Heartbreak as “Mayor of Townsend” to be farewelled
JOHN McFarlane travelled the world for his country and family, but his heart was always with his local community.
The owner of Townsend General Store, affectionately known as the "Mayor of Townsend", will be farewelled today.
Mr McFarlane, 51, died suddenly from coronary thrombosis this month.
He was described as an easygoing man who created a hub for his growing village, ready for a chat and a smile.
"He was able to connect to people and communicate, and made the best of any situation," brother Greg McFarlane said.
"(His passing) was very sudden, and it was a massive shock."
John McFarlane was born in Grafton and was one of two sets of twins who lived on Woodford Island, the four brothers at one stage making half the school population of the old Woodford Dale school.
He attended Maclean High and was a successful rugby player. He also led a revival of rowing at the school, winning numerous state titles and also an active soccer player, something he continued on his return to the Lower Clarence.
He left school at 17 in 1986 and joined the RAAF and graduated as an airframe fitter and as a non destructive testing technician, stationed in Newcastle and Brisbane.
Following 13 years service, John left the service and worked in Darwin performing helicopter and oil rig inspections, leading him to a job with British Aerospace in Saudi Arabia.
The position was not ready though, allowing Mr McFarlane to travel the world. On a houseboat in Zimbabwe he met Tracey. The pair married and moved to Saudi Arabia where John worked on fighter jets. The couple had their first son Sean while living there.
However, due to a desire to raise their family in the rural lifestyle that John had enjoyed on Woodford Island, they returned to the Lower Clarence, and took over Townsend General Store.
Despite his local roots, coming in as the "new guy" in the small village, Mr McFarlane won the locals over in an instant.
"After being in the store for more than 14 years, he was well respected in the community, and was often nicknamed the Mayor Of Townsend."
John was an avid lover of old cars, with his first love a Monaro, and was a keen member of the local car club.
Greg said John was always able to turn a negative into a positive, recalling a recent experience on a trip to Ballina.
"He recently took his Mini to Ballina with (brother) Tony, and had to push it every time to get it started," Greg said.
"He said at the time 'at least it's only a little car, it could be worse, it could've been the Monaro', and another push and off they went again."
Greg said Anzac Day was always a proud day for John, and held a deep connection with their grandfather Frank Montague, who served in the army.
"They both marched and were proud for their contribution to our defence force," he said.
"And the lure of an odd rum and milk at Dawn Service wasn't too bad either."
Greg said the outpouring of support for the family in a difficult time had been "unreal", with condolences from everyone they met in the street.
"They've all sent their condolences, and they say that their heart is broken, and so is ours," he said.
"He (John) created a central hub and seemed to help a few people out. It was only the general store, but he seemed to know everything about everything.
"He was a hard man not to love and will never be forgotten."
John is survived by his twin brother Paul, and twins Tony and Greg, his wife Tracey and his teenage sons Sean and Troy.
He will be farewelled in a service at Chatsworth Island today.
As one of many gestures of respect, Lower Clarence Cricket Association, paying tribute to his service to the local sporting community, has asked members to form a guard of honour at the ceremony.
"The intention is to form up along Chatsworth Rd, observing social distancing, at approximately 30 metres from the Chapel," its request reads.
"John's contribution to local cricket will be sorely missed, however, his tireless devotion is a benchmark for future volunteers."
Wife Tracey paid tribute to her "true treasure" of a husband.
"John had the ability to truly connect with people and that's why people were drawn to him," she said.
"Everyone loved his company, often laughing at his keen sense of humour and engrossed in the stories he shared. Whenever there was something that needed doing, he would just quietly make it happen. He loved his family unconditionally and valued his friends.
"There is no doubt that our community has lost a true treasure - a beautiful gentle man."