DEVOTED husband, World War II serviceman, mechanic, amateur historian and ghost tours host.
They’re just a few of the ways to describe Alan French who died last Friday, six months short of turning 100.
Most of his life was spent at Wooragee and his service to the village, between Wodonga and Beechworth, ranged from 41 years in the fire brigade to 15 years of keeping rainfall data for the weather bureau.
Friend Pauline Carson, who became Mr French’s neighbour after moving from Melbourne in 1986 with husband Graham, praised his generosity with time and knowledge.
“He helped ease us into the rural community,” Mrs Carson said.
“He represented the great sense of community that existed in Wooragee when we moved here.
“He had been in the progress association, he was with Landcare when the committee set up and he would have been involved with the school, when his children were there, and the fire brigade.”
Although Mr French and his wife Lorna moved to Wodonga in 1996, his love for Wooragee did not lessen.
Until earlier this year Mr French, who had lost sight, would call Mrs Carson, keen to know more, after hearing an item on Wooragee, read from The Border Mail on Vision Australia Radio.
Mr French was born on Christmas Day, 1918.
He left school after year 8 to work on a farm, working from sunrise to sunset.
In 1941, Mr French joined the army and spent the war years around Australia, taking pride in hearing a superior say: “That Frenchy, he’s a damned good soldier and a bloody nice bloke.”
In March 1946, Mr French married Lorna and they had four children, Lyall, Maxie, Anne and Patricia.
Mrs French died on Anzac Day, 2005, and such was her husband’s loyalty he dedicated a loungeroom shrine to her and said a prayer to her each day.
Mr French worked various jobs but his passion was history, whether it related to Aboriginal life, bushranging or ghosts from colonial life.
In 1994, he told The Border Mail of seeking out Aboriginal sites and coming across a “very spiritual place” in the Pilot Ranges.
“I would never take a photograph of it, and I wouldn’t show anybody how to get there, so if you find it you must have been destined to find it,” Mr French said.
“It’s strange because I’ve thought that when I die I want to be cremated and have my ashes spread in this gully, but then because nobody knows how to get there, it can’t be done.”
Mr French’s funeral will be held from 2pm on Friday at Conway’s chapel in Wodonga.
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