School academia wasn't exactly Geoff Gulson's passion but he later joked the "sport was okay."
As a student at Canberra Grammar, he ran away several times and in his best effort, reached Collector while hitchhiking home to Goulburn.
"He stuck his thumb out and when a car pulled over, he thought he was getting a lift. It turned out to be the headmaster," his daughter, Joanne Gulson recalled this week.
READ MORE: A tribute to Ruth Gulson
Her father, with his "cheeky" sense of humour, would later delight in telling the story.
Reflections abounded following the well known Goulburn man's death at Goulburn Base Hospital on August 23. Geoff Allan Gulson was eighty-three.
He was the fourth generation of his family to own and manage Gulsons' Brickworks up until its closure in 1990. The business was established by his great-grandfather, Francis Gulson, in about 1884 near Marsden Weir but it soon moved to Common Street.
Geoff's son, Michael, said his father was immensely proud of the family business, which supplied bricks for a multitude of Goulburn and district buildings and was a major local industry. School might not have appealed but after completing a building apprenticeship, Geoff turned to the brickworks with gusto.
"Dad taught us respect, honesty and discipline and to work hard for everything," Michael said.
Born in Goulburn on June 15, 1941, he was one of three children, including Brian and Helen, to Allan and Joan Gulson. Helen died when she was just nineteen.
Geoff was educated at Goulburn North Primary School and then Canberra Grammar. His childhood was full of adventure, playing at the North Goulburn quarry and swimming in the clay pits beside the brickworks and in the Mulwaree River, the book, Memories of Goulburn stated.
He recalled his parents helping and employing the many people who lived at in humpies at Governors Hill following the Depression and the end of World War Two. His mother never turned anyone away hungry.
Geoff and Brian grew up at The Potteries, the original Gulson home beside the brickworks. The works, powered by coal and wood, employed 48 people at its peak.
At his grandfather's urging, he embarked on a building apprenticeship before joining the 'family firm.'
In 1960, he was smitten with Ruth Hyland, from Araluen, who became Goulburn's 10th Lilac Festival Queen a year later. Both were talented hockey players and love soon blossomed. They married in February, 1964 at the Methodist (now Uniting) Church.
Michael said his mother was always there for his father and created a happy family environment. She was also company secretary at the brickworks for 30 years.
"Dad worked very hard...He'd be gone before we got up of a morning and home after dark. Often he'd be going back later to check on kilns," he said.
"But I have distinct memories of holidays at our house in Lake Tabourie, which he loved...Mum and Dad were very strict but I look back and see that it gave us an incredible grounding."
The couple had four children - Michael, Joanne, Ian and Karen.
While work and family absorbed much of his time, Geoff found time for his other passions - hockey, tennis and speedway. Michael said his father had several speedway cars that he raced at the nearby track. The hockey gene continued into their children.
Community service was also big on his agenda. Geoff was a member of Goulburn Apex for 22 years and became zone president. In this role he was responsible for 95 clubs and travelled throughout eastern Australia.
He was a member of Oasis, a club for Apexians aged over 40, and Goulburn Mulwaree Rotary for more than 30 years. Both he and Ruth received Rotary's prestigious Paul Harris Fellowship. Geoff also joined Probus and together with Ruth, helped bring the Life Education Van to Goulburn.
In 1989, he donated 2.5 hectares for the Masonic Village aged care facility at north Goulburn. At the time, he told The Goulburn Post that there was a "great need" for the service and it was his way of giving back to the city.
"Community contribution was a big part of his life and Mum supported him in that. He was involved in several committees," Michael said.
The brickworks closed in 1990 after more than 100 years' existence. Gas took over from coal and wood-powered works like Gulsons, and without the capital to invest, it was no longer sustainable.
"Dad was devastated when the brickworks closed down," Michael said.
Geoff and Ruth then established a craft village within the yard that they ran for five years. He also wrote about his family's history at the brickworks.
In retirement they enjoyed extensive travel overseas and around Australia together. Both delighted in their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
After Ruth developed dementia, Geoff cared for her up until her death in 2019. They had been married for 55 years. Michael said his father was not the same man after Ruth's passing.
He battled his own health conditions in recent years and died in hospital on August 23 following an operation and a stroke.
"He was always my hero," Michael said.
"...What he instilled in me and (my siblings) is you get out of life what you put in. That was true right throughout his life."
Geoff is survived by his children, their partners and families, and his brother Brian and wife, Di.
His funeral service will be held at the Uniting Church, Goldsmith Street, Goulburn at 11am, Monday September 4. Cremation will follow at Craigs Hill Chapel, Middle Arm Road.
- With thanks to the Gulson family for their assistance.
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