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The Spec Blog by Richard Beks

DESPITE the churning of residents in Greater Hamilton during the past half century many today will know Gerard McGrath who died last October 28, aged 81.
After stints in Western Australia and Melbourne, Gerry, who was born in Coleraine, returned from the west in 1973 to settle in Hamilton.
In subsequent years he worked at Coles, the abattoirs, Grand Central Hotel, driving taxis and trucks and until retirement at the Hamilton hospital.
He, like others in the extended family, was a handy basketballer. He had played some footy with Imperials, loved golf and bowls.
Gerry was a member of Hamilton Lions for many years. He joined in 1980 and served as club president during their 1994/95 year (pictured) and as zone chairman for 1998/99.
The big fellow loved to chat and wasn’t shy of offering an opinion, no matter how unpopular it could be.
At his funeral service son, Damien, recalled that Gerry lost interest in the Labor Party when he was a union representative in Melbourne for the Storeman & Packers Union.
“He would be at meetings at Trades Hall in Carlton with an up-and-coming Bob Hawke running the show.
“Dad would refuse to tow the union line and refuse to wear the union badge,” Damien remembered.
“His personal opinions were made known. The last time he was chased out of Trades Hall down Swanston Street by Bob’s cronies.
“So when Bob became prime minister, 13 years later, dad’s blood would boil every time he saw the ‘bloody commo mongrel’ on the telly”.

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SELECTIONS from wife Irene’s eulogy…
Gerry attended St Joseph’s school at Coleraine. The family moved to Hamilton in 1955.
He and I met in 1963 through the YCW, a Catholic organisation for young workers.
The Church had deb balls then. I was 16, making my debut, and needed a partner.
Michael McGrath was a good dancer, so I thought, I’ll ask him.
He turned me down as he had partnered many debs and suggested I ask Gerry.
I was a bit nervous but asked him one day when he was at Woollies. He said he’d think about it.
He said later that he went home and told his family that I had asked him but, as he’d also been a partner several times at deb balls, he didn’t really want to do another one.
His mother’s words were: ‘If Irene has thought enough of you to ask you, you should do it.’
When I went back for my answer, he said yes.
After each deb practice Gerry would leave just before the end so he could run to Alistair Little’s house to watch “Bonanza” on TV.
When the deb finally happened, and my mum and dad had to leave straight after the presentation to look after my two-week-old sister, it was a surprise that Gerry walked me home to Gordon Street.
His family tells me that his father asked him when he got home if he was going to continue walking up to Gordon Street now that the ball was over.
He did. We loved going to the picture theatre together and many dances at the VRI and Town Hall - and soft drinks at Strangio’s Cafe.

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