Right up until his last, David Penalver was campaigning for a better deal for Goulburn's heritage.
Leukaemia aside and knowing he had finite time, he met with Mayor Bob Kirk and council general manager Warwick Bennett two weeks ago about the need for infill design guidelines, especially given plans for a large house in Hurst Street, one of the city's premier heritage areas.
Ever the details man, he sought a second meeting with the mayor, which was set for Tuesday.
Sadly, Mr Penalver passed away on Sunday afternoon, aged eighty-one. His wife, Daphne, also a founding member of Goulburn Heritage Group, pressed ahead with the meeting in his honour.
"To his dying day David was concerned about Goulburn and protecting its heritage," Mrs Penalver said on Tuesday.
It was a natural passion for the retired architect, who loved the city's built history. But it could have been different.
Born in Kent, England, he came to Australia aged nine after his father, who sold surgical instruments to the medical profession, took up a post in Sydney.
David grew up in Gordon and attended North Sydney Boys School. Initially he wanted to be a teacher but his parents urged him to "aim for something more," Mrs Penalver said.
He dabbled in art, then studied architecture at Sydney University with the likes of Philip Cox. Later, he harnessed his interest in one aspect and studied a Town and Country Planning degree.
"After we married (in 1967) we had a small house, seven foot by 11 foot wide," Mrs Penalver said.
"His parents thought it was horrendous...but for us it was entirely practical."
Mr Penalver worked for the federal government designing war service homes in Sydney but became frustrated when project houses were introduced. He scored a promotion and transfer to Canberra with the same department in the mid 1970s but in 1977, "bored silly" with his job, the couple moved to Goulburn.
They were drawn to an 1850s Clifford Street house, Yandilla.
"It hadn't been disturbed and all its cedar was still there," Mrs Penalver said.
"It had history, it was old and it was just wonderful. It was so different to the houses in Canberra."
The couple raised their children, Adrian and Marion, there and following retirement, Mr Penalver designed a residential adaptation of the original two-storey stables at the rear, into which they later moved.
While Mrs Penalver continued her speech pathology career, her husband looked after the children, did a creative arts course, became a patient representative at Goulburn Base Hospital, an official visitor at the jail and later, taught art, English, mathematics and other subjects to inmates.
Equipped with a Diploma of Education he secured a job at the former Saint Patrick's College, teaching maths, French and technical drawing. He also taught the latter subject at Goulburn TAFE.
But architecture and heritage remained a passion.
Mr Penalver chaired the Southern Tablelands National Trust branched and then in 2000, together with his wife, eagerly joined the newly formed Goulburn Heritage Group.
"He loved being involved and although he got despondent at times, looking back, the way people view the city's heritage has changed," Mrs Penalver said.
"They're now much more interested in where Goulburn has come from, what's there now and how they can protect it."
He and the group had input into development applications, lobbied the council when they felt planning guidelines fell short and pressed for better design that didn't replicate heritage but picked up on its elements.
"Allowing any building to deteriorate to such an extent that demolition becomes inevitable is a very poor alternative to maintaining whatever is possible of this city's built heritage," Mr Penalver told The Post in 2012.
"Goulburn's unique historical character depends not only upon its major tourist icons, such as the cathedrals and courthouse, but also upon its clusters of quite small buildings."
Mr Penalver often referred to Goulburn as "an outdoor museum" and marveled at the fact it retained a large stock of EC Manfred buildings and gems like Saint Clair.
Using his eye for detail, he sketched many local buildings, some of which appeared in his 2017 book, Heralding Heritage. Mr Penalver also wrote books on Goulburn architect EC Manfred, the city's historic organs, Saint Saviour's bells and on city heritage walks. He collaborated with his wife on some of these, including another on Goulburn's stained glass windows and in his spare time, wrote a heritage column for The Post.
In retirement, the couple continued their love of travel. Visiting Cambodia and Laos, Mr Penalver did detailed drawings of buildings and in Vietnam, he took money into orphanages.
But last year he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia. Initially the treatment worked and he went into remission. But the cancer returned recently and following five weeks of treatment in Sydney, Mr Penalver opted to abandon the constant regime and return to Goulburn.
"He hated being in hospital and wanted to come home and enjoy what time was left enjoying the garden and the peacefulness," his wife said.
"Marion and the grandchildren came down and we have beautiful photos of him watching them in the garden and enjoying the movement of the trees in the breeze."
But the decline was rapid and Mr Penalver passed away peacefully at home on Sunday "the way we both wanted it," his wife said.
A big contribution
Meantime, Goulburn Heritage Group member said Mr Penalver was a very active member and spokesperson.
"He not only believed in the value of heritage (and associated history) but also the value of good design," member Linda Cooper said.
"Widely travelled, he took particular notice of building design and streetscapes in many countries. With other GHG members, David met with developers, real estate agents, Goulburn Mulwaree councillors and planning department staff.
"He was a much valued member of the group and will be sorely missed."
Mayor Bob Kirk said Mr Penalver's dying wish was to have "more constructive guidelines" on several aspects of heritage and had handed him notes to this effect.
"He was a shining light for heritage conservation but a very reasonable and practical exponent of it," he said.
"He considered all aspects with good logic and reasoning and presented clear arguments. Underneath all that he was a fine person and a gentleman to deal with."
Cr Kirk agreed there was a need to put more certainty around some aspects of the city's heritage and Mr Penalver's immense contribution would not be forgotten.
- A celebration of Mr Penalver's life will be held at the Goulburn Club on Friday, December 18. Details will be provided upon RSVP to the club on 4821 2043.
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