia cannot be classified as a Christian country. All may think it is, but look around us and what do we see; what do we hear and what do we witness? All I need to say is how would Christ classify us if He came right now?
Fully aware, that to stand firm at this time, in maintaining a set and distinct religious outlook will gain me more enemies than friends, but like a certain evangelist declared in his memoirs, "Here I stand, I can do no other, may the Lord help me". Certainly it being true, that I most open-heartily embrace the doctrines of Protestantism. To agree to differ by being divided by individual creeds and doctrines worried me, for as I studied Holy Scripture, Bible authority was not there. To conclude my entries concerning the disputes and crimes, even at this day and age, being committed in the name of infallible religion, I must inform my readers I am neither Roman Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Muslim or Jew but just a Christian."

In Num.23: 10 Balaam made the request, "Let me die the death of the righteous".
Death is a fact that cannot be denied and an event that cannot be avoided. We cannot determine when we shall go but we can determine where we shall go. The depth of our life is more important than the length of our life. Many rich blessings are in store for those who die the death of the righteous
According to Ps. 116; 15 the death of the righteous is precious in the sight of the Lord. That tells me that God is concerned when His children experience death and since the passing of the righteous is precious to the Lord, death is not the end of existence.
In addition to that, Rev. 14.13 says, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord". One cannot die in the Lord without first living in and for the Lord. And as Rom. 14:8 says, the righteous belong to the Lord riot only in life but in death as well. Death is the divine signal that our day of work, our struggle and conflict is over. As Rev 14:13 goes on to add, "they may rest from their labours and struggle and their works do follow them". So much of the labour done here under the sun will be in vain but 1 Cor 15:58 declares that labour in the Lord will not be so.
Again in Phil. 1:21 the apostle Paul says that the death of the righteous is gain. Life has its constant losses, but in death all is gain for the righteous. And this gain is far better than what this earthly life has to offer. It needs to be said that we are not speaking of self-righteousness but in righteousness in and through Christ. The text says: "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain". Take out the Christ and you take out the gain and the text becomes “For me to live is do die".
1 Cor. 15:54 says that the death of the righteous is victory and this defeat of death is made possible by the resurrection of Christ.
And it is the resurrection of Christ that makes the death of the righteous an entrance, not into the blackness or darkness forever, but into eternal life which Titus 1.2 declares is a sure and certain hope that is derived from the promises of a God who cannot lie.
So each of us are here today at the funeral of a righteous man, and Solomon tells us in Eccles 7:2 its good for us to be here because we are reminded of our own mortality and that we too must soon pass this way. Let each of us, through obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ, prepare to die the death of the righteous.
Charles Cyril Coker was born in the Rockhampton Women's Hospital on the 26th June 1918. the youngest of 10 children. To quote his own words from some notes from his memoirs he was working on, "My entry into this world was during the time when fierce battles were being waged on the battlefields of France. Being, by no means the best of times to make an appearance on the world's stage, and to further add discomfort to my entry it was announced that I had contracted gastroenteritis  my mother was told that there was nothing more the medical staff could do and that, "You'll be taking hime home to die".
She was determined to save him and she did even though he was so thin and emaciated his head was the biggest part of his body and on one occasion he slipped through the bottom rail of the cot to be found by his mother hanging by his head, blue and breathless. She gave him mouth to mouth and he recovered eventually from the gastroenteritis as well to live a long life, full of days, passing away last Wednesday, 24th March aged 85 years and 9 months at Greenslopes Hospital in Brisbane.
His could be called a life of many parts. Whatever he turned his hand to he seemed to have the knack of doing well, although he would consider himself a jack of all trades but master of none. His early years were spent at Kabra growing up in the Depression producing a resilience, an abhorrence of waste, and a knack of being able to fix things with a bit of wire and a screwdriver. Surviving meant he didn't have much time for sport and he always referred to football as "that dog and bone act". His first real job was as a carpenter. This he pursued till the years when he joined the RAAF and was trained as a wireless mechanic. He served in Far North Queensland, New Guinea and New Britain. During the war he married Lillian Jane Sleaford who predeceased him in 1979. That union produced three children, Marjorie, Ian and Judy, who are all present today, along with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
After the war he returned to building and built houses in several places, including Yeppoon, Rockhampton and Theodore. On a trip through there about five years ago he was able to point out to me houses which he had built and which still looked in good shape. Just the other day a letter arrived from Townsville testifying a building he had built for the RAAF over 60 years ago was still standing and still in use. He also built the family house in Eton Street in the late 40s in which he raised his family and continued to live in till his recent illness, which, ironically, was brought on by inhaling asbestos during his building years.
Building houses mainly on his own, his slight frame belying his strength and endurance, took its toll on his back. and he had to find different employment.
With his previous training in the Air Force, he was able to do training and find work with the-then PMG - later Telecom - where he served in the Rocky Telephone Exchange as a technician. I can remember him sitting under the house doing his study because we children were making too much noise. He served there till his retirement.
He was a man interested in many things. On the one hand he loved old handtools and was sceptical of modern power tools, yet was not afraid of technology. He did most of the work on his cars through the years, and he drove his old 57 Chev for the past 37 years and it’s still going. In his 70s he attended TAFE to learn typing so that he could use a computer. He wrote and published a book just last year with several others in the pipeline which sadly he did not get to finish.
He had a love and a knack for drawing and painting from his youth which he never had time to until pursue his retirement years when for several years he had a drawing class on his back verandah as part of the U3A program. He was also involved in the Historical Society.
It also needs to be said that for many years he served the scouting movement with  distinction particularly the Warripari Group at West Rocky. But in all his accomomplishments, talents, and service he remained a quiet, humble man, loved by many. We shall miss him.
Though days such as these are the saddest days in the fabric of our life, and these are times when we look for consolation and hope to case our pain, there is good news in such an occasion. I suspect the sorrow we feel is purely for our own reasons _ for Cyril is better off.  Death separates us from loved ones, but it has also separated this loved one from the frustrations and pains of a body that was wearing out.
Death is the door that has ushered him into a better life. Cyril didn't know when this day was coming, hut he knew it would come and he was prepared for it.
As the apostle Paul said of himself, so can it be said of Cyril, “I He fought a good fight, he finished his course, and he kept the faith and henceforth there is laid up for him a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the Righteous Judge, shall give him”
We have come to that time when there is nothing more that we can do, and perhaps to say more and delay proceedings would he inappropriate. Cyril's recent sufferings are over and would we recall him to this vale of tears if we could? As James Montgomery said, Who that has ever been could bear to be no more? Yet who would tread again the scene he trod through life before?
In the words of Job, “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away; he flees like a shadow and does not continue. As God told man in the beginning, we were made from the dust and to the dust we return. At this time we play out the words of Eccles 12:5-7
Let us pray:
We now commit the earthly house that Cyril lived in to be cremated. We mourn his passing for we have lost a father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother in Christ and friend.
We shall miss him Father, for each of us has our own particular niche in our life and memory for him. We thank your for the contribution his life made to ours and to broad communities. We ask your blessings upon those who remain. May there be comfort in the days and nights that lie ahead when sorrow casts a long shadow over all of life’s pleasures. Let joyful and pleasant recollections rise in our hearts Father to displace the bitterness of present sorrow. In Jesus’s name, Amen.


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Written by Cyril Coker’s granddaughter Bettrys Wellings.

Ode to Grandad

What a great man at the age of 85
To achieve such great things and still be alive -
To fight for his country, to have a family,
To publish a book, and start another three.

So many things to love about his ways
So many things – how to portray?
He lived the Christian life, as a true believer should
And encouraged others in their walk, as much as he could.

How could you not love the curl in his hair
The big knuckled hands, and how he slouched in his chair.
How could you not love, the pigeon-toed walk
The scuff noises he made, as his thongs hit the chalk.

How could you not laugh at the same jokes every meal
For the way Cyril told them – it was always a funny deal.
How could you not love the hoarding of lots
From buttons to screws, to 1000 milk bottle tops.

How could you not love the ditties and dance songs
And labels on bottles saying “? Gee, It sure pongs!”
How could you not appreciate the crosswords and his persistence,
For the hours he spent pondering over questions of resistance.

How could you not love the innocence at dinner,
Where snoring at the table – he was often the winner.
How could you not chuckle at the dripping of the nose,
Where unnoticed the water would drop t’wards his toes.

How could you not love the long weekly ITMA’s
The cursing of technology, especially the computer.
How could you not join in the viewing of ‘The Bill’
With cup of tea in hand, but no water – at his will.

How could you get annoyed with the Chev’s piercing squeal,
Since Grandad couldn’t hear it – it was not a big deal.
How could we not love the little inventions,
For the bluetacked pyjamas must make a mention.

Surely these behaviours, these traits are the ones we will miss
For times spent with Grandad were always such bliss.
His wittiness, his charm were always a blessing
And each of us here takes a special memory that needs caressing.

So, God’s blessings to you Grandad, our friend and forefather
You will continue to be a part of us, now and ever after
But now you are blessed, as to rest you are lain,
Sweet dreams, my special Grandad, until we meet again.

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Charles Cyril Coker (26 Jun 1918 to 24 Mar 2004)

Cyril Coker.

IN 1918, a mother took her deathly sick newborn son home from Rockhampton Women’s Hospital after medical staff announced, “You’ll be taking him home to die”.

But that child - Charles Cyril Coker - proved them wrong and lived 85 years until illness ended his earthly days at Greenslopes Hospital in Brisbane last month.

The youngest of 10 children born to Harry and Emma Coker of Kabra, Cyril Coker lived and worked in and around Rockhampton all his life apart from his time in the RAAF during World War II.

After growing up in Kabra, Mr Coker became a carpenter, a trade at which he excelled until the war years intervened. He joined the Civil Construction Corps on building what became known as the American Settlement in Townsville.

Served his country

The desire to better serve his country led to him joining the RAAF in 1942 where he trained as a wireless technician. He had postings in Queensland and Papua New Guinea.

After the war he returned to carpentry building houses in Rockhampton, Yeppoon and Theodore.

He built the house in which he and his wife Lil raised three children in Eton St, West Rockhampton.

He lived on there after Mrs Coker pre-deceased him in 1979.

Children of Harry Coker and Emma Aldridge at Kabra, Queensland, in 1966 on Emma's 90th birthday. Standing back, from left, are Roy, Archie, Fred, Laurie, Alex, and Cyril. Flanking Emma are her daughters Edna and Daphne.

Career change

The rigours of house building took its toll on Mr Coker’s slight frame leading to back problems that forced a career change.

With the wireless communication skills he learnt in the RAAF, Mr Coker re-trained to become a telephone technician with the PMG (now Telstra) at the Rockhampton exchange where he was employed until he retired aged 60.

Outside of work, Mr Coker had many interests including church, writing, drawing, painting, family history and scouting. 

He held drawing classes in his home for U3A, volunteered his time with the Rockhampton Historical Society and worshipped for more than 40 years at the Denham St Church of Christ in a building he helped convert from a bakery.

He drove a 1957 Chevrolet for almost 40 years, went to TAFE in his 70s and learnt to type so that he could use a computer on which he wrote prolifically of his time in the air force, his life experiences and his family.

Last year Mr Coker self-published a book titled Dear Mother which was based on letters his mother kept from his service years that went undiscovered at the family home for four decades.

For many years, he led the Warripari Scout Group at West Rockhampton under the name Cuscus, a marsupial he encountered in PNG.

Mr Coker is survived by older brother Roy, three children  - Marj, Ian and Judy - seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

- written by his great nephew Warren Nunn  with the help of his family.

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