One of the largest funerals ever in Mulwala took place last Friday, for 53-year-old Gavan Dowling who lost his fight with cancer on August 26.
“We all experienced and knew Gavan as a great person, a great ‘bloke’, a man of integrity, so loyal to his family and friends, so much part of this community,” said Fr Steve Bohan, from Sacred Heart Catholic Church Yarrawonga who conducted the funeral service, assisted by immediate past priest of St Brigid’s Catholic Church Mulwala Fr John McGrath.
The oldest of the Carmel and Frank Dowling’s children, Michael (Maverick) Dowling, spoke so highly of Gav’s farming attributes on the ‘Carmelea’ family farm near Mulwala.
“Gav was an accomplished shearer and an extremely hard worker,” Mav, 59, told the packed St Brigid’s Church and hundreds of mourners seated and standing outside.
“He was a problem solver and had the ability to manufacture a solution to a mechanical issue where many others would fail.
“Gavan’s farming career has been extensive and has seen him become a highly knowledgeable and vastly experienced farmer with an exceptionally broad skill base that extends across the dry cereal production, rice growing, livestock and mechanical engineering sectors.
“These skills were an important contribution in allowing the business to expand and develop with the purchase of further cropping and grazing land over a long period of time.”
Gav’s strong community connection was evident, Mav said, via his 35 years with the Rural Fire Service, a member of the Drain Lane Committee including four years as president, and being a Mulwala football committee member.
Gavan Patrick Dowling had three sisters - Kerryn, Fran and Maree - and three brothers, Jim, Peter and Mav.
Peter mentioned Gav’s birth on May 11, 1964 at Yarrawonga and his education at Mulwala Central School then at Corowa High School.
Peter’s three qualities he loved about Gav were his “steely determination to continue and persist, the ability to accept sometimes the outcome you get isn’t exactly what you wanted, and his smile”.
Youngest sibling Maree also paid tribute to Gav, recalling the annual family holiday to Port Philip Bay with all the family crammed into Frank and Carmel’s 1961 pink coloured Ford Falcon.
“Gav was strategically placed in the middle of the family and would inevitably feature in the middle of any action that happened to eventuate,” Maree said.
“Gav was a keen footballer and represented his schools as a player and later had an extensive football career with both Rennie and Mulwala seniors and reserves sides. His achievements in football were significant.
“Gav played in the 1983 Reserves premiership with Rennie and the 1987 Mulwala Reserves premiership. Gav also went on to claim the Murray League Reserves President’s Medal for the 1989 leading goal kicker. Gav continued to follow football avidly after his playing career came to a close.”
At the big wake, at the Lions clubrooms at Lonsdale Reserve, Mulwala Football Netball Club President David Rose fondly recalled the “pretty handy” full forward.
“He was a good, solid footballer, running around in Number 43 and booting 10 goals in a match in which he won the goal kicking with 58 goals,” the club president told the Yarrawonga Chronicle.
“Gav had served on our committee and was a great follower of both the Rennie and Mulwala clubs, always being loyal to the clubs.”
Lighter moments and times involving Gav were recalled during the Requiem Mass and at the footy/netball clubrooms. “Gav got the balance right - there was a time for fun,” Fr Steve said earlier.
“He was so well respected, so well loved. We enjoyed the warmth of his personality, the warmth of his smile.” None moreso than his nieces and nephews who adored him and delivered the funeral service prayers superbly under difficult circumstances.
The performance of the guitar singing band of seven first cousins of the hymns during the service was so favourably commented upon by so many mourners.
Maverick expressed his and the family’s appreciation to the large number of attendees, estimated to be 750. “Gav would have been very proud with the huge amount of people here today,” he said.
“It’s a demonstration of the respect and admiration for him, a reflection of the bloke.” A bloke described as “wonderful” by brother Jim, who worked so many years on the farm with Gav.