It was a touching and at times very funny memorial service to Frank Foster, the last of the Lucas-Tooth family to own Kameruka Estate.
Mr Foster died on June 17, 2021, in Tasmania, but it was the Bega Valley he called home for so much of his life.
Holy Trinity, the beautiful little 153-year-old church built by Mr Foster's great grandfather Sir Robert Lucas-Tooth, wrapped itself around those quietly shedding tears, but its walls also resounded with laughter as stories of Mr Foster's exploits were told on June 18.
Family members and friends, many of whom had lived or worked at Kameruka were in the congregation to hear Bishop Mark Short say that Kameruka was the place "that did so much to shape" Mr Foster.
Long-term friend Christopher Koren gave the eulogy. Mr Koren met Mr Foster by chance in The Four in Hand pub, Paddington in 1976.
"We just got chatting and it was a life-long friendship. I used to come down here (Kameruka) for a week at a time every month in the '70s," Mr Koren said.
Mr Foster was born in 1953, in Scotland, west of Aberdeen, and the service paid tribute to his heritage with the flag of St Andrew draped over the lectern and a piper, Jim Tierney, of Candelo.
With his home near the River Dee an interest in fishing was not surprising. Mr Foster disliked sports but was good at shooting, Mr Koren said, and so a life on the land was a natural progression. He attended agricultural college at Cirencester and "decided to give Australia a crack" Mr Koren said.
"He arrived here in September 1975 to jackeroo and see if he liked it - and he did," Mr Koren said.
Mr Foster met his wife Odile while attending a friend's wedding and following a visit to Kameruka by Odile and her mother, their lifelong relationship started.
There was a foray into hospitality when Mr Foster and Odile owned the Black Dolphin in Merimbula which lasted for about five years.
It was clear from Mr Koren's eulogy that Mr Foster was a great raconteur and adventurer who loved life.
He had visited Mr Foster in Tasmania where he and Ms Foster were living after selling Kameruka in 2007; it was shortly before Mr Foster passed away.
"A delivery man called while we were there; there was a single small box in the back of his van. In it was a bottle of Craigllachie whisky from Speyside. It had been sent by an old friend and arrived when I just happened to be there."
He said they drank, they laughed and talked for hours, but there was still a last nip left which he had brought with him.
Mr Koren produced the bottle, poured a nip and with his voice cracking with emotion, raised the glass to the toast of Slàinte Mhath, the Gaelic expression for 'cheers'.
Sue Atkins of Bega worked at Kameruka for many years and developed a strong friendship with the Fosters.
"Frank was so welcoming, opening doors to people from around the world," Ms Atkins said.
"It was always wonderful to be in his company. He loved company, music, dancing and to dress up."
Saturday's order of service contained several photos of Mr Foster including one of him in costume.
She remembered the foray into hospitality saying "no-one could do a Basil Fawlty impression like Frank".
But while he clearly had fun, Mr Foster also gave back to his community through his support of the swimming pool, the Candelo Show, cricket club and many other organisations, Ms Atkins said.
"He believed in supporting people when their luck was down. He sent thousands of dollars after the bushfires for nurses at Hillgrove who had lost their homes.
He was widely read, an unrivalled raconteur and was justifiably proud of Kameruka. The decision to sell was especially hard- Sue Atkins on Frank Foster
"He was widely read, an unrivalled raconteur and was justifiably proud of Kameruka. The decision to sell was especially hard," Ms Atkins said.
"He will always be part of Kameruka. In the words of Dr Seuss 'Don't cry because it's ending, smile because it happened'," Ms Atkins said.
There were hymns with musician Paul Dion playing the church organ - which has to be pedalled in order to get air into it. The Wyndham Singers added their voices to those of the congregation and at the end of the service everyone was led out by the piper.
Current owners of Kameruka Barry and Michelle Moffitt opened up the gardens of their home, the Kameruka homestead, for those at the service to enjoy a picnic.
Many of the previous workers and those who had lived at Kameruka had a chance to chat and reminisce.
Daphne Sweeney said her husband worked at Kameruka. Sisters Betty Corby and Kelva Johnson, both of Bega have a strong connection to Kameruka through their father who was a manger of the cheese factory.
"It was a good life. Everyone would come to church every Sunday because it was just like one big family," Ms Sweeney said.
Mary Morrow had fond memories of growing up in Kameruka and then working there. She arrived in Australia with her parents at the age of five in the early 1970s. Her father was a sharefarmer and worked on the stock.
"I grew up in Kameruka. We were just out in the country and could run around. There would be a Christmas party and Frank and Odile would buy every child a Christmas present," Ms Morrow recalled.
She cleaned the homestead and other areas and worked for the Fosters for 15 years but continued working afterwards when it was sold to Giles Pritchard-Gordon.
Ms Morrow's husband Col worked in the cheese factory and as a tractor man.
Mr Morrow recalled morning teas where the workers would get the warm cheese slices that were about to be packaged, by putting a slice of bread under the machine that pushed the warm cheese out on the production line.
He started at Kameruka when he was 15 working with the calves and moved on to working tractors, ploughing the paddocks and working on irrigation.
His family history at Kameruka goes back to his great-grandmother and great-grandfather who came over from the UK as tin smiths, he said.
And while there are a few generations of Kameruka history between the Morrows, it is set to continue because their children grew up there and now one daughter has purchased a piece of land in the Kameruka subdivision and aims to build her home there.
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