A tribute to Brian Gilpin

CERA pays tribute to long-time supporter Brian Gilpin, who has passed away aged 95.


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Judith Gilpin still recalls meeting her late husband Brian at an Anglican Church in Fitzroy in the early 1950s as if it was yesterday.

“I grew up in Portland and won a scholarship to learn to be a kindergarten teacher,’’ says Judith, 89.

“I moved to Melbourne and boarded with a lady who lived in North Fitzroy and joined the local church choir,’’ she says.

“Brian was also boarding in the area. He was a good singer and one of the girls who lived in his boarding house played piano and they used to have Sunday evening family singsongs and she suggested he should join the choir up the street.

“All of the other people in the choir except for Brian and I were married couples – and there were lots of jokes that being in the choir was a way to find someone to marry,’’ she laughs.

The kindly predictions of their choir mates proved to be prophetic, when a few years later the young couple married on 29 August 1953 – setting off on a 67-year union that resulted in seven children, 15 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.

It also led to a long life of choral singing for Brian, who for many years was a baritone in the St Paul’s Cathedral Choir in Melbourne.

A practical man

Brian Valentine Gilpin was born in Ballarat on 14 January 1926. In World War II he joined the Royal Australian Airforce and trained to be a pilot.

After the war he learned that there were opportunities for former servicemen to undertake further studies. He trained in civil engineering and later embarked on a long career as an engineer.

After the young couple were married, they lived with Judith’s mother in Brighton but after their first two children arrived Brian was keen to build a home of his own for his family.

“We found a block in Blackburn and fell in love with all of the trees,’’ says Judith.

Initially the young couple travelled from Brighton to the outer eastern suburbs to build their home. But when the travel became too much – they moved into a temporary shed on the property, their toddlers in tow.

“I think the council just turned a blind eye,’’ says Judith.

Soon, Judith was pregnant with twins and the couple finished the main part of the house just in time to move in with the new babies.

“We have lived here ever since. Because Brian built our home, he knew every nail in the place and how to fix anything. We loved it here and were very happy.’’

Brian became a big supporter of the Carlton Football Club and this became a big part of his life.

After he retired 30 years ago, Brian and Judith enjoyed numerous trips around Australia and overseas. He was also able to return to his choir singing.

Strong supporters

In their later years, both Judith and Brian, developed eye disease. Brian had glaucoma and Judith has age-related macular degeneration.

Their interest in learning more about potential treatments for their conditions saw them regularly attend CERA’s community forums and they were generous donors.

“We always enjoyed going to the city and learning about the latest research about our eye problems,’’ says Judith. “It gave us hope that when our grandchildren and great grandchildren are older it will be better for them.’’

Today, Judith’s age-related macular degeneration remains stable thanks to regular eye injections. She is no longer able to do the finely detailed cross-stitching that requires good central vision – but still gets together with church friends to knit woollen squares for quilts which are donated to homelessness charities.

She is grateful for the many happy years she enjoyed with Brian and the countless beautiful letters she has received since he passed.

She also feels blessed to be a mother to the seven children they had together – David, Catherine, Jennifer, Rosemary, Christopher (dec), Robert and Carolyn who are all so supportive in their care for her.

“Brian was the kind of person who could talk to anyone,’’ says Judith. “I am a bit quieter and find it harder to talk to people I haven’t met before  – but that was never a problem for Brian. He even talked to people we sat near on the train.

“I miss him very much.’’

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