Mourners hug at the funeral service for Geoffrey Cawley, held at St Andrew's Anglican Church in Lismore.
Mourners hug at the funeral service for Geoffrey Cawley, held at St Andrew's Anglican Church in Lismore. Marc Stapelberg

Emotional funeral for 'generous' man with 'great big heart'

GEOFFREY George Vickers Cawley was a "generous man".

He was generous with his love. He was generous to his family. He was generous with his knowledge, temperament and community. And, he was "ridiculously generous at Christmas time".

This was how his eldest son, John Cawley, remembered him in his eulogy on Monday.

The tribute was given to a full congregation at St Andrew's Anglican Church as the choir sung his favourite hymns and the bells lovingly tolled in the background.

Dr Cawley was also remembered as a "generous" family doctor, involved in countless charities, including Our Kids, and musical events around the region.

His second son, Rob, echoed his brother in thanking the congregation for coming to pay their respects to their father and celebrate a life well-lived.

Rob said: "He played the patriarch well, but he played the best mate better."

Dr Cawley was born in February 1935 in Alstonville.

His parents were from well-known farming families, who instilled a strong work ethic in him.

Having excelled at Lismore High School, he was awarded a scholarship to the University of Sydney where he switched from an Arts degree to study medicine.

After time spent in Europe, where he travelled and furthered his medical training, he married, Val.

The couple moved to Lismore, narrowly missing the 1974 flood but, just in time for the 1975 flood.

The family lived on Dalley St in a "gracious old Queenslander with a big garden", where they raised John, Rob and Jen.

The home had a huge back yard that gave the family a lot of pleasure, especially at Christmas when he "completely over-did it with decorations".

"Dad became ever more involved in community, cultural and charitable works during the 70s, 80s and 90 but ... of course, the role of the country doctor was his main gig," John said.

In 1999, the couple moved to their beloved mango farm at Caniaba.

The one constant in his life was the Rotary Club, as was his presence at the North Coast National each year, where "he seemed to knew everyone by name and their entire family history".

His other passions were food and music.

When asked at the polling station on Molesworth St, during the recent election, if he was voting today, he replied: "That depends, are you selling any cakes?"

Rev Allan Shaw spoke of Dr Cawley's devotion to the young children at St Andrew's daycare, where he participated in their music sessions and looked forward to the reward of Gloria Page's egg sandwiches.

Dr Cawley also championed many young talented musicians particularly through ABC Musica Viva organisation, supporting Opera at The Channon and presenting on 2NCR-FM (now River FM) with his classical music program.

The current Tower Captain of St Andrew's, Robert Weatherby, took over the role from Dr Cawley, who was one of the original people to learn how to ring the bells when they were installed in 2002.

He loved to celebrate and encouraged the sharing a "bottles of bubbles" with his fellow bell ringers.

It was divine intervention when a bottle was dropped without shattering at the end of one service.

An emotional high point of the service came when his grandson, Thomas Heggen, held back tears to describe his nature loving grandfather as a "great brain and great big heart".

"Whether it be a diving competition into the dam or throwing rocks into the creek, he made a massive splash in my life," he said.

The Reverend Christian Ford then gave his blessing before a moving rendition of Ave Maria by Parkview Funeral director, Angela Quinn.

Dr Cawley's coffin, adorned with red roses, was accompanied out of his beloved St Andrew's as the bells rang out for the last time.

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