Gentleman rugby player, hospital manager, Wagner fan

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Quiet and a good listener, acquaintances often underestimated Garnet but then he’d do something atypical or courageous and then they’d realise.

He was into long-term relationships: Marriage. Family. Friendships like the two Rons who played at Box Hill Rugby Club and were his closest friends for more than 50 years.

He met his wife, Hazel, at a New Year’s Eve party in 1964. She was a 19-year-old trainee teacher, and he was 30. He was en route to Papua New Guinea, but he stayed in Melbourne retraining as an accountant in hospitals by studying at 4.30am, then working full-time. An amazing G Edwards from Royal Melbourne Hospital topped every exam one year. But, it was actually Garnet AND friend Gordon Edwards. Later, Garnet completed an MBA.

His 54-year marriage to Hazel was the attraction of opposites. He loved the thrill of flying, sky diving, gliding, trekking or orienteering. After an early date when Hazel slept through Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, they agreed to differ on music. But family did play Wagner (softly) in Garnet’s palliative care room at Box Hill Hospital through the nights the family took shifts.

Well-read on military history, the family walked Waterloo battlefield with Garnet’s commentary. Keen orienteers, they were always travellers of cultures not tourists. When they sent their children to Mount Scopus, Garnet enrolled to study Hebrew. After retirement, he spent five months travelling France on his own to understand the French as opposed to the English view of history.

Because Garnet was willing to learn new things, his retirement was a Renaissance period. He enrolled for the Alliance Francais in Paris with 18-year-olds and “lived the language for five months”. He volunteered at Radio RPH and Sacred Heart Mission and coached junior hockey where he was also Father Christmas. He joined the RACV book club, who called themselves his “harem” because he was the only male.

He loved playing games, whether cards or sport and then often taught or coached others. U3A bridge players wrote thanking Garnet for opening new post-retirement worlds for them.

A dinosaur technologically, he learnt Skype to read stories to his Darwin grandsons.

Garnet was the romantic who secretly arranged an ice-cream cake shaped like Antarctica with symbolic flags before Hazel’s Antarctic expedition as writer.

A generous host of many imaginatively themed dinners, Garnet enjoyed learning new recipes from other accomplished cooks. Always gentlemanly, he encouraged intelligent females without feeling threatened.

Hazel said at his celebration of life: “Garnet was a rare man, and I could not have lived such a full life without him. Ours was an unconventional relationship for the times, of equal careers and shared roles.”

As a father, he encouraged Kim and Trevelyan to be adventurous in travel, active in sport and compassionate in life choices.

Exiting to Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, Garnet’s four grandsons walked out each holding a symbol of Garnet’s life. Two-year-old Arlo held a rugby ball. Daughter Kim who narrowly missed being called Brunhilda, orchestrated her father’s tribute.

Written by Hazel Edwards OAM and Garnet’s family Kim and David Sheffield, Trevelyan and Kylie Edwards and grandsons Truman, Henry, Arlo and Zachary.

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