The late Ross Banwell had a knack of spotting and nurturing the potential in the many students he taught at Goulburn High School
As his daughter, Kristen Lowe, recalled this week, he could also pick the ones who weren't cut out for school and helped them regardless.
"Dad loved kids and was always for the underdog," she said.
"...He always tried to help children who were struggling and helped many of them secure jobs because he knew everyone. He knew that some kids just couldn't cope with school."
Mr Banwell, a much-loved industrial arts teacher at Goulburn High School for almost 40 years, died on Thursday, January 21. He was ninety-three.
Born at Towamba in the Bega Valley Shire, Mr Banwell was the middle of three sons, including Des and Owen. Growing up on a dairy farm during the Depression was tough, Mrs Lowe said. The boys' father had been wounded during World War One and later lost his property during the 1930s downturn.
The family moved to Gymea Bay in Sydney where his father worked on the trams and his sons relished life around the water.
Following school, Mr Banwell undertook a teaching degree at Sydney University. Teaching appointments followed at Gilgandra, Coonamble, Camden and then Goulburn High 1948. He taught industrial arts up until his retirement in 1987/88, putting his considerable handyman skills to full use.
"No job could stump Ross, and he was great with the kids in the sense that he knew exactly how to finish a metal or woodwork in a way that students could understand," his former colleague, Steve Chapman said.
"He was like an old cockie in the paddock with this laconic style of talking that the kids loved...They loved and respected him and he never talked down to them."
He was always handy with a joke but knew when to be firm. Mr Banwell founded the school's large cadet corp and rose to the highest rank of Major. In his spare time he helped students craft fibre glass kayaks and guided hundreds through the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, harnessing his love of the outdoors.
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Kristen was a willing participant and fondly recalled camps away in the Shoalhaven.
Mr Banwell was also deeply involved in special education and became a school administration master, helping to source teachers.
Mr Chapman, who taught economics and maths at the school from 1975 to 1999, said he and other younger teachers drew on the experience of Mr Banwell, teachers like Keith Wilson and Ron Butterworth and principals Frank Chattaway and then Jack Plews.
"We learnt a huge amount from them," he said.
"They took us under their wing and all that experience coalesced into one of the most stable education systems in the State. Jack Plews used to say it was like a family, and it was."
Mr Butterworth, who taught at the school from 1958 to 1984, has many memories of his friend.
"As an educator he was down to earth and good at his job....He was straightforward and what you saw was what you got."
Mr Butterworth recalled that Mr Banwell built his own house in Addison Street and was especially skillful in restoring his collection of vintage cars.
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Mrs Lowe said her father could turn his hand to anything and built up a 1928 Buick from nothing, even making the steering wheel, wheel spokes and a metal angel to sit on the front.
His extensive garden was also his pride and joy. Mr Banwell was renowned for growing large vegetables, especially tomatoes, and freely gave them to family and friends.
In his spare time he indulged another passion, fishing at South West Rocks or Shoalhaven Heads. In addition, Mr Banwell was also a life member of Goulburn Apex.
Family was also important and as with his students, he gave freely of his time.
In January, 1954 he married Lorna Ridley, an office clerk at the school. Together they had three children - Carlie, Paul and Kristen. She died in 1979 and in 1986, Mr Banwell married Joyce Ford and had another daughter, Kerrie. They were married for 25 years before Joyce died.
"He was a wonderful dad," Mrs Lowe said.
"We always had beautiful holidays; they were nothing flash and generally involved camping with lots of family around."
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Mr Banwell had a heart attack at age 60 and after being diagnosed with cancer five years ago, had a kidney removed. Mrs Lowe said her father bounced back but after suffering atrial fibrillation for many years, his heart gave out on the Saturday before passing, soon after gardening.
"He was a character who was very old school and larger than life," Mrs Lowe said.
"We've lost a lot of knowledge."
Mr Banwell is survived by his children Carlie, Paul, Kristen and Kerrie, their respective spouses, Collin, Jayne, Patrick and Grahame, and grandchildren Cooper, Dempsee and Tyrin.
His funeral service will be held at Saint Saviour's Cathedral at 11am Wednesday, January 27, with a private cremation to follow. COVID-19 number restrictions and physical distancing will apply.