MANY will remember Frank Narvo for his prowess on the rugby league field.
Others will remember him as a firm but fair cop, or the highly regarded publican of the Northumberland Hotel in Lambton.
But his family will remember him as their superhero. A hero who could draw a crowd better than any modern day promotion.
One who would have everyone in stitches with his wickedly dry sense of humour.
A brave fighter. Scared of nothing.
‘‘My dad was a giant of a man, both in stature and character,’’ Frank’s son Tony said in his eulogy.
‘‘He was larger than life.
‘‘He was a good man – a hardworking man, an honest man, a man of integrity, a faithful man, a stubborn man, a staunch ally.
‘‘He was a strong man, a brave man, a formidable man.’’
But he had also been a loving, sensitive man.
Frank loved his family, his friends, and his footy, and he was partial to a beer or two.
‘‘Tough as nails and soft as a prayer,’’ Tony said.
Frank was born on April 24, 1933, at his family home at 1 Henry Street, Wickham, to Irene and Herb Narvo.
He died on Wednesday, July 22, surrounded by his family at his New Lambton home.
He was 82.
Sporting prowess was in his genes.
Herb had played four Tests for Australia, was named in the Newcastle Rugby League team of the century in 2008, and was also an Australian heavyweight boxing champion. Frank boxed too, although mostly just for fun and fitness.
But he shone on the rugby league field.
The tough-as-teak forward was a North Newcastle junior who went on to play nine seasons in the Sydney-based NSW Rugby League premiership for St George and Newtown in the 1950s.
He scored a try in Newtown’s 23-15 loss to South Sydney in the 1954 grand final at the SCG.
‘‘That was a time when there were many hard, tough men running around the paddock, and there were no $10million contracts,’’ son Gary said in his eulogy.
‘‘Back then you had to have a full-time job, and Dad was a policeman in the hard old days.’’
Frank eventually retired from the force to move into the pub game.
‘‘He was feared as a footballer, he was feared as a policeman, and if you played up in his pub you had good reason to fear Dad,’’ Gary said.
Frank first met his late wife Maureen in Camden when he was 15 and she was 17. They married several years later on July 26, 1952.
They had five children – Gail, Gary, Tony, Cathy and Amanda, and 20 grandchildren. Frank’s funeral service was held at Newcastle’s Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, July 26.
His ‘‘last shout’’ was held at the Duke of Wellington afterwards.
The date was particularly significant for the family, as it would have been Frank and Maureen’s 63rd wedding anniversary.
Frank’s daughter Amanda said she had recently compiled a book of personalised advice from close family and friends as an 18th birthday gift for her daughter – Frank’s granddaughter.
‘‘Dad’s advice to Georgia was, ‘Your word is your bond’,’’ she said.
‘‘Dad was a very honourable man.
‘‘He also advised, ‘Treat others as you wish to be treated’.
‘‘Dad was a very soft, loving and generous man.
‘‘Whether that be ‘$20 ’til payday’ or $100 for a children’s charity or thousands to sponsor the local rugby league, soccer or cricket club.’’
Amanda said it has been an honour to take care of her father until the end.
About three weeks ago, she had asked him whether he had any last wishes. Frank said he would love to see one more family Christmas.
‘‘But I don’t think I will,’’ he’d said.
For the past 25 years, over a weekend in December, the whole extended Narvo clan would get together to celebrate Christmas.
The family threw Frank a surprise Christmas in July party on July 18.
‘‘It was wonderful,’’ Amanda said.
With only 48 hours’ notice, more than 40 Narvos arrived from all over Australia to celebrate Frank’s last family Christmas.
Despite his four-year battle with bladder and prostate cancer, Frank kept his sense of humour to the end.
He had a line for every occasion.
‘‘I remember as a young bloke, when I got drunk he would look at me, shake his head and say, ‘Even a pig knows when it’s had enough, son’,’’ Gary said.
‘‘Talking about legalising same-sex marriage, he would say he didn’t care if they legalised it, as long as they didn’t make it compulsory.’’
He’d always told Tony he was too light for heavy work, and too heavy for light work.
‘‘One day my sister Gail was telling her friend how she had been staying at Dad’s one night a week for quite a while,’’ Tony said.
‘‘‘Does he like that?’ her friend asked.
“‘Well of course he does, he loves it’.’’
But it made her think.
‘‘So the next time she stayed at Dad’s she said, ‘Do you like me staying here once a week?’
‘‘‘I love it Gail. But once a fortnight would be better’.”
In his eulogy, Tony recalled some of his last moments with his father.
Frank wasn’t afraid of death.
“I can’t wait,’’ he’d told Tony. He said, ‘‘I went to a funeral last week and wanted to jump in the bloody coffin.’’
He had been looking forward to joining Maureen, the love of his life.
‘‘I asked him if he had any regrets in life and he said ‘not a one’,’’ Tony said.
‘‘I told him how much I loved him, I told him how proud I was to be his son.
‘‘I told him he was my hero. At that point we just sat there crying. A lovely winter’s afternoon.
‘‘Then I told him I was sorry.
“‘Sorry for what?’
“I don’t know, sorry if I ever disappointed you I guess.”
“‘Well,’ he said, ‘You were a bit slow to start ... but you got there in the end’.’’