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Br. Richard Spain

 Date of Death: 02/12/2019
Place: Australia, Perth
Province: Australia
Age: 89


John Blair Spain was born on 26 May 1930 to James and Elise the licensees of the Commercial Hotel in Mount Gambier, South Australia. Following his early education in Mount Gambier with the Mercy Sisters, he moved to the Marist Brothers College in Grade 4 and eventually boarded at the College to be free of the hotel environment. Richard excelled at school: in 1943 he was the Junior Individual Champion and in 1946 was amongst the Senior Academic Prize winners. After completing the intermediate year, he went off to Mittagong in 1947 to enter the Juniorate. He remained grateful to Brothers Eric Wighton, Ken Harris, Denis Finnigan and Pastor (Urban Bates) who were instrumental in getting him to Mittagong. He took first vows in 1950 and Perpetual Profession in 1955 in New Norcia.

Richard’s love of hospitality began in his early life as a lad in the family hotel. He maintained that the chore of filling the wine bottles from the large oak cask turned him off wine for the rest of his life! However, one of the activities he gained great delight from was helping to prepare the guests’ meals in the kitchen. Over time, this blossomed into a great passion of his and many brothers and friends have been the beneficiaries of Richard’s cooking and hospitality over the years. He was a gracious host and took great pride in his cooking but was less industrious about the clean up! His connection with hospitality varied from his “Supermart” in the Year 7 and 8 Boys supper room at Forbes, in competition with the school canteen, to his full-time preparation of meals for the brothers from 1997 in Churchlands. This extended to Christmas dinners, birthdays and Marist Family Day celebrations. His Friday morning teas for the grounds and maintenance staff at Churchlands were legendary. One of the special duties he performed for many years and which was close to his heart, was the cooking for the Cystic Fibrosis Association’s annual Christmas children’s camp at Victor Harbour in South Australia. He also provided outstanding and generous care to Brother Bill (Finan) Hughan and Frank (Edmund) Hesford at Woodlands in Perth in their final years. 

The fourteen teaching appointments Richard enjoyed throughout his life, included three boarding schools: St Ildephonsus College, New Norcia, Red Bend Catholic College in Forbes and Sacred Heart College, Somerton Park. He taught full time for forty years and played a myriad of roles in the schools outside the classroom, which made for a full life, as was the custom amongst the brothers. He was a firm disciplinarian, but the students could also see his caring side and appreciated his fairness. At Sacred Heart College he was the Deputy Principal, Sports Master and Master of Boarders. Richard valued the two renewal breaks he had from these ministries when he completed the Second Novitiate in Fribourg in 1969 and studied at the National Pastoral Institute in Melbourne in 1979.

Richard developed good communication skills from a young age as he had contact with a wide range of people in his parent’s hotel. These people skills held him in good stead throughout his life as a teacher and continued beyond that until recent times. They were further enhanced by his enthusiastic and generous nature. He was big hearted, tall in stature, debonair and actively engaged people in whatever circumstance. involvement in the MercyCare nursing home illustrates this as he called the bingo twice a week, introduced a card group, organised a men’s monopoly group and introduced the songs at the singalong on Friday afternoons. In fact, it was often difficult to fit in his medical appointments due to his busy schedule. Richard wasn’t afraid to provide constructive feedback to the kitchen staff when he felt they needed it!