Looking back on her father's long life, one special memory brings a proud smile to Rosalee Miller's face.
Donned in his best suit, war medals and Legacy badge on his chest, Lance Cooke was one of just four World War Two veterans invited to last year's 75th anniversary commemorations of Victory in the Pacific Day.
"To be chauffered from Gunning over to Canberra and back, meeting the Prime Minister, armed forces members and dignitaries, well, he thought that was just it," Mrs Miller said.
"He was very proud of his war service and that's why he threw his efforts into Legacy and the RSL Sub Branch."
Mr Cooke, a longtime Gunning resident, passed away at Bourke Street Health Service on Thursday, aged ninety-six.
He was widely respected in Goulburn and district for his community service and commitment to veterans and their families.
Goulburn RSL Sub Branch president Gordon Wade regarded him as a friend and mentor.
"He was a wealth of knowledge and I found him to be a great support when I took over as president," Mr Wade said.
"He was dedicated to the Sub Branch, was one of the oldest members and drove himself in from Gunning in all weather for meetings and then home again."
Mr Cooke held numerous roles with the Gunning RSL Sub Branch after joining in 1960. In 2008, the national executive awarded him a Meritorious Medal for 25 years' outstanding service. When Gunning folded, he linked up with Goulburn RSL Sub Branch, where he served as vice-president up until ill-health struck two months ago.
He religiously attended every Anzac Day commemoration and rarely missed Sub Branch and Legacy meetings.
"He really took to heart his role as a carer of ex-service people and their families," Mr Wade said.
A farming life
Mr Cooke was born at Yass on January 31, 1925, the youngest of six children to John and Amy Cooke.
They moved to Goulburn in 1929 and Lance attended South Goulburn Primary School, before the family shifted to Rye Park. Following his education, he worked on properties at Wingello, Pylara at Tarago, Belconnen and then went roustabouting.
But in 1943 he joined the RAAF and trained as a flight mechanic. Leading Air-craftsman Cooke was posted to Borneo with No. 93 Beaufort Squadron. Based on Labuan Island off the west coast, he assiduously maintained the Air Force's "workhorses."
"According to Lance, the Beaufighter was the only aircraft that flew in World War Two," Mr Wade quipped.
Last year, Mr Cooke vividly recalled the end of the war, flying over prisoner camps on Kuching and dropping leaflets advising the fighting had ended.
"The men were waving their hats like mad," he said.
"When I got back, the boys asked me what sort of trip I'd had. I had a lump in my throat (from seeing the men so happy) and couldn't talk. I just shook my head and walked away."
Mr Cooke returned to Australia in 1946 on compassionate leave to farewell his dying father.
After his discharge, he resumed farm work, this time at Lynton, on Range Road. While on a Uniting Church social outing, he met June Hunt of Parkesbourne. They married in 1951 and had two children - Graham in 1954 and Rosalee in 1956.
The same year, the family took up a soldier settlement block, Allamby, on the Crookwell Road, near Gunning. There, Mr Cooke grazed sheep, joined the Biala Fire Brigade, the National Country Party, collected money for Freedom from Hunger and fostered children from Iandra Boys Home.
Mrs Miller recalled sitting freezing in the car as her father raised money for Freedom from Hunger.
"I'd ask myself why we were doing this but I later came to understand his kindness and that it was important to him," she said.
Similarly, the family hosted city Legacy children, just to give them a school holiday in the country.
Community service calls
After injuring his back, Mr Cooke and the family moved to Gunning in 1965 where he started a market garden behind the showground. He sold vegetables to Fyshwick markets and at Yass and in Rosalee's words, became a "community social butterfly."
Mr Cooke was Gunning Sub Branch secretary, Gunning and District Historical Society secretary, Repatriation Committee secretary, a Legatee, a member of Gunning Uniting Church Parish Council and other church committees, and served on the Gunning Show Society. In his spare time, he delivered talks to school students about Anzac Day and Remembrance Day.
"He just loved the RSL Sub Branch and Legacy," Mrs Miller said.
"He was very passionate about Legacy and what families went through."
Mr Cooke wasn't short of a war story and paid regular visits to his good friend and fellow World War Two veteran, Ron Butterworth.
In 1989 he was named the town's Australia Day Citizen of the Year.
It was these interests that kept him going after June's death in 1998.
Mr Cooke remained fiercely independent, living in his own home up until his hospitalisation and driving himself to Goulburn each week to do his shopping and drop into the Sub Branch and Legacy office.
In January, he again secured his unrestricted driver's licence.
Mr Cooke joined Goulburn Legacy in 1983, served as president from 2001 to 2002 and treasurer up until 2018 when he went on the reserve list.
President Mick Shea said Mr Cooke was the last of a generation of WWII vets who placed the club on a sustainable footing.
"He took his role very seriously and gave it all his attention," he said.
"Lance was also a raconteur and had notes in his pocket of very long-winded jokes or funny stories. He had enough of those for some after dinner entertainment.
"He will be greatly missed by everyone."
Former Gunning and Upper Lachlan Shire Mayor John Shaw said he'd known Mr Cooke all his life and as a child, always addressed him as such.
"He'll be well remembered. Lance was very much respected by the community."
Mr Cooke had several bouts of ill-health before succumbing to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease on Thursday.
Mrs Miller praised hospital and Bourke Street Health Service staff who made his final days more comfortable.
"I'll remember him as someone who was always helping other people," she said.
"If they needed something, he would extend kindness to them...I was proud to have him as a father."
Mr Cooke is also survived by son Graham, his wife, Maria, Rosalee's husband, Dennis, grandchildren Robert, Gareth, Tracie and Carol, five great-grandchildren, and one sister, aged ninety-seven.
His funeral service will be held 10am Thursday, June 10 at Craig's Hill Crematorium, Middle Arm Road. Burial will follow at Parkesbourne Cemetery, beside his wife, June.
- The author is Goulburn Legacy publicity officer.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content: