By 1958, I had started my own music band and we often played at the Manuka Services Club for the Polish community. This is where I met my first wife, Irene Maree Budny. The Budny family immigrated to Australia from Germany in 1948 as there was no home left for them in Poland after the War. Irene was 5 years old when she arrived in Australia. She was 14 when I first met her while she was being chaperoned at a dance at the Manuka Services Club. They had settled in Narrabundah. We courted for a couple of years before marrying in 1959 with her parents’ consent.
We moved in with Irene’s sister in O’Connor while we saved for our first house. We placed our name on the government housing list and received a house in Matina Street Narrabundah just around the corner from the Budny family home. This was our first family home and all four of our children were born while living there.
We moved to Narrabundah in 1960, just after our first daughter Joanne was born. We had 3 more children together, Rita born in 1962, Dennis born in 1966 and Angela born in 1968. The children grew healthy and happy. We had a large vegetable garden and fruit trees. We also had an out -of -ground pool that attracted many of the neighbourhood kids (and sometimes even their parents at late night parties)! I grew grapes, and everyone had purple feet from smashing them the old-fashioned way to make wine - the kids loved it. We had a large family, many friends and great neighbours and we loved to entertain regularly, holding BBQ’s and parties in our backyard.
Later, after I had purchased my workshop in Queanbeyan, I was working many hours at two jobs to support our home which put pressure on our marriage. Irene and I separated in 1975 and subsequently divorced.
I married my beautiful second wife Catherine Connell in 1982, and we recently celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary. Cathy and I built our first home in Queanbeyan. Cathy’s mother and stepfather moved into the same street as us and we helped them settle into the neighbourhood and soon became a family.
Cathy and I did not have children together, but my son and youngest daughter lived with us throughout their childhood moving between Irene’s house and ours. Sometime after Cathy’s stepfather passed away, Cathy’s mother developed motor neurone disease and we moved into her home to care for her. We lived with her until the end and still live in the same house today.
My children welcomed Cathy into their lives and today she is a cherished stepmother and grandmother to my own children and grandchildren. Today the family has grown larger still. We have eight grandchildren and six great grandchildren. Many still live nearby but others now live in other states - Western Australia and Tasmania. My children married wonderful people who I’m blessed to call family as well. I am everything I am today because of my family, they were the reason I worked so hard, to give them a better life than I had when growing up.
I thank God for them every day.