Rodney & June

I’m surprised at myself for not writing about Rodney and June Higgs before now. My story with the Higgs shows that a chance meeting can create lifelong connections. In February, 1985, I left the USA for what would turn out to be a 13 month, 8 country, adventure. I was awarded a Rotary Foundation Scholarship for a year in a foreign graduate school. I was accepted at the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) in Sydney. The AGSM was, and probably still is, the top ranked business graduate program in the southern hemisphere and ranked #26 in the world. I was a bit intimidated about moving so far away from home and attending a top level school. On my first free weekend in Sydney, I ventured to the Opera House and Circular Quay area. As I walked along the Quay, where the ferrys dock, I came across several tourist oriented harbor cruises. One of those seemed more historical, less touristy, than the rest so I spoke with the man selling tickets. He was wearing a sport coat, tie, and, notably, a Rotary pin; that was Rodney. I mentioned I had just arrived in Sydney on a Rotary scholarship and he insisted I join the harbour cruise at no charge. Onboard, I met his wife, June, and another couple who also had a Rotary connection. The 4 of them had established a weekend business, chartering a large boat, and doing narrated tours of the harbour. Rodney and Kevin took turns narrating and did a wonderful job. Rodney and June took an interest in me and invited me to a dinner at their house a week or so later. I lived quite a distance from them, a trip that required a bus then a train ride. They offered to bring me home the next day, after the party, if I would spend the night. Turns out, there was also an afternoon picnic involved the next day in a national park where their daughter was competing in her first, of many, triathlons. During the picnic, June asked when was my birthday; it just happened to be that very day! Suffice it to say, we hit it off. And, it is interesting to me, thinking back, they were then about the age I am now. I had dinners, which were big events involving 6 to 12 people, plus me, with them on a fairly regular basis. There was a cocktail hour followed by an always wonderful multi course meal by June, and lots of wine. Many guests were international visitors whom they had met on their extensive travels or through Rotary, meaning my educational opportunities in Australia were not restricted to the AGSM. June introduced me to, among other things, wonderful homemade meat pies, curry, and my favorite, Pavlova. I lived with the Higgs the last month I was in Sydney, after the school term. They took me to the airport when I left and we have kept in touch ever since. Most of that keeping in touch was via mail, and much later, email. There were occasional calls, which were expensive before Skype. And, they came to visit me in Jacksonville not long after Melissa and I got together and later, in south Florida, when I drove them to Key West. Melissa and I visited them in Australia in 1998 and 2011. It is hard to consider that last visit was so long ago, but it created wonderful memories of a spectacular Christmas brunch by Circular Quay at the Royal Automobile Club. And, a bonus or two of time spent with June’s twin sister, Pam. Pam had a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner for 20+ people and, a few days later, she took us on a long drive around Sydney, including lunch at Doyle’s by the South Headlands. June was a woman born before her time. She and I discussed this often. She and Pam were physio therapists and they began their careers in post WWII Australia. June went on to other ventures, including running a printing shop when I met her. She was also accomplished in making jewelry, especially silver items, some of which she gave to Melissa. I’m revisiting my 35+ years of knowing June and Rodney today after learning of June’s passing yesterday. She made it to 93 and she made an indelible mark on my life. That chance meeting turned out in a lifelong connection.

David’s meeting Rodney and June Higgs was due to a wonderful set of circumstances, some of which were due to David’s intelligence and personality and others of which were due to serendipitous events.  David’s intelligence led him to graduate from college with honors, which then led him to earn a scholarship to attend one of the best business graduate programs in the world.  David’s personality is such that, instead of sitting quietly on a boat ride upon arriving in his new home of Sydney, Australia, he introduced himself to Rodney, who just happened to be wearing a Rotary Club pin.  At the age of 24, David was mature enough to capitalize on his good fortune in spending a year in Australia by befriending both June and Rodney.  In many ways, due to their difference in ages, June and Rodney were David’s Australian “parents.”  In fact, June shared many characteristics with Carole, David’s mother; while Rodney and Herman, David’s dad, are strikingly similar as well.  It took just the right combination of things to work out for David to meet two people who would become some of his closest friends.  In the days when people wrote letters and mailed them via their postal service, receiving a long, beautifully handwritten letter from June, all the way from Australia, was a true delight!  Due to David’s inability to read her lovely cursive writing, I had the pleasure of reading all of her letters to him aloud.  They were filled with details of Rodney’s and her life in suburban Sydney; analyses of political events (it should come as no surprise that all of David’s Australian friends find politics in the U.S.A. to be quite amusing); and inquiries about David’s and my personal and professional lives.  June and Rodney related well to David and me; they, too, were long time business partners in their family owned printing business.  They were fabulous hosts and thoughtful house guests.  Once in a while, Rodney and I would stir up a little trouble, just for the fun of it, and giggle when the more serious David and June would shake their heads ruefully.  (Hard sauce on the Christmas pudding, anyone?)  David is lucky to have met such fantastic friends and they, too, are lucky to have met such a great friend, David.  June, we will miss your grace and kindness.  Cheerio, my friend! 

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