Farewell To A Dear Friend.
Every now and then life deals us a real, to be frank, shitty blow. So it was that recently I recieved a phone call about the death of one of my dearest friends, Bill Sullivan.
Apart from a brief mention on my websites at the time, I have thus far been unable to get the strength to do a full tribute.
The below is a eulogy I wrote for Bill the day after the funeral. Not being a public speaker, I have sent this out to his friends after the event.
I would like to truly thank the following people, who were either part of our 'Philippine Railway Historical Society' or our extended family, who attended Bill's funeral on the day.
Pare Bernie Biz, Pare Nathan Chapple, Pare David Phillips, Milan Stenek and his dear long time friend Anne..
Also thank you to Nick Buenafe (Phils), Alan Hicks (Phils), Graham Holt (UK), Paul Hornby (Phils), Harvey Smoller (Phils), David Williams (NZ) and David Xuereb (NSW) for pasing on their messages.
EULOGY - BILL SULLIVAN
By: Brad Peadon (Part of his Sydney Family)
It is with much regret that I have only known Bill since around the start of this century, coming together through the mutual love we had for the railways of the Philippines, and that of the country itself.
My involvement in the country came through my marriage to Ana, a Filipina who I met in Australia. Having been interested in railways all my life, it was not surprising that my first trip to the Philippines in 1999 would lead to a long held interest in their, then, slowly decaying operations.
I returned to Australia, set up a small internet webpage and forum based on the subject and it was not all that long after that I received a membership application from Bill, telling me of his great interest and that he was from nearby Newtown.
Not really unusual, over the years there have been many members come and go, some I have met, many who I have not. However Bill soon suggested we could meet and have a chat, as always I invited him to dinner at our house.
While it is far to long ago to remember the night that he came, it was to be the instant start of a friendship that went on to make an incredibly huge mark on the life of, not only me, but also my entire family.
Bill would, over the following years, become an almost weekly visitor to our house. His visits were always looked forward to greatly; after all, you never quite knew where discussions would lead. Of course they started with the railways of the Philippines, but they would then stray off to such obscure topics as paint colours, Workcover (of which is was fiercely proud) and even his amazing escapades around asia.
Bill soon became an extended part of our family, loved by all, and always a huge part of our life.
Bill had an amazing way of getting what he wanted, or getting the very best deal he could.
Nobody who was lucky enough to be considered a friend of Bill would ever need an ALDI catalogue. Bill was almost religiously dedicated to his weekly check of electrical specials and would ring me up to tell me of the great printer/set top box/scanner prices.
“Do you want me to pick any up for you” he would ask. Typical Bill, it was never too much trouble to help those he cared about. He would be waiting at the door of Aldi before it opened, because he knew the to wait would see him miss out.
I am sure ALDI will wonder where he is; certainly their electrical sales will now have plummeted.
Bill would tell me how he made friends at Philippine Airlines, his preferred carrier, and how he managed to get moved up to higher classes than his booked economy seat. His love of PAL, his pride in their service and his mileage status, was constantly mentioned and led my family to start flying them, it even influenced my newest hobby of collecting models of PAL planes.
On the subject of collecting, I learnt at Bill’s funeral that he rivalled my attempts at collecting and hording stuff. This, probably, going a long way to explaining his constant desire to help me with my collections.
Tanduay Rhum, the national rum of the Philippines, being a case in point.
I can’t recall who started the tradition, but somehow Bill and I would always come together for a chat over a Tanduay. Hundreds are the times I would open the door and Bill would say “Are you ready to crack open a new one”.
His well-known little white car was famous for having at least two bottles at the ready inside, and perhaps for its virtual invisibility to police breath tests J
This led me on to yet another Philippine related collection, that of Tanduay items. Not just every type of bottle produced, but also posters, banners, signs and other related items, most of which would come from Bill’s endless hunt for such things on his trips.
Pride of place in my collection is a small celebratory wooden barrel marked Tanduay that was full of 18-year-old rum. Although they were hard to get, he tracked one down at Pasay Road after much hunting, and they were incredibly expensive at $75 American.
However Bill was not a friend to give up. He wanted to give me a huge surprise and travelled as much as it would take to find that barrel and then refused any sort of repayment for it.
These barrels always had one weakness, that being in the tap which always developed a leak, mine being no exception. Of course, as always, Bill had a solution for it and was going to fix both of ours – this sadly never reaching fruition, like so many other plans we had.
Indeed Tanduay Rhum, along with Bill and my association with it, even come up during the funeral service.
Ironically Tanduay, while forming a huge part of our time together, also ironically becomes a very sad part of his leaving us. Bill had purchased a brand new product, Tanduay T5, on his recent trip and we were to share this at Christmas. A few of us are now planning to get together in Newcastle to share it in his memory.
His infectious love of the Philippines was my motivator. I began enjoying learning of Philippine history, Philippine traditions/beliefs and, besides the above, would collect virtually anything Filipino. Jeepney destinations, number plates, shop signs, jeepney models and even the few rare bus models.
On his second last trip he just happened to be in a Pagsanjan sari sari store and noticed on a back shelf two bottles. These were very old bottles of rum of lesser manufacture than Tanduay. ‘Anejo Oro’ and ‘San Miguel Bravo Rum’ were the names, both bottles being very old and dusty, one with a very rusty lid.
Bill knew instantly that Brad would love these in his collection and took them to the counter to buy them, only to be surprised when the girl said they were so old she didn’t know the price.
Of course he then went on to offer an amount probably five times what they would be worth, but still the girl said no and that she would have to wait for the owner.
A few days later Bill returned, he wasn’t going to give up on a friend, and the owner told him a price a fraction of the amount he offered. Bill happily grabbed them.
Bill always had some great stories of his 30+ visits to the Philippines, one of the more interesting ones coming to me while driving to Goulburn on Thursday.
He was visiting a museum around Manila and happened to flick a cigarette butt in the gutter when entering. I mean, while littering is frowned upon here, anyone who knows Manila realises it is a way of life there. The amount of garbage lying in the streets is probably what makes this story most amusing.
Anyway, Bill goes into the museum and is busy looking around for a couple of hours, when a lady comes up to him and tells him a policeman has been waiting for him outside for all this time.
Bill, obviously wondering why, went downstairs to see the policeman who informed him that he was being fined for littering. Something Bill found quite amusing.
Of course Bill refused to pay there and then and demanded to be taken to the police station to be officially charged and issued with an infringement notice. This was not just because he didn’t want the guy to pocket the money, but because that $2 infringement notice was “the cheapest souvenir I have ever got”.
We had a huge laugh over this, as well as so many other stories. I believe he framed the notice and I am hoping that one of us can save it for him.
2007 turned out to be the only time that Bill and I ended up in the Philippines at the same time. I am eternally thankful this opportunity was possible and many a memory is retained forever from this trip.
It was this visit that we met up in Tayuman railway yards, along with his dear friend Ceasar and our mutual friends Harvey and Nick. After spending a few weeks around people I didn’t know that well, the sight of Bill’s beaming happy face was a welcome sight from back home.
Together we rode the rear carriage of the train to Alabang for our only time.
On arrival at Alabang I suggested to Bill that we approach the driver for a ride in the cab back to Tutuban station, and we headed up front to find the driver, who was not in the locomotive cab.
Caesar of course followed us soon after, then Harvey and Nick – but still no crew were in the cab.
About 5 minutes later the driver opens the door and is shocked to find all these people, including foreigners, crowding the cab. The look of shock, probably comparable to that during the watching of a horror movie, soon disappeared as we explained our interest and desire to travel up front.
Bill and I stood outside on the footplate, waving to the locals and having many a laugh; it is one of my most treasured memories of time spent with a truly great person.
This visit was also historic in that a visit to Caloocan workshops, again with Harvey, saw us start what was to become the ‘Railways and Industrial Heritage Society’ to preserve items of railway interest. Sadly the society, was not successful in this goal, however they still exist as a group of local railfans who organise outings and the occasional restoration of the few things that are left.
Finally 2007 saw us meet his Philippine family in the famous location of Pagsanjan, his second home when away from Australia.
Here we met those who were his Philippine family for a truly memorable day.
Bill was his typical fun loving self, tricking us with firecrackers he through out our feet and scaring two years off our own existence. It took a few episodes of this prank before we realised Bill was the culprit behind it.
He had also arranged for our own afternoon trip up the rapids to visit the famous Pagsanjan Falls, our boatman for the day being part of his local family and giving us an experience of a lifetime in this most beautiful of places.
Following lunch with the family we started heading back to Manila, having declined, much to my current regret, the offer to stay there a few days.
Sadly we never went back to the Philippines at the same time again, however we would always share stories, obviously over a Tanduay, following each of our trips.
We also continued our endless railway research, Bill had a knack for finding links to unknown sites (many of which I have yet to follow), and continued on with our railway newsletter and forums.
Part Of Our family.
While by now a very important part of our family, it was made more official with his being asked to be a godfather to my beloved new daughter Christine (Tin Tin) Charice Peadon. In Filipino tradition this made Bill my pare, and as good as an official member of the family.
I still remember Bill’s immense happiness and pride in taking on such a roll and we were so honoured to receive his acceptance. I now learn of how he shared this pride with others.
We both wore the traditional Filipino barong for the occasion and laughed about how only the Aussies ever did do, while the Filos went with more normal attire.
Bill kept his 60th birthday a secret from us all, not wanting any fuss, but slipped up and mentioned his approaching 61st birthday, just this year, about a month prior to the actual date.
We set about organising a surprise party to repay him for his endless friendship and generosity over the years, but knew he would not want the fuss. We thus disguised it as a very important meeting of our railway society and begged him to return from Newcastle for it – which he agreed to.
Many of his friends from earlier parties hid in the kitchen when he arrived, of course with the customary Tanduay Dark under his arm, and walked down the hallway.
Not really certain of his reaction, I was worried until he walked around the corner to the awaiting crowd and beamed into his biggest smile ever. While not liking a fuss, he was certainly so happy to see this many friends gathered to share is special day.
What a wonderful day, with so many photos taken to remember it.
Bill had only been back from the Philippines for a couple of weeks before he started receiving pains in the chest and went to hospital.
Not wanting to worry us, he had not told us of what happened, or the subsequent operation. Sadly a week later a massive heart attack took him away from us forever.
The last I saw him was a visit to our shop the day after his return from Manila, happy to be able to give me another new Tanduay product for the collection and to show me a second that we were to share at Christmas – a Christmas we would never have dreamed would not come.
The last I heard from him was a phone call from a major hobby shop in Newcastle City. In typical Bill style he overheard talk of my eldest son of wanting to build a model of a Spitfire and he went to the shop to get him a surprise for Christmas –again a Christmas we never expected wouldn’t would not be able to spend together.
I was beginning to wonder why I had not heard from him for a week, a very unusual amo
Happiness to hear from him was soon replaced by horrific devastation to find his friend Milan on the phone with the terrible duty of having to inform all his friends and acquaintances of Bill’s passing.
Milan, I had heard so very much about from Bill, although I had only met him once or twice. I can’t even imagine how hard it was for him to have to ring and tell everyone the terrible news and I am so appreciative of him doing so. It’s far more than I could ever do.
I think we owe it to Bill to remain in regular contact, along with his dear friend Anne, and look after each other, as he would have done for each of us individually. We should never let him down in this important duty.
The death of a friend often changes life immeasurably, the loss of one of the closer ones even more so.
Bill was always my driving force with the ‘Philippine Railway Historical Society’. When troublemakers brought me down, it was always Bill there to help and push me onwards. This enthusiasm for the Philippines has gone with Bill, although I will keep some sort of limited interest going as he will have always wanted that.
I will be forever tied to the Philippines through some wonderful family and friends who live there – but things will never quite be the same ever again.
Any problems, especially technical/computer related, were fast fixed by Bill (often with help from a computer expert friend in Wollongong), any other hassles in life, or Philippine historical questions, usually found an email a couple of days later with a list of internet links to help solve the problem.
I shall also miss the regular supplies of coconut vinegar, the latest FHM Philippines magazines, the laughs, the hi-fives, the stories, the inspiration boosts, the endless support of my writing projects and, most of all, our afternoons siting around and chatting about, well, just about anything.
Bill did not have a huge circle of friends, he obviously chose them carefully and literally devoted his life to each and every one. Those who were among those chosen should never underestimate how amazingly lucky they were.
Goodbye Bill – I know the last thing you would have ever wanted to do was make us sad – but that’s the side affect of making us so happy.
You will be constantly remembered, everywhere I look in our house is something related to you, and your remaining friends will always try to help those who you valued so much.
Proud member of your Sydney family.