Mark Newman, 1967-2021

Mark was a champion.

There are lots of Australian funerals where that’s all you have to say.

Mark was a champion.

It doesn’t mean he was the best at everything, it means he was a champion as a man. He was a man’s man.

He was good at everything he turned his hand to. Life was a mechanical problem to be solved.

He could fix anything. Weld anything. Nothing was too big or too small.

He was earnest. That’s the word I would use – earnest, always earnest, always trying his best and most often he would prevail.

One thing he couldn’t fix was women. He used to joke that if you wanted to clear the room of women just invite him over. But we all know there is always a soft and gentle side in men like Mark. They’re the first to say “look after her”, or “make sure he looks after you”. I think in truth women do appreciate men like Mark. I am sure he was a great father. But Mark never pretended to be anything other than who he was – lost in a world of mechanical wonder - not so good maybe in the more nuanced emotional side of life, completely oblivious to what he looked like in another persons eyes, he didn’t really care.

But he did care about you. He called me on the long trip to Arnhem several times. How are you? How is the car going? And he was always there with advice if you needed it. You just cant find people like him everyday. It wasn’t because the service department or the boss required you to follow up, it was because he genuinely cared.

Even when he was cranky at you, he had a wry smile, so you knew it was nothing personal, but that he was telling you something you needed to know.

I can hear his voice. He wanted to spend the time to tell you and go through thoroughly some mechanical problem that he had solved for you. He’d take a drag on his cigarette and wait for you to listen.

It was not here is my invoice. There were no invoices.

There was a calm, studied discussion of what he had done and then what you could afford to pay for it.

It was a fair exchange subsidized by a mountain of good will and understanding. Most of all you had to respect his work and be thankful for it and understand the quality and thought behind it.

He had a great eye for people. I remember him telling me how he thought the Walkers were a wonderful family. Rain, hail or shine he said everyone would get together for a hearty breakfast and there the family would convene. He admired that consistency and dedication to each other. He’d just say “do you know they get together every single morning” and just wait for the penny to drop… how many families do that?

But I think most of all Mark wanted you to have been with him on his voyage of problem solving and thinking. He was a crafts man and a genius and there wasn’t a rabbit warren he wouldn’t go down to figure out a solution to a problem. If you didn’t have the patience or the respect to listen then that was what hurt him most – not whether you paid him what he was really worth.

Not many people, even in the Valley nowdays, could afford to pay Mark what he was really worth.

Of course he never looked after himself. He smoked and drinked and did himself damage and enjoyed every bit of it.

Where do you find people like Mark anymore? There is no hourly pay calculation. There is no thought of I am worth this or that. There is a passion to do good things and to do them as well as can be done. There was a knowledge and a compassion and if he thought you were worth helping he would. He made that judgement and then he pulled out all the stops to help. And if he couldn’t, he pointed you to someone who could.

Mark learned a lot from his Dad. They carry on a tradition and a value system. Australia is a funny old place and a lot of the time in the industrial estates and sheds there are people just enjoying the fact they are contributing, making things work, making things better. Enjoying the fact that they can make a car better than it was when it was first made. Being proud to come up with something out of the box. These men are magic, not like a magician, they just come up with something magic, after thinking, comparing and talking with mates, and they do something that maybe no-one has never thought of before. You cant do magic all the time but Mark, like his Dad, tried day in day out, week in week out, month after month. It was what kept him going.

Mark was a spirit of Kangaroo Valley that will sorely be missed. We don’t have too many Marks left anymore. But when you go past the pub and the outside smoking area where the people who make things work, who do the maintenance, who love more than anything else to hear a good story or are there to just take a pain killer for their aching bones and limbs or ailments - say thank you to all those assembled there. For like Mark they are a pulsing heart of our community.

The story of how he died at the age of 54 is a classic. He went out like an excited kid to Hay. When he got to the river he stripped off to his undies and floated around like he was in heaven. Ten minutes later he was gone.

His great mate Gav tried everything he could. The last thing Mark did was to give Gav’s hand a squeeze. As I say, Mark was a champion, to the end, sorely missed, never forgotten.

I reckon he will be working away on a backhoe, or an e-type jag somewhere in the cosmos, happy as larry. Thank you Mark for all you have done for so many of us.