Bob Iskov farewelled in loving tribute

Grandchildren escort Bob Iskov’s casket bearing the flags of Australia and Papua New Guinea. Pictures: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Grandchildren escort Bob Iskov’s casket bearing the flags of Australia and Papua New Guinea. Pictures: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Pastor Magi Goro presents Kenn Iskov with a traditional bow and arrows, echoing Mr Iskov’s war service on the Kokoda Track 72 years ago.

Pastor Magi Goro presents Kenn Iskov with a traditional bow and arrows, echoing Mr Iskov’s war service on the Kokoda Track 72 years ago.

IT was just the sort of crowd that Bob Iskov would have loved to work.

And work it he could — a old-school networker who delighted in sharing stories with the people of his community.

The World War II soldier and former farmer was legendary in the Wangaratta district as a raconteur.

“Haveachat” is the name his second son, Craig, fondly recalled when paying tribute to his father at his funeral yesterday for a man who was among the last of the Kokodo Track veterans.

Bob Iskov died last week aged 93, leaving behind a large family and wide circle of friends who turned out for the service at the Wangaratta Uniting Church.

They heard stories of a hard-working man who loved his family and his community, who retained a life-long dedication to his fellow veterans and to Legacy.

Mr Iskov joined the 59th Infantry Battalion militia when war was declared in 1939.

He then enlisted in 1940 at Caulfield Racecourse before joining the 2/14 Infantry battalion and serving in the Middle East.

After a officer promotion he transferred to the 2/23rd (Albury’s Own) Battalion and fought in the New Guinea campaign, ending the war at Tarakan in 1945.

It was while training at Puckapunyal that he first found out about his sweetheart, Amy, to whom he was married for 65 years.

He had found her name and address in an army ground sheet — factory girls used to leave behind their details to get pen pals.

Their love blossomed when he eventually got to take her to a picture theatre at Yarraville.

Among the mourners yesterday was Pastor Magi Goro, who travelled from Papua New Guinea to pay his own special tribute.

He presented a tribal bow and arrows to Mr Iskov’s eldest son, Kenn, repeating an honour bestowed on his father 10 years ago in PNG.

Pastor Goro said the gift represented “the strength of the man”.

“We came here to honour this man and his friendship with us,” he said.

For grandson Nicholas McClure, it was all about the Pa who gave them such pride when people waved to him during Anzac Day marches.

There was also the delight at remembering how his grandfather once leapt from their vehicle when a pig escaped, then took after the squealing escapee down Wangaratta’s main street.

Kenn Iskov, a Uniting Church minister, said he took a great deal of solace from a visit he made to his father shortly before he died.

It was clear to him that his father was at peace because of his deeply-held faith.

“I hope to see you again, dad,” he said as he looked at his father’s coffin, draped with the Australian flag.

“I love you and I salute you.”

Craig Iskov recalled walking through Wangaratta one day with his father when someone walked past and called out “hello Frank”.

Without hesitating, Mr Iskov senior — a father of five, grandfather of 14 and great grandfather of 14 — returned the greeting.

It all went back to when he was a boy at Glenrowan Public School, where there were already three other Bobs in his class.

‘Well then, we’ll call him Frank’, the teacher declared — and decades later some of his old classmates still knew him by no other name.

Craig Iskov said he was glad they never got to stop their father talking, “because every time he did speak we heard another new story”.

“Dad was a living link to our history,” he said.

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