Peter Poulson. Killed with his grandchildren on Monday 15th September 2003.
You are sadly missed old friend.
Tragedy's hero was an inspiring teacher
By CHARLES MIRANDA and ALEX DEVINE
Sydney Daily Telegraph. September 17, 2003
PETER Poulson was a pioneer in adult and community education who used his 20 years' experience as a coal miner, teacher and family man to mentor hundreds of NSW students.
Friends and family were yesterday in shock over his murder and said the state had lost one of its best vocational trainers.
But they also described him as a tough, straight-talking, knockabout sort of bloke who died trying to save his grandchildren.
Mr Poulson, 60, was principal of Parramatta College for Adult and Community Education and a state quality assessor for vocational training and an executive committee member of Adult Learning.
He made a key submission to the Senate on education four years ago and since 1982 had been redefining adult learning.
Close friend and Community Colleges NSW executive director Bob Campbell said yesterday friends and colleagues were devastated by the deaths.
"Peter was a fine, fine fellow. He was an outstanding educator, a man of great integrity who sought to deliver the very best in public education." Mr Campbell said.
"In the field of vocational and educational training, he was a leader and an expert to the highest order.
"This is a great tragedy. His wife Cheryl and daughter Ingrid are devastated."
Mr Poulson's wife Cheryl, 53, is principal of the Hawkesbury Community College while their 31-year-old daughter Ingrid works for the college as a co-ordinator of access and equity and student support.
Ironically, British-born Mr Poulson's love of the education system stemmed from a bitter hatred for his own school days at the hands of violent British boarding school masters.
He was born in Minster in Britain and lived at various times around London, Bournemouth and Canterbury.
At the age of 12, he was placed in boarding school when his parents moved to India and then Hong Kong.
It was his experiences in the late 1950s at the hands of the bullying school monitors and masters – that Mr Poulson recounted in February this year in a lengthy script for the school's archives – that made him tough and later saw him want to educate others the way he wished he was educated. He was expelled and beaten and had few friends on campus outside his brother.
He ran away to County Cork, Ireland, for a while and also worked on a farm but later returned to Hong Kong to attend the prestigious King George V college where he excelled in study and sport.
"He was a pretty tough kid," recalled Rod Sell, a classmate at King George V, who said Mr Poulson loathed the English boarding school. "He stood up to the bullying system. He was that sort of person – he didn't back down from anything."
Mr Poulson moved to Australia in 1966 and at various times worked as a coal miner, as a union organiser, a labourer, security guard, small business owner, storeman and packer and later as a librarian and university lecturer.
"He didn't mind getting his hands dirty," Mr Sell said.
He was made principal of the North Coast Adult and Community Education in Lismore before moving to Sydney.
He also created Poulson and Associates with Cheryl in 1996 and bought the Wilberforce property two years later.
In 2000, the pair were looking to buy two portable classrooms that were used as homes during the Olympics. Mr Poulson said at the time he wanted to use one as a home office and the other as a classroom for a community college.
Email from Maunie to KGV Network Sunday 21st September
Yesterday morning (Saturday) together with my hubby Paul, Les and
Rosemary Baker, Jose and Suzy Barros, Nick and Jennifer Vargassoff, and
between 300 to 400 others, I attend the funeral for Peter Poulson and his
two little grandchildren Marilyn 'Malee' aged 4 and Sebastian 'Bas' 23 months.
The funeral was held at Springwood cemetery in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney in perfect weather; a beautiful Australian spring day - vivid blue cloudless sky, warm sun, a peaceful outdoor setting surrounded by towering eucalypt trees, and the wind that had been buffeting us for days dropped completely and all was calm.
People driving up from Sydney were asked to meet at the Tourist Information Centre at Glenbrook in the lower mountains and the cortege, lead by a fire truck and escorted by police vehicles, then made its way up to Springwood. Peter was a member of his local Wilberforce volunteer rural fire brigade hence the fire truck. Paul and I didn't go down to Glenbrook as we live in the upper mountains and Springwood is situated about half way so we drove straight to the cemetery and met up with the other KGV folk there.
On arrival we were each handed a glossy double-sided page. On one side a Thank You message from the family together with photos of each of the beautiful children and one of Peter, with their names and birth dates. On the reverse side three photos of the little ones and the following poem.
Death is just an open door
I have only slipped away
Into the next room.
I am I, and you are you,
Whatever we were to each other,
That we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name,
Speak to me in the easy way
Which you always used.
Put no difference in your tone,
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
At the little jokes we enjoyed together
Let my name be ever the household word
That it always was
Let it be spoken without effect,
Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant,
It is the same as it ever was;
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
Because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you, for an interval,
Somewhere very near,
Safe and secure.
ALL IS WELL
We were also give a small pin with three different coloured ribbons attached, to be worn on our left lapel. Blue for little Bas, teal for Peter and pink for Malee.
As we sat in the warm sun waiting for the service to start, some of Peter's favourite light classical music was played which seemed to reverberate off the surrounding gum trees and totally envelope us.
Members of the Wilberforce Rural Fire Services then formed a guard of honour as the two white coffins were carried to the grave sites, situated side by side. The little ones shared a coffin.
Shortly after the start of the service the drone of helicopters could be heard getting closer and closer until they flew low overhead - a special flypast of three emergency services helicopters for Peter.
During the service several young people spoke very movingly about how Peter had been like a father figure, a mentor to them. Cheryl's son Damien also spoke fondly about Peter, as did the partner of Rebecca (one of Peter's daughters and the children's auntie).
Becky, accompanied by her mother Janice, bravely did a wonderful job when she spoke of her father and her little niece and nephew. Some of her words were "Dad, you had such faith in us. You had the biggest pair of rose coloured glasses when it came to us. ....... You gave so much to everyone and in the end you gave your life for Malee and Bas." My heart really went out to her when she ended with "All I can think about at the moment is, I want my Dad, I want my Dad."
Peter's first wife, Janice, read a message from Ingrid, her daughter and the children's mother, and did extremely well to retain her composure, only faulting a few times. Ingrid's message ended with "I have lost part of myself but will never lose the love you gave me. I hope you will take care of each other wherever you are. My darlings I miss you."
The song "Hush little baby don't you cry........." was played then the immediate family each placed flowers in the graves. The rest of us were then invited to throw rose petals as our final farewell. Three beautiful white doves were then released and we all watched as they flew high into the distance until they were mere dots, before disappearing.
The media were there but were very discrete and did not intrude, which was quite a surprise as they are often insensitive and disregard the feelings of others. The terrible way in which Peter and the children died has touched thousands of people across the country, including members of the media, proving they do have hearts after all.
Following the funeral we all drove a short distance to Springwood Golf Club for light refreshments where I had the opportunity to speak with Cheryl who, on top of everything that has happened, has a broken foot or ankle (not quite sure which). On the day of the tragedy when she arrived home, the police would not let her into her home and told her to go to hospital where Peter and the children had been taken. In her rush to get to them she fell at the hospital and sustained a fracture. She bravely coped very well on the day with crutches.
I also had the opportunity to meet Janice, Peter's first wife, and have discovered that she lives in Springwood so we talked about getting together in a few weeks. And I met the children's mother Ingrid and her sister Becky, both beautiful girls, and it was heartbreaking to see their devastation.
It is said that time heals all things but how does a young mother like Ingrid recover from losing her two little ones and father in such a horrific way. Cheryl, Ingrid, Becky, Janice and all their family members need our on-going prayers and thoughts as it is going to be a long road to get through the tragic events of the past week.
Stay safe. Love, Maunie
Email from Ron Park 17th September 2003.
What a tragic news! When I hear news like this it reinforces that there is, truly, evil in this world.
Just this last Friday I was sitting next to "Garoupa" Grout at the funeral service for Rennis Da Motta's mom and saying, "We never know when our time is up so we better make sure that our slate is clean". What you stated in your last paragraph is so true.
My image of Peter is always of him being the goalie on our soccer team. Reconnecting with Pete after all these years in Sydney was so great and it was very hard to imagine that he was so flamboyant as a goalie! And I will treasure the moments that we spent.
Maunie, if you can get the details on the funeral service .. the locations etc. I will be very grateful.
Thank you so much.
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