A life of service
CERA is grateful to the late Geoff Burfoot for his generous bequest to support vision research.
Throughout his life, Geoff Burfoot was known as a generous man. When he passed away, aged 94, a total of 52 charities benefited from his will.
Close friend and retired Anglican priest Graeme Hodgkinson says Geoff also supported people financially when in need: “The Anglican Church in Tyalgum received a new roof with Geoff’s help. He was always willing to share his wealth for a good cause.”
Geoff grew up in Sydney’s Upper North Shore and suffered from poor health as a young man. When his doctor recommended a warmer climate, Geoff made the big move to Papua New Guinea (PNG).
He loved his adopted country and joined the Provisional Administration of New Guinea in 1946 as a patrol officer – just after the end of World War II.
Starting in Port Moresby, Geoff served throughout PNG and eventually rose to the rank of Assistant District Officer.
A friend and superior officer from Geoff’s time in the service says he had a reputation for being a “man of high morals” and was “different to the run-of-the-mill officers”.
In 1961, Geoff cut his leave short to assist in the recovery following the catastrophic eruption of the Mount Lamington volcano.
For nine months, Geoff led patrols into the disaster zone to find villages that had been destroyed – helping locals and burying the dead.
At the same time, Geoff was known as a bit of a character, as a friend explained: “Our kids loved it when Geoff visited. He learned all the traditional dances and performed them with great gusto in front of anyone interested in watching.
“If you visited his house, you never knew how you’d find him. Once I found him hanging from the rafters by his ankles doing exercises. As an entertainer, Geoff had no equal.”
Back in Australia
Though Geoff loved his life in PNG, he returned to Australia in 1975 after the Declaration of PNG Independence. He bought a property in the bush, near the small Northern Rivers town of Tyalgum in NSW and fell in love with the countryside.
Here, Geoff grazed cattle and practised the skills he developed at the Australian Natural Therapy College in Sydney.
Geoff’s talents also extended to the kitchen. When Geoff’s sister Jo visited from Sydney, Graeme and his wife always got an invitation to dinner.
“He’d ask us what we preferred out of German, English, Japanese and other Asian dishes. He was an expert at cooking any traditional style of meal,” Graeme says.
Geoff’s endless generosity was not lost on the people of Tyalgum. And when he could no longer drive, the locals banded together to deliver meals to his property and drive him into town to grab supplies.
“When we parked outside the post office, Geoff would blow the car horn three times at full blast, then wait for the postmaster to come running with his mail and papers.
Everyone in town knew when Geoff was picking up his mail,” Graeme says.
Graeme says toward the end of Geoff’s life, Geoff ate almost every day at the local café, with a special table always reserved: “Woe betide the management if, for any reason, the table was in use by someone else!”
Graeme visited Geoff regularly in his final years and says he was a man of great faith: “We enjoyed a muscat or two each Monday and talked about many subjects. He was well prepared for his passing when the time came.”