Sue, John and Mum 2018 Lynne Sue (Susan to the family) and John
My blog is also a way I can look back in a few years time and remember significant life events for myself. Today I am including a short eulogy that I gave at my brother’s celebration of Life on Tuesday 15th August, 2023 at St Mary’s Anglican Church, Kangaroo Point. John passed away on 31st July 2023 after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s Dementia. We as a family celebrated his life with a beautiful send off that was fitting his bigger-than-life personality.
Hello, my name is Sue Croft and I am John’s younger sister.
I am speaking on behalf of my mother Marie, my sister Lynne and myself on this sad occasion of my brother, John David Rolley’s life celebration. My sister Lynne is sadly unable to be here today due to ill health, but John and Lynne were very close through their life and Lynne is grieving his death also.
There is a lot to celebrate about John’s life, but like all deaths resulting from the dreaded Alzheimer’s Dementia (AD), it’s slow and drawn-out process tries hard to extinguish the presence that person had on this earth.But John was always a bigger-than-life personality who made a big impression from the moment he arrived on 13th April, 1946 and you will hear today he is well-remembered and well-loved – his legacy never to be extinguished.
He was the first-born to his loving parents Neil and Marie Rolley. Marie sits here with us today to share this celebration of his life – dogged in strength, but grieving something no mother deserves to endure. She was present at his birth (unlike Neil/Dad who arrived at the Royal Women’s Hospital dressed in his hockey gear and his boots slung around his neck, completely unaware that Mum had delivered John that morning, 3 weeks prematurely).And Marie was present at John’s passing, together with John’s daughter Lou. We as a family are all grateful that John didn’t die alone. I am convinced John waited for Mum to arrive as he opened his eyes to her voice when she walked in the door and then passed peacefully 15 minutes later in Lou’s arms.
John was named after his grandfather John McGuinness, mum’s father – who we all knew as Jack – and wonderfully and amazingly John was born on Jack McGuinness’s birthday. Our Aunt Jessie and Uncle Bill were also married that day. The 13th April is definitely a memorable day!
I have been brought up on the legendary stories about John as a child. He was 10 years older than me and Mum always says that he was a doting, protective big brother. Apparently, I only had to tell him one of the kids down the road looked at me the wrong way and he was down there with a red card threatening to wreak havoc with them if they dared to do it again.
I am pretty confident though that John as a child definitely gave Mum her early grey hairs.
Many in this gathering here know that our family home backs onto the army camp and this was forbidden territory for John as far as Neil and Marie were concerned. This naturally made it sound exciting and enticing, and John and the five Street boys – that was their surname-Trevor, Graham, Malcolm, Greg and Paul- together spent long days from dawn till dusk venturing there, exploring and having lots of ‘boy’ fun.
One day he fell in the absolutely out-of-bounds creek and came home dripping wet. He stood at the French doors, with Mum threatening to unleash with his first ever ‘hiding’ (smack for the young ones here) and he suddenly galloped past her laughing saying: “You’re just too old and slow for me” only to find Neil, our father, lurking behind the bathroom door ready to take over. John talked for his whole life about sustaining many hidings as a child, but the truth was – and Marie is here to verify it -there were only ever two hidings and that was one of them.
To this day, Mum at 98 is still living in that same home full of memories – and has done so continuously for 74 years. John came back to live with Mum and Dad for 3 months in his much later life and I know they all enjoyed the stories and the laughs together – and John particularly liked the ready access to her always present and always full chocolate and lolly jars.
John was a great story teller and Mum, who was also his secretary when he first set up his private practice, always tells me that when John brought the patients out of his room, they were always laughing at whatever story Dr Rolley had told them. Apart from his stories, John had a way with words both spoken and written and over his life was required to prepare and present a number of eulogies. Everyone who is speaking today about John may well feel the pressure of living up to Rolley’s/ JDR’s high standard of laughter and tears.
There are many doctors, patients and friends who have had great love and respect for John as a doctor, but his daughter Annabel at 8 years of age was not so convinced. He came in for his weekly breakfast at Mum and Dad’s one day and said to them “Kids don’t do much for your ego do they?” Apparently Anna was very sick with the flu and she asked him could he get a real doctor to come and see her and make her better because she felt so terrible.
Mum and Dad laughed way too hard at that story when John told it.
Over the years many, many patients and friends who had John deliver their babies would say to me how much they loved John as their doctor. I even discovered recently from one of my dietician colleagues on hearing that John had passed, that while she was at studying at uni, she used to nurse at Turrawan Hospital where he worked. She jokingly said – she and all the nurses there were secretly in love with John! He has also trained many gynaecologists in their early years and three of my dear friends- who are wonderful urogynaecologists now – have all said John was their favourite teaching consultant in their early career.
You will hear many stories today about the incredible achievements of John through his life, but to me his greatest achievement was producing his four wonderful kids – together of course with their mother, Helen who sits here today with us all. Tom, Louise, Jack and Annabel are a remarkable bunch of adults who through this tremendous adversity have remained a constant for John – strong, loving, fiercely protective and resilient. If there is one good thing that has come from this ghastly experience of watching John deteriorate with Alzheimer’s, it is that I have become very close to them and I am in constant admiration of their tenacity and spirit when advocating for John.
So rest in peace John. The agony is over and you can now join some other legends – Jack, Dolly and Neil in another place – knowing you lived a great life; you delivered thousands of new babies safely into this world and across your years, you gave many people joy through fun, laughter and kindness.
AD is a bitch. There I’ve said it.
John (in his cadet’s uniform) with me aged 5 and The Army in the background My sister Lynne back right with John at a family gathering.
John and Helen John Teik and Rod John and Tom John & Jack Car Karaoke Beatles
John and Louise at her wedding John and Annabel
One of the many family gatherings at Enoggera John and Craig at Mum’s 90th birthday capturing his smile
John and Mum December 2020