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We said kwaheri (farewell) to Egbert Fernandes from this earth on a typically hot and dusty day in Canberra on Friday, November 14. It seemed as if the heavens had stood to attention in honour of a fallen hero. There was no wisp of breeze, there was a stillness in the atmosphere and we all held our breath as the casket was sealed and Egbert’s mortal remains began their final journey as the Eucharistic celebration began.
Eulogy by Edgar Fernandes:
My brother Egbert was snuffed out of this world on November 6 almost as quickly it takes one to snap one’s fingers, to the utter disbelief of family and friends, leaving us shocked and in a stunned and inexplicable silence. He went in for blood tests and they discovered a cancerous tumor in his throat. Complications arose and his end came faster than one can imagine
We have taken a lot of comfort in the prayers, condolences and tributes that flowed in a wonderful torrent from all corners of the globe. Stories have been published in publications as the Goan Herald and Kenya’s Daily Nation, as well as the social media.
We were both born on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kisumu, Kenya. We then moved to Kakamega and Kiambu before our parents settled in Nairobi. Our wandering stopped when we both arrived in Australia with our respective families in 1973.
We studied at the legendary Dr Ribeiro Goan School and completed our secondary education. Egbert had a great circle of friends, he was very popular. He played most sports, soccer, hockey, cricket, and he was an extremely good athlete, winning the Victor Ludorum one year.
In his pen-ultimate year at school we were baffled at how much home work he was doing in preparation for exams. He was writing out reams and reams of stuff. It turned out later that one of his friends had stolen an exam paper and had shared it outwith his friends. All would have gone unnoticed, but one of the boys answered seven of the 10 questions in 15 minutes in a two-hour exam. The teacher was baffled and naturally smelled a rat. He named his co-horts under tough questioning. Egbert’s home work? He was learning the answers to the questions by writing them out. They were all expelled for a while and there was a bit of stink in the local papers. Happily that was his last escapade in anything illegal.
We were both blessed with having the benefit of one of the greatest coaches we have known: Anthony D’Souza who also taught English and was a class teacher. D’Souza was a genius who took our raw talent and polished it to the highest level possible. Egbert played for the Goan Institute (the only club he ever played for) Gold Cup winning side in 1961. He made his international debut at 17 against England, went to three Olympics and was the only Kenyan named in the Olympic World XI in 1968. In Canberra he played for St Pat’s for 11 years and ACT Masters for a couple of years until chronic back pain forced him to hang up his hockey stick.
He was devoted to our Mum and cared for her with the utmost diligence any son could. They also shared a love of horse racing and he took to the course quite often.
Egbert met Bertha when she was 14 and he was 16 at an athletics meeting. They were both school sprint champions. Their friendship developed into a love affair and they married 47 years ago. They had Vincent and Wallace and Australia blessed them with Joanne who quickly turned out to be the apple of her dad’s eye. Bertha and Egbert had come to Australia to provide their children with a good future and were proud of their achievements. He was delighted to welcome into the family son-in-law Kevin and daughter-in-law Miriam. He was soon a very, very proud grandpa with the arrival of Matthew and Luke.
Best mates: Cajie D’Souza (Brisbane) Kenya Junior Tennis Champion, an old Goan School buddy.
Avtar Singh, Kenya hockey captain, best buddy and they shared rooms on hockey trips.
Lucas Noronha in Canberra: a 33 year friendship, the two were as thick as thieves. Big fishing buddies.
Renato Monteiro, brother-in-law and a near 50 year friendship: argued, debated, discussed, till the cows came home but never took a grudge home and all was forgotten the next day or at the next drink.
As brother for Edna and Ellen, he was loving and caring as well as protective.
In life he was easy going, jovial, always a smile on his face, with a great sense of humour.
He went to three Melbourne Cups but preferred to mix with the public and a few champagnes with brother-in-law Geoff and Bertha and Ellen.
At parties, after a few Scotches, he would vociferously sing Belafonte’s ballads, especially ’Day Oh’ but his favourite song was ‘Ju are mai sum sum ‘(You are my Sunshine) ,the Indian version, and later, naturally, Frank Sinatra’s ‘I did it My way.’
When we played hockey side-by-side, we never discussed a match, plans, tactics, or anything about the game. Everything we did came instinctively. We knew exactly what each of us was going to do without planning the move, the pass, the hit, whatever.
He had a mind of his own. Did not want to worry anyone. I am sure he suffered his illness in silence. I am sorry I was not there at the end. Maybe that is the way he wanted it.
Oh you are still wondering about the egg and bacon.
Well, Egbert was teaching my grandsons Ryan and Jason the ‘Knock, Knock’ game:
Egg but no bacon.
They laughed their heads off, thinking that was very funny.
When they heard the news of Egbert’s passing, one could see the sadness in their faces shedding a tear or two. One of them remarked:
Now it is No Egg and No bacon.
Go to your resting place and may you enjoy the peace of the Lord, my dearest brother.
Egbert’s children, Vincent, Wallace and Joanne remembered their father with great warmth and lots of love. There was also a poem each from Matthew and Luke.