15 October 2011

Remembering Dad - Part One

Born on 30th May 1938, Malcolm Donald Kimber was the third child of Robert Ernest and Gladys May Kimber. On 15th October 2007, he went home to be with His Lord, joining his parents and both his older siblings. He was survived by his beloved wife Lesley, two daughters - Karen and Jennifer, and his younger sister, Beth.

Each year, around this time, I find my thoughts turning even more frequently to my Dad. Many of the people who are now part of my life never met my Dad, and that makes me a little sad, so let me share with you a little bit (or maybe a long bit) about my Dad.

Dad was born in the middle of the Second World War, and so grew up in those post war years when so much change and development happened in Australia. His father worked for the railways all his life, while his mother fulfilled home duties as much as she was able. I want to share an edited version of what Dad wrote, in November 1980, about his early years.

He was raised in West Preston, a suburb about 5 miles north of Melbourne. Preston was a dormitory suburb, with some light industry. Preston's main claim to fame was the black soil in the flood plain of the Mary Creek, which was found most suitable for test cricket pitches at the MCC and other Melbourne grounds. Fortunately the family home was above the flood area, but Dad remembered several quite severe floods in the 1940s which changed a minor creek into a raging torrent for 2-3 weeks at a time.

Malcolm started school at the age of 5½ at the local state primary school. After 6½ years of primary school, he took what he considered the logical family step toward an engineering profession and started a four year course at the Preston Technical School. He completed the course with a Diploma Entrance Standard Intermediate Certificate, which allowed him to move on to senior technical college. At that point, he discovered that he would actually have to do some study in order to pass exams. After 10 years of full-time and part-time study, marriage, and the birth of their first child, he eventually graduated with a Diploma of Electrical Engineering. Well done Dad!

There are many family stories about the young Malcolm, including the fact that he was Grandma's favorite, and it couldn't possibly have been him who swung on the clothes line, giving it it's characteristic lean. Nor could it possibly have been Malcolm who, having raced his billy cart down the driveway across the street, crossed the road, sped his own driveway, negotiated the corner of the garage, and continued speeding down the path until he collided with the wash house door! Not Malcolm. He would never do a thing like that. "Not fair Dad! We only got half the run you did. We had to stay inside the front gates."

On 19th January 1963, Dad married his sweetheart, Lesley Nancy Buzacott, and together they moved into a brand new 3-bedroom AV Jennings home in the fast developing suburb of Bundoora. A year later they were joined by their first daughter, Karen Joy (me), and two years after that Jennifer Dawn came along.

Dad's first job in the electrical/electronics industry was as a laboratory technician, with a  company called Trimax Transformers, manufacturers of magnetic components for the then infant electronics industry. From their he moved to the Commonwealth Government Aircraft Factory where he spent 5 years in the missile trials section, discovering that the electronics industry was developing so quickly that technology would be out of date in less than five years. During that time he largely worked on the Ikara anti-submarine missile program. Observing the pace of development in the electronic industry, Dad made a choice to move sideways into an alternative field of engineering where his knowledge would have greater longevity.

In June of 1968 he joined the Melbourne office of WE Bassett and Partners as a Project Electrical Engineer. During the first five years with the company, he rediscovered the usefulness of much of his previous studies, as he work on major projects such as the development of both Monash and Latrobe Universities, being involved in the design of teaching, library and laboratory buildings with associated back up services, power distribution, telephone systems, etc.

One special project (in my memory anyway) that Dad was involved with during that time was the water jet that is an integral part of the Captain James Cook Memorial at Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra. In recognition of his involvement with that project, Dad was invited to attend the official opening, and so, on 25 April 1970, he met Queen Elizabeth II (we've got photos to prove it!). Mum joined him for the trip, although she didn't get to meet the Queen.

In late 1972, Dad was invited to go to Townsville, to join the new office being opened to service major projects in the sugar industry. A year later, he was made Manager of the Townsville office, and in July 1975, an Associate of the company. In addition to sugar industry projects, Dad was also involved in projects with various shires, harbour boards, hospitals, a large hotel building affectionately known as "the sugar shaker" and the James Cook University.

In 1980, the time came for transfer to the Brisbane office, where he worked for the remainder of his time with Bassetts. During that time, Dad and Mum had an opportunity to spend 3 months in China, where Dad was involved in development of the Shanghai Environment Liquid Waste Project. In the middle of that visit, things happened in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, and I clearly remember several anxious days during which I was unable to contact Mum & Dad. They were fine, but in those days, long before Skype, and even widespread e-mail, it was a little disconcerting to see the news and not be able to contact your parents. At a time when many were leaving, Mum chose to stay alongside Dad, and I know she has some interesting memories from that time. Dad also had the opportunity to travel to the USA for work as well. During his time in Brisbane, I have strong memories of going to visit his office in Old Parliament House. Yes, Dad was one of the engineers involved in the refurbishment of Old Parliament house, and once again was privilege to attend a function involving Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

After 25 years faithful service, Dad was asked to retire early, at just 55 years of age, during a time of downturn in the construction industry. This wasn't easy, but Dad retired gracefully. This was not to be the end of his working life though. He was not ready to retire!!!

After a break, and a battle with prostate cancer, Dad and Mum made the decision to move to Armidale, NSW, where Dad opened his own consultancy business, M.D. Kimber and Associates. He was widely respected for his professional work, and continued to work on a variety of projects. After a number of years, and with more and more of his work being on the coast, the company was moved to Coffs Harbour, where Dad continued to work as a Consulting Electrical Engineer until shortly before his death.

To be continued ...

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