Hi! My name is Laurie Topping.
Ross and I first met nearly 50 years ago at church youth camps. This was the start of the intertwining of our lives. Ross went from Indooroopilly High to Kelvin Grove Teachers’ College where during 1964 and 1965 he was in the same student art group of teacher trainees as my brother Bob. They played for the newly formed Teachers Football Club under the larger-than-life college lecturer, Keith Tronc. The club floundered after a couple of years as key players got their country postings.
Bob and Ross commenced their two years national service at the beginning of 1967. We have a great photo of the two of them taken on their first day at Enoggera Army Barracks, which appeared in the Courier Mail. We were reminiscing about Ross with my parents last Monday when Mum remembered with fondness Ross walking off to catch a plane at Eagle Farm to commence his army service with his guitar strung over his back. His call up wasn’t going to stop him having fun.
Ross and Bob ended up in Vietnam, Ross in 1RAR and Bob in 2RAR. Ross is the only Vietnam vet I know who was able to talk openly of his time there. Most vets prefer to let these memories slide to the back of their minds.
I reconnected with Ross in the early 70s when a group set about kick starting Teachers Football Club. There were many meetings held in various homes at St Lucia. That was the start of a few very happy football years under the coaching of John Corless. One year we made the grand final, I think it was in 1974, but alas a team of ex-A grade players called the Stafford Allstars entered the competition part way through the year and were just too good for us. I remember playing against one of the Leach boys who had been so good in his earlier playing years to win the Grogan Medal, Queenland’s version of the Brownlow.
We had a lot of fun playing for Teachers with players such as Graeme Meikeljohn, Arthur Heales, Peter Hewlett, Bob Topping, John Corless, John Swiericzuk. I remember Ross having the great idea that we should build a bar under John Corless’s house for a social club. Ross was made a life member of the club for his drive and energy. I remember this as I nominated him. I believe he was the only person to attain this honour.
It was at this time that a very strong, close and lasting friendship started between Ross and Kathy and Kay and me. Kay and I went to live in England for two years and during this time we left our pool table (amongst other things) at Ross and Kathy’s house at Camira. When we returned home I noticed that one of the cues was significantly shorter that the others. Ross explained this had been necessary as the table was close to the wall at one point. It became an interesting conversation item around our pool table for some years.
In the late 1970s, Ross and Kathy decided to return to their beloved Central Queensland to design and build their house at Emu Park. When I was transferred to Dysart this house became a motel for Kay and me to break our journey s between Dysart and Brisbane. They were always most welcoming to us. Even my Mum and Dad stayed at the Coulters’ Emu Park Motel in Golding Street.
Ross came and stayed with us when we were living in Townsville when he was attending a battalion reunion. I remember much liquid passed over many hours during which time we designed a symbol for the newly created union between primary, secondary and special school principals in North Queensland.
In more recent years we were able to return the favour when Ross had an exhibition of his paintings at St Margaret’s Girls School when I was working there. We used to look forward to Ross calling in at our place at East Brisbane, when he came down for his check-ups at Greenslopes Hospital and catching up for lunch with Ross and Kathy.
As many people here today would attest, Ross was a unique person. He was probably the most talented person I know. He could turn his hand to anything and excel, whether it be painting, sculpture, sign writing, screen printing, woodwork, brick laying, fishing, golf – you name it he was good at it. He was also one of the most generous people I have met – fun loving, dry witted, friendly.
Kay and I are fortunate to have three of Ross’s paintings. One early pallet knife creation and two others that were the result of the first trip to Europe for Ross and Kathy. These will always be a constant reminder of the person that we love so much and will miss so dearly.