Goodbye to Mr Fixit

By John Lewis

A Tallygaroopna and Bunbartha man whose passion for engines drove him to repair and restore countless examples of historic machinery has been remembered as a kind and compassionate family man and a pillar of his community.

Robin John Close was born in 1942 in Mooroopna, the third son of farmers Albert and Irma Close of Tallygaroopna.

Known as ‘Stretch’, Mr Close attended Tallygaroopna Primary School and North Shepparton Technical School.

He began work as an apprentice fitter at SPC in 1958, living in a caravan in Shepparton — which family members said he disliked, probably because there was no shed.

In 1964 he married Janet Hardiman and the couple had four boys — Gavin, Andrew, Stefan and Edwin.

When his first marriage ended after 28 years, Mr Close met and married Jen Russell who remained at his side for 25 years until her death just over a year ago.

Mr Close spent seven years as an interstate truck driver before selling up his Shepparton house and buying a 32ha block at Tallygaroopna.

His sons remembered how their ever-practical father found them a home.

“Being Dad, he found one advertised in The Weekly Times — in Brunswick off Sydney Rd. So he moved the house and everything with it — which just happened to be a shed full of goodies,” his sons said.

“Dad was very clever — he had the ability to pretty much build or fix anything,” they said.

“If not, he'd tell someone else how to fix it. As long as he had a welder or spanner he could do it. That was his passion.”

His sons remembered a billy cart their dad built from steel tubing, which was strong enough to carry an adult, but which was so heavy it was nearly too heavy to lift for the young boys.

“That was pretty much Dad's way of doing things right through his life — when he built something he made sure he did it right,” they said.

When local farmers began bringing their machinery for Mr Close to fix, he bought Tallygaroopna Motors and built the business up to employ six staff — with his boys serving petrol and enjoying free pies and drinks.

In 1987 Mr Close sold up at Tallygaroopna and bought a property at Maneroo Rd, Bunbartha where for the next 27 years he sold and delivered sand with a tip truck, worked with the water board and managed a boarding kennels.

His long list of community group memberships includes Wunghnu's Goulburn Valley Vintage Tractor and Farm Machinery Club, Harston's Rev'n’ Rec Car Club and Tallygaroopna Men's Shed.

He was president of the Shepparton Heritage Museum, a member of the Tallygaroopna Lions Club for more than 30 years and a life member of the Tallygaroopna Fire Brigade, serving 40 years.

His sons remember him as a man who loved restoring engines.

“There were the particular ones he loved, the big and the rare,” they said.

“To rebuild some of them he would forge parts from his own casts ... to bring them back to life. Oil engines were his life and he will have his name forever connected to the engines he has restored.”

Mr Close's sister-in-law Ruth Close remembered him as a kind, compassionate father.

“When his boys were in trouble ... he was there for them. He supported them without accusing them,” she said.

“If they called, he would fix anything for them.”

Mr Close died aged 77 on October 11 after a six-month battle with cancer.

During a graveside funeral service at Wunghnu Cemetery, members of the Tallygaroopna Fire Brigade formed a guard of honour while a favourite Rob Close engine operated in the background.

Robin Close is survived by his four sons and 12 grandchildren.