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Graham Lewarne ( 7 June 1938 – 17 December 2020 )


There is so much to say about Graham because there were so many dimensions to his character; an innovator, great entertainer, Francophile, devoted Christian and family man and, of course, a strong walker. In his younger days he was a musician, an actor, a potter and so much more. He joined the Bush Club in 2000 following his retirement as a science teacher. There will be plenty of stories of walks in the period from 2000, and maybe before, but I first got to know Graham in 2012.

I joined one of The Bush Club trips to Etchers, as the house was called phonetically, in the Basque country in southwestern France. I volunteered to be a driver of one of the vans we used to get to the walks in the Pyrenees. Graham was navigator. We had plenty of time to talk and get to know each other.

I was surprised when on the last evening at Etchers he invited me to go for an evening walk and asked if I would be interested in meeting up when we were both back in Australia. Maybe it was the trip to the local restaurant that was famous for its duck dishes but they could only be shared between two. I had offered to share. On Graham’s return I was invited to a typical fabulous lunch and so our relationship developed.

One of Graham’s great fortes was meeting people and quickly developing a friendship. Great experiences were borne out of his ability to engage in conversation and have something interesting to say.

What I remember most about Graham was his generosity in sharing his love of food and wine and cooking. Cooking was an opportunity to entertain, of trying new dishes and making old favourites. Much appreciated by all. He was in his element in France and Italy where he could indulge in delights like brains and kidneys. We managed to go to France 4 times in the 8 years we shared our lives. It was the surprise delightful meal in some quaint village that he enjoyed the most.

I will remember Graham for his amazing inventiveness and ability to make interesting things happen. There were some ‘shortcuts’ with surprising outcomes, a rocky scramble or wet feet or worse.

There are so many examples of fabulous walks and other members will have plenty to tell:

1. The first overseas trip offered to the Bush Club members was organised by Bob Taffel and Graham to the Basque country. How this idea was hatched is a long story. These trips were so popular three groups were booked for the first trip in 2006. There were subsequent trips in 2008, 2012 and 2015. Walkers were driven in hired vans into the Pyrenees. A walking guide was used for the first trip and then Graham and Bob took over after that. The highlight of the week was Graham’s educational wine tasting evening. It was rare for a dud wine to be picked, but they had to be tasted beforehand to make sure.

2. Graham organised other Bush Club trips for a week based in Mollymook and Port Macquarie. These required considerable research to recce suitable walks. Another memorable excursion was the Cape to Cape walk in Western Australia, at the height of the wildflower season. He also organised a commercial trip to Patagonia.

3. The series of 9 Bush Club walks from Palm Beach to Cronulla – the state government has finally realised the potential of that idea! Also a series of 4 walks around the Harbour foreshore from Observatory Hill. Graham provided plenty of historical information about the historic buildings and industrial sites of Balmain and Hunters Hill.

4. As social committee member, instead of a large group of people trying to squeeze into a noisy restaurant after the Bush Club AGM, he proposed people offer to bring finger food. We could mingle so easily and even hear what people were saying!

He was a wonderful caring man that I miss so much – Jill Green

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Comment by Bob Taffel 7 April 2022

I first got to know Graham in 1947 when we both were in 5th class at Artarmon Public School, two of Fred Lowrie’s less scholastic pupils, but we loved sport. We both went on to Nth Sydney High but at the end of 1st year (yr 7), Graham moved to the Shore School. Our paths did not cross again until 2001 when Graham and wife, Penny, showed up for a week of walking in the Pyrenees with Pyrenees Adventures (no longer operating). At that time, my wife Sue and I, both recently retired, had taken on the on-site management based in a French Basque farm house, Etchers (formally Etxexuria, Basque for white house) at the foot of the mountains.

I recognised Graham’s name on the upcoming guests list and it was with some excitement that I met them at Dax station to drive them and the other guests for that week, back to the house. I had this picture of Graham in my mind but I guess I must have changed as much as he had and so I had to ask who he was. After a typically great week of walking, friendship and eating, with a bit of local culture thrown in, we waved Graham and Penny farewell.

The next time we got together was when I joined The Bush Club in 2003 after meeting Graham Conden on an NPA walk. Graham was already a member and we did many walks together before, one day, Graham said to me, “Why don’t we organise a Bush Club visit to Etchers?”. Well, he didn’t take long to talk me into it and we organised the first visit in 2006 with three lots of 12 members spread over three weeks, with Sally Harrison wrangling the pots and pans in the kitchen as well as supervising most of the other stuff involved with the venture. Sal was a great hit with everyone, a super friendly personality, a great cook and an amazing personality. We knew Sal from our Pyrenees Adventures time, she still lives in a little Suffolk village called Walsham-le-Willows, and it didn’t take much persuading to have her join us.

We did the Etchers thing with The Bush Club several times before we both agreed to call it a day. We both continued to lead Bush Club walks until Graham was diagnosed with mesothelioma and my knee started giving me grief. We shared a love of classical music, jazz and the theatre. When Graham died I lost more than just a good friend. His generosity knew no bounds, his depth of knowledge was astounding and he had a knack of presenting me with unthought of insights into many of the things that came up for discussion between us.

Go gently my friend, I miss you greatly.

Bob Taffel

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